SEASIDE — Students’ lessons at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School of the Arts Thursday featured scratching and blending — DJ techniques taught by their “Turnaround Artist” mentor, IZ Avila.
Monterey Peninsula Unified School District — which was recently named one of the best communities for music education in the United States for the third year in a row — includes two Turnaround Arts schools: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School of the Arts in Seaside and Marina Vista Elementary Arts Academy. Both schools are supported by Turnaround Arts: California, a nonprofit organization aimed at using the arts to engage, empower and transform historically marginalized schools and communities.
Avila works with several Turnaround Arts schools across the country. His return to Seaside and Marina this week was met with cheers and applause from the students and marked his first visit to one of his “adopted” schools since before the pandemic.
“At one point, I didn’t think I’d get an opportunity to be back because we didn’t know where things were at,” Avila said. “Honestly it feels somewhat surreal.”’
Avila joined the Turnaround Arts program in 2016 when he adopted Standing Rock Middle School in North Dakota. He said witnessing firsthand the students’ loss of hope, excitement and imagination because of the things they had gone through changed his life.
“I really bonded with those kids and they opened up to me and trusted me,” he said. “That was an incredible process for me because once I saw how interested they were with music, I started cultivating them and helping them understand what DJing was.”
Avila witnessed that excitement for music again Thursday at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School of the Arts.
In DJ workshops, he taught the students what DJing means, how to use the soundboard and how to blend two pieces of music together cohesively, which he said is the most important part of DJing.
“Just because you can put everything on your computer doesn’t mean you should play it,” he advised the students. “As a DJ, the last thing you want to do is clear the dance floor.”
“You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” -Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese-American Author and Activist
Turnaround Arts California condemns the attacks against Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) across the United States. There have been over 3,800 documented anti-Asian hate incidents between March 2020-February 2021, 45% occurred in California, 13% against youth ages 12-17, and 5% occurring at school. There are many additional cases that are misclassified, ignored or unreported. This month’s murders in Atlanta of 8 people, 6 of which were Asian Americans, sits at the intersection of gender-based, class-based and race-based violence. We all deserve to feel safe and live without the threat of violence in our daily lives.
This fall, Turnaround Arts: California hosted Inside Out Project Group Actions to support our newest cohort of schools in making bold, visual statements about their commitment to leveraging the arts for educational equity. From our state’s southern border to our northern coast, first-year #TAcalifornia teams transformed campus walls into celebratory messages of creativity, community, and identity — bringing the magic of teaching and learning through the arts from the inside… out!
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.
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.