Together with the Kennedy Center, local arts organizations, and our coach partners, Turnaround Arts: California gathers Arts Leadership Teams from partner schools across the state annually to develop and deepen arts-rich action plans for school change.
A conversation with Faith Kwon from Ravenswood City School District’s Costaño Elementary School in East Palo Alto, CA.
Mary Chapa Academy partnered with Turnaround Arts: California in 2014, and their journey of school change through the arts is truly remarkable. Thank you to Nabil Abdulkadir for capturing their story!
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.
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.”
– John DePasquale’s Blackout Poetry
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.
With a high population of English Language Learners (ELL) and low lexile readers, I began the lesson with a whole group reading strategy using Naturally Selected to Survive an article found on Readworks.com.
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.
I would love to share and collaborate.
Twitter/instagram: @Compton1206, @WillardInt
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.
During our latest PD adventure, we partnered with P.S. ARTS to host an interactive training with the teachers of Avenal Elementary School. P.S. ARTS’ Darryl King, who serves seven Turnaround Arts: California schools as a Regional Coach, shared:
“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.
By Jacob Campbell, Program Manager for Turnaround Arts: California
I recently made a trip out to Santa Ana, CA, to see how Sierra Preparatory Academy’s first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school has been going, and I was blown away by the infusion of arts projects and instructional strategies that have begun to permeate all areas of this special school.
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.
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.