Barbara Bowman is a 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Zamboni Middle School in Paramount, CA, one of our partner schools along the LA River as part of the river revitalization project. In the years since Zamboni first became a Turnaround Arts: California (TACA) partner school, Barbara has demonstrated her commitment to exploring new ways of teaching with the arts at the center. She serves on the school’s Arts Leadership Team, responsible for developing and implementing their school-wide strategies around the arts.

Barbara admits she is a technological dinosaur, so when school moved to a virtual environment in March 2020 she was feeling daunted. Thanks to her school’s support she was able to quickly get the hang of the new technology. However, Barbara was not prepared for the challenge of student engagement. She shared, “My classes were poorly attended. I struggled with identifying the reasons and was determined to do everything in my power to reach my students.” 

With the support of TACA Regional Coach Partner, P.S. ARTS, Barbara collaborated with her fellow social studies teachers and developed lesson plans for remote learning that integrated the arts. Teachers were immediately excited by the results. “The word was out—students loved incorporating the arts, and online attendance grew! Additionally, teacher confidence in integrating the arts into class lessons improved. As a group, we all felt inspired to pursue professional development in this area in the coming year.”

Responding to the call from our partner schools requesting more support to integrate the arts into remote learning, TACA rapidly developed a series of virtual professional development trainings in the Spring of 2020. Barbara was excited to attend the first one, Building Community in a Social Distancing Era. She shared, “I was determined to take advantage of opportunities to bolster my professional development in utilizing the arts to enhance my online teaching, and I was excited by what I learned from this workshop.” Barbara utilized the Visual Thinking Strategies* techniques from the workshop with her students in an English Language Arts lesson on the Titanic. “During the lesson, many students again attended and participated (both verbally and via chat), and all were highly engaged!” Barbara continued to attend subsequent workshops and has been excitedly trying out the new arts integration strategies with her students.

“When social distancing began, I felt very unsure how to best reach my students. Learning to infuse my online teaching with art using strategies from Turnaround Arts: California has helped me overcome my fears of technology and enhanced my teaching, as well as increased student attendance and engagement. I want to thank TACA for providing these enriching opportunities. I have no doubt I am a better educator as a result.”

Cultural Symbols created by Ms. Bowman’s students during an arts integrated social studies lesson

*Visual Thinking Strategies is a long-time partner of Turnaround Arts: California. The technique supports teachers in facilitating discussions of visual art that significantly increase student engagement, performance, and enjoyment of learning.