I find the joy and anticipation that students and staff bring on the first day of school to be inspiring and contagious.
Sarah Peters I am a project coordinator with North Coast Arts Integration Project and a Turnaround Arts: California Regional Coach. This new year, I am excited for the classroom teachers, staff, and parents, who will get to see their students in a whole new light through the arts!
I am like a worker bee seeking out all the bits of arts resources available in our rural community and bringing them back for my partner schools to turn into educational honey.
Darryl King I am a Program Manager at P.S. ARTS. As a Turnaround Arts: California Regional Coach, I provide consistent on-site support for eight Turnaround Arts: California schools. My primary goal as a coach is to increase classroom teachers’ capacity to integrate arts content and instructional strategies in meaningful ways. I help teachers by delivering tailored professional development workshops on arts integration strategies in alignment with Common Core and providing explicit classroom modeling of whole school arts-based practices.
My work as a coach is making sure teachers feel supported, successful, and motivated to include the arts in their curriculum development and lesson planning.
I am a public school kid from Long Beach, CA, double-majoring in Public Health and Dance. I am currently a Junior attending Tulane University through the Posse Foundation, which provided me with a leadership and merit-based full-tuition scholarship.
This summer I was lucky enough to be the Program Research Intern for Turnaround Arts: California thanks to the Getty Foundation Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program. Over the past 10 weeks, I’ve been collaborating with the program team to research local arts and cultural resources and create asset-maps for the different regions across California where Turnaround Arts: California schools are located.
Why did you choose to intern at Turnaround Arts: California?
I chose to intern with Turnaround Arts: California because I found unique parallels between public health and their work in arts integration within elementary and middle schools.
Public health programs seek to address a health issue by suggesting an intervention that is developed in collaboration with members of the program’s community. Similarly, Turnaround Arts: California seeks to empower historically marginalized and inadequately resourced elementary and middle schools by strategically leveraging the arts towards school-defined goals.
In fact, research shows that access to the arts improve health outcomes, and learning about arts education through this internship was a way I hoped to explore that connection.
What do you like most about working with Turnaround Arts: California?
The amount of faith the staff had in me! Yes, I had my individual work, but I was also invited from the very beginning to learn about the program, participate in conversations, and help out wherever I could. The staff was always open to answer any questions I had or to listen to my thoughts. They were eager to support and get to know me. It was empowering to be included like that.
What’s the most exciting thing you worked on?
Researching arts and cultural community assets was both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because I had a lot of flexibility with my own work — from searching for local organizations to deciding how to record and present my data. Plus, I got to learn a lot about some incredible arts communities and local arts education work being done across California. But, terrifying because the fear of failure or feelings of not having done enough can be daunting.
What was your most memorable experience?
During our annual staff retreat, we had an intentional conversation about equity and anti-racism. I felt proud of being a part of a team who sees value in dialogue and understands how race and class impact ourselves as individuals, the work we’re doing, and the people we’re serving. Getting to participate in the first of many discussions about that was very special to me, and I’m so excited for them to continue that work.
Describe your internship experience in three words
Manage your expectations. (An important reminder for those of us who tend to be overambitious when setting them.)
Shout out to Barbara, Angela, Heather, and Jacob! They are all incredible, and I will miss working with all of them. And, best of luck to our new Turnaround Arts: California schools — I’m so excited for you all to join the family and continue growing through the arts!
This summer, Turnaround Arts teams from across the nation gathered at Airlie in Warrenton, Virginia to explore the question: How can we leverage the arts to increase equity for our students and community?
In their final retreat hour, new and veteran members of our #TAcalifornia team shared a reflective performance piece. Watch their performance below:
I used to think Turnaround Arts was a grant…
But, now I think it’s instructional strategies that will help our school.
I used to think Turnaround Arts was a prescribed curriculum…
But, now I think it’s a lot of freedom.
I used to think Turnaround Arts sent specialists to our school to teach our kids…
But, now I think we are the specialists.
I used to think Turnaround Arts was one more thing on my plate…
But, now I think it will enhance my plate.
I used to think Turnaround Arts was more work…
But, now I think it will make work more fun.
We used to think Turnaround Arts was far off…
But, now we think it’s family.
Have you heard? Turnaround Arts: California is expanding to include 10 more elementary and middle schools this August!
This means that, in total, we will be serving:
In preparation for Turnaround Arts: California’s expansion, this past spring we held three principal-focused meetings across the state.
Current principals shared sage advice with our incoming principals about what it takes to be a #TAcalifornia elementary and middle school. Scroll down to see our favorite words of wisdom:
& even more…
Be patient, be flexible, and always do what’s best for the kids.
Advocate for the arts by sharing your school’s #TAcalifornia story through press and social media platforms (i.e. instagram, facebook, and twitter).
Create arts-based traditions throughout your school calendar (E.g. Latin Dance Festival, Spring arts showcase, etc).
Ask the Turnaround Arts: California Principal Leadership Coach, Dr. Akida Long, questions! There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can learn from others and then tweak it to fit for your school, staff, and students.
Say YES! Participate in everything you can.
Relationships matter! Build strong relationships with your teachers, aides, custodians, everyone on campus.
Catalyze teachers to grow beyond their comfort zone and give the students opportunities to explore and experience things they haven’t.
Always identify and celebrate your school’s successes, ALWAYS.
By leveraging resources, building school capacity, and raising visibility about why and how the arts have helped their schools, principals are a key pillar in leading arts-fueled school change efforts.
We recently spoke with Jaqui Hope, the Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator (VAPA) of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD), to gain a more in-depth view of her work to improve K-12 education through the arts.
As a VAPA Coordinator Ms. Hope creates, upgrades, and manages the visual and performing arts at all her school sites – a total of 20 elementary, middle, and high schools! Two of which — MLK School of the Arts in Seaside and Marina Vista Elementary School in Marina Vista — are Turnaround Arts: California partner schools.
What drives you and the work you do?
My motivation largely stems from my childhood experiences. When I was 13, my childhood best friend was killed in an accident and I didn’t have the toolkit to express how I was feeling and what I was going through. I felt crazy and misunderstood. When I turned to the arts – poetry and music specifically – I remember beginning to find solace and acceptance in my thoughts by creating songs about how I was feeling and my journey through processing all sorts of emotions.
Creating songs was critical for my process because mental health was not at the forefront of the adults around me – parents, teachers and the like. I think back to this experience and it makes me empathize with kids that may be falling through the cracks in our current school system.
My goal is to make sure that students experiencing any sort of trauma rise to their fullest potential. I believe that the arts are a great tool to help them get there.
The second reason is because I want to foster our collective future. I feel like sometimes our educational system shuts down a student’s intellect. We celebrate those with a great ability to memorize and those that happened to get the math lesson as it was offered at that particular time.
What we really need is to create a culture of deep thinkers: students with the skills to see that there might be multiple valid solutions to a problem.
Students with regular access to the arts have the capacity to think deeply.
How have the arts impacted the culture and climate of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District?
Upon Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh’s hire in 2014, MPUSD’s shift towards the arts began. He was intentional about hiring a Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator.
Hiring staff centered on the arts sets the tone – it says that our district places value in the arts and what it can do for our students.
When I first arrived, there was a lot of stress around structure because of mandated minutes — teachers worried themselves over giving enough minutes of instruction in English and Math. I was shocked because I knew that there is so much more out there, so much more for these kids.
Flashforward to now – it’s night and day.
We have a superintendent and leadership team that’s really about growth mindset. We focus on our assets, and understand that we can always improve and bolster our skills. We understand that growth mindset and the arts go together like peanut butter and jelly.
When you’re bringing new arts to kids – I feel like that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Creativity and curiosity is celebrated when there is no one solution at the end of an arts process.
Despite your work being district-wide, your office is located on the MLK School of the Arts campus. How does that proximity impact your day-to-day work?
It’s great! I see the kids a lot. There’s actually a group of fourth graders who like to hang out in my office after school. Which has its pros and cons… sometimes I have to create a spreadsheet and there’s a game of tag going on in my office!
I was at the district office for my first few years and then they decided to place me on campus to support local school arts activities. Because sometimes school staff need an extra hand to talk to the sound guy, or interface with the director, or whatever when you’re having special programs. The close proximity makes a difference.
My more interlocked experience at MLK makes me want to be very intentional about Marina Vista Elementary School when it enters the Turnaround Arts: California program in the new school year – I plan to connect with teachers and faculty even more so, to make sure they are supported.
What did you notice about MLK School of the Arts, after it joined the Turnaround Arts: California program?
There is much more parent involvement.
Whether it’s a group of parents painting to beautify the school or helping out with the plays or the art exhibits. It’s a relaxed way for them to participate. Many of our parents have newly immigrated to California so, understandably, they are new to California’s education system. Inviting them to their children’s school to visit and be involved in their children’s lives – I see a level of comfort and ease that I didn’t see before we used the arts to engage them.
It’s a softer environment – the kids are a little bit more open.
I just wanted to thank Turnaround Arts: California for the work you do for kids and schools. I was so moved as I sat there at the Kennedy Center [for the Turnaround Arts Talent Show] in the dark, often with tears welling, listening to the powerful spoken word poetry and watching experts and their students move so beautifully…this is an amazing organization.
Thank you for bringing me into a fold, and making sure the arts are there to catch our kids.
by Laura Compton, Science teacher at Willard Intermediate School (Santa Ana, CA)
Though one will be hard-pressed to deny the importance of the arts in a school’s curriculum, its place in the worlds of science, math, technology, and engineering may be more difficult to pinpoint. Volcano projects, habitat dioramas, jello mold cells… is that all that arts integration within a science curriculum is? While these projects do bring an art component to the curriculum, they fall short of showing mastery of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
How can art be integrated into science curriculum to effectively show understanding of the NGSS performance expectations?
The answer lies in collaboration.
As a middle school science teacher, I need STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to manifest into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math): in which art must work side-by-side with one or more of the disciplines in the acronym. As arts integration educators, we incorporate art within math and technology, just as we do with science.
While planning my Evolution and Extinction curriculum, I wanted to make science and art work together to enhance the students’ learning experiences. I began to research, scour the internet, and seek advice from my coworkers for ideas on how to effectively integrate art into science.
I found my answer on one of my Facebook group pages: a fellow science teacher posted her students’ poetry that she had them create to show their knowledge of space. They were beautiful and truly showed her students’ knowledge of the content. They were called Blackout Poems.
“Blackout Poetry uses the pages of an existing text to isolate, then piece together single words or short phrases from these texts to create lyrical masterpieces. Creating a blackout poem involves steps that are all about deconstruction then reconstruction.”
I needed to incorporate Next Generation Science Standard MS-LS4-4 into my lesson. According to NGSS, students who demonstrate understanding in this standard can “construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.”
The students needed to understand natural selection before they could explain it, and if they were able to do so successfully, then they could construct a piece of poetry to showcase this knowledge.
Using a reading comprehension strategy similar to Marking, we were able to:
Review important vocabulary words.
Highlight the author’s claims.
Annotate these highlights.
Connect highlights to our Next Generation Science Standard, MS-LS4-4.
Using this strategy ensured that the students were familiar with the text. In addition, by asking the students to isolate the key words and themes from the reading, and then piecing them together, I could assess the student’s knowledge of natural selection!
I instructed the students using these steps:
Scan the text for anchor words, one word on the page that stands out because of its meaning or significance. Select three to four anchor words that convey understanding of natural selection.
Read the article in its entirety. Circling words that relate to the anchor words chosen.
Using a new blank piece of paper, write the words in the same place they appear on the text.
Here’s where the creativity begins: select words, without changing their order, so they can be pieced together to create a poem.
When the poem is completed, return to the original text. Erase the circled words that are not used for the poem and emphasize the words that are going to be highlighted.
Draw over “blacked out” words with an illustration that emphasizes the meaning of the poem.
My students couldn’t get enough of this project. Some of them made two, three, even four pieces of poetry! The best part? Students had to read the text three to five times. They were reading it, learning about science concepts, and loving using art and science together!
See below for students’ written statements about their Blackout Poetry, where they reflect on their science and art learning from the project, and articulate how the arts deepened their motivation and interest levels.
“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.
Here at Turnaround Arts: California, we host regular professional development (PD) for teachers across our 17 schools. This is because we know that increasing the use of the arts as a learning and engagement tool increases the confidence and academic success of our students.
“At the heart of the arts, is love. P.S. ARTS believes that differentiating learning opportunities for teachers is how we communicate that love and hold space for educators to develop as committed practitioners of the arts. It is our unique ability to customize our coaching strategies, from teacher training, to one-on-one mentoring, to match the culture and needs of each individual school.”
We customized our latest teacher workshop by starting with dance. We like to boogie and we love to amp up our energy for the learning ahead.
At various dancing intervals – we paused the music and asked teachers to pair up for some introductory dialogue.
We asked them a few questions:
What was your school like before Turnaround Arts?
What did it feel like or look like?
How is your school improving through Turnaround Arts?
What does that feel like or look like?
Our final prompt:
What one word would you use to describe where you see your arts-rich school of the future? Create a tableau — a frozen group picture — demonstrating it.
One of our favorite tableaus represented strength.
Our teachers see their future arts-rich school as strong and powerful.
Principal Blanca Rodriguez knows why.
“Teachers at Avenal Elementary School benefit greatly from these Turnaround Arts: California workshops. They get hands-on experience by trying techniques with their peers. They have the opportunity to ask questions for clarity and gain feedback on what they have already begun to implement in their classrooms.”
In their fourth year as a Turnaround Arts school, Avenal Elementary boasts some of the highest annual growth rate in student test scores of any school in their district, with particular growth for English Language Learners. Workshops like this encourage teachers to sustain and deepen the integration of the arts into their classrooms.
As our teachers and principals use the arts as a learning and engagement tool, the reading, language, math, critical thinking, and social skills of our students begin to improve. We’re taking the steps to catalyze a positive and strong school environment where students are motivated to learn and teachers are eager to teach.
Midway through our Avenal workshop, Darryl King shared a refresher of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), an arts-based strategy that many of our partner schools have implemented school-wide.
The VTS method encourages educators to ask three open-ended questions about visual art:
What’s going on in this picture?
What do you see that makes you say that?
What more can we find?
Unlike some standardized tests and processes of rote memorization, these open-ended questions encourage students to closely look at an artwork, vocalize details they observe, and back up their comments using visual evidence. VTS fosters their ability to think critically while increasing their speaking and listening skills.
Teachers left the PD excited to return to their classroom and use tableau and VTS to support student learning.
It’s absolutely clear. We’re building student and teacher skills now to guide Avenal Elementary into a strong, and certainly arts-rich, future.
Two years ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office trying to decide which sessions to take at the annual Turnaround Arts Summer Leadership Retreat. This was going to be our first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school, and I wanted to make sure I was signing up for classes that would best benefit me as a new music teacher and in implementing arts integration at my school. I now had my dream job — I stepped out of the general education classroom after 13 years to become the music teacher/Arts Coordinator at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary. I had a music credential because that was my major in college, but I had never taught music before — I had no idea where to start. When I saw a class called “Little Kids Rock, Modern Band” I thought, “hmmm, that sounds interesting!” To top it off, they told us that they would tell us how to get free instruments, so I immediately signed up.
Not knowing what to expect, I walked into the room stuffed from the Airlie breakfast buffet and half asleep because of the three-hour time difference and I saw a bunch of guitars next to the seats. I thought, “Uh oh, I don’t know how to play the guitar — I’m a trained opera singer.” Well, wouldn’t you know, about 20 minutes later I’m playing the guitar to multiple rock songs. Granted, they were one-finger chords on the guitar, but by George I was playing the guitar! My food coma and jet lag dissipated and I WAS SOLD! I kept on imagining our kiddos playing these instruments with songs that they love and composing their own songs! If I could do it, anyone could do it! I was able to step out of my structured classical training and be comfortable doing something that was quite foreign to me, but something my alter-ego always wanted to do: play in a rock band!
The minute I got back to Los Angeles, I signed up for the Little Kids Rock workshops. This past summer, I attended the Little Kids Rock Modern Band Rockfest 2017 at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado. It was such an inspirational conference, and there were so many choices of wonderful workshops to attend. It didn’t matter your skill level, there was something for everyone — from creating a scope and sequence and assessments for Modern Band implementation, to Hip Hop for positive classroom culture, to using Ukulele with technology. There was even a class for how to put a drum set together (which was really useful for me, since my drum set was in pieces all over my classroom last year and YouTube was no help).
A very powerful piece of this conference was that they had sessions and speakers on music education advocacy. As a music educator in today’s climate, arts education advocacy is one of the most powerful tools that we have for sustaining and maintaining the arts in schools. Being at this conference, there was a sense of advocacy, unity, and inclusiveness that I had not experienced in a long time. The Little Kids Rock staff was incredibly organized and had us involved in activities where we were forced (and I mean that in a positive way) to interact with educators from all over the world. If we weren’t in workshops, we were busy finding things from our BINGO game or participating in jam sessions and performing for each other. Educators came from all over the world to learn, grow, and create together for the betterment of our children. I’m not saying that Modern Band is the only answer, but if we are implementing a growth mindset and creating a culture and climate of success and joy, which Modern Band definitely creates for all (students, staff, and stakeholders), then imagine what a positive light and power that can create in our world and redirect all of the negativity and toxic climate that our society is currently experiencing.
Thank you Turnaround Arts for introducing me to Little Kids Rock. Not only has this program supported me in creating a successful music program at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary, but it has also supported arts integrated instruction. Little Kids Rock has not only given me skills to scaffold students learning various instruments, but also to create their own songs based on different content areas that they are learning in their classes. Another great thing about Little Kids Rock is that it doesn’t matter if you are a general education teacher or a music teacher, you will get something out of the program to best fit your instructional needs and the needs of your students.