A Happy Black History Month

“Our community needs two things: inspiration and information” – Mr. Hughes, Resource Specialist Teacher at Warren Lane Academy of the Arts, a Turnaround Arts partner elementary school located in Inglewood, California.

Warren Lane’s recent Black History Month Showcase stems from both.

“The most rewarding thing about the showcase is how excited our students get. They’re excited to learn about this history. I call it the ‘missing pages’ of history – the facts and stories that are not widely known, yet have impacted our community.”

During Warren Lane’s recent Black History Month showcase, Black and Forth, TK to 6th graders took to the stage to share their knowledge of Black history.

Words of wisdom from Maya Angelou, Sinte dance of West Africa, and songs of resistance graced the stage.

“We were absolutely packed! There were at least 250 people in our auditorium.”

Warren Lane has put on a Black History Month Showcase every year since 1999. For these 19 years and counting, families – even alumni and parents of children who have graduated – visit year after year to support the students of their community. 

This year, students at Warren Lane had a guest arrive just a few days before their showcase: none other than award-winning actress and Turnaround Artist, Kerry Washington

“The students really felt touched with how personable Kerry was with them. She led them through performance warm-ups and coached them through their stage performances just a few days before the show.”

“Her coaching – giving advice on confidence, discipline, and how to get beyond the normal nerves that everyone encounters – that was remarkable. It gave the students confidence to move forward and to know that they’re going to be okay regardless of what happens on stage.”

After previewing the showcase and viewing their most recent artistic creations, she gifted each student at Warren Lane a copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther comic book. “When you watch Blank Panther, remember that it all started from an idea that someone wrote down to share with others,” says Washington. She emphasized how important the students, their ideas, and their ability to read and write were.

The students were over the moon.

“I liked the fact that she tuned into what they need – something that hones in on the importance of their academics as well as the excitement of the Black Panther experience. That, for me, shows how thoughtful and relevant she is: focusing on the students and furthering their education.”

*All quotes are from Mr. Hughes, unless otherwise noted.

Hoopa Valley Elementary Hosts Its First Acorn Festival

By Heather Heslup, Implementation Coordinator

Honoring the rich history of their culture and community, the Arts Leadership Team (ALT) at Hoopa Valley Elementary School (HVES) recently led students and teachers on a journey to produce their first annual Acorn Festival. What began as a simple sharing of the story of the acorn’s significance to the local Hupa, Karuk, and Yurok tribes of northern California resulted in a wonderful display of community pride and creative exploration.

Family Art Night at Burbank Elementary!

By Deirdre Moore, Arts Specialist at Burbank Elementary

It was 20 minutes before the event. Inside the Multi-Purpose Room, a team of dedicated volunteers was busy covering tables and putting out art supplies while outside a line was forming down the sidewalk of families eager to get started. It was Burbank Elementary’s first-ever Family Art Night in collaboration with P.S. ARTS*, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles. As I stood at the door and took the tickets for entrance, I witnessed the smiles on the faces of the dads, moms, grandparents, teens, and toddlers who’d come with their Burbank students to enjoy a night of making art together as a family.

Family Portrait Night at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary!

By Charlotte Borgen, Primary SDC Teacher at F. G. Joyner Elementary

On October 11th, the halls of Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School were transformed into a vibrant, colorful art gallery. Every inch of wall space held a student-created self-portrait in the style of a famous artist. Mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents streamed through the front door in droves, stopping to admire the work and talk to their children about the process of creating their masterpieces. Everywhere you turned, a student was shouting “Look at my art!” or explaining their inspiration to friends and family. Parents stopped to write “Artist-Grams,” to be delivered to classrooms later in the week, for their children telling them how proud they were. Outside, families posed for their own portraits taken by a professional photographer. It was our school’s first art show, and our first event as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school, and it all started at the Turnaround Arts Summer Leadership Retreat.  

Dessert first: Barton increases parent participation through the arts

At Barton, we are working diligently to promote parental involvement in all aspects of a student’s academic career. But involving parents in our informational meetings — such as the School Site Council and the English Learner Advisory Committee — has been a challenge.

We had to think out of the box. We had to give our families dessert before we served them vegetables.