We are Water

Charleena Lyles.   Say her name.   Say her name.   This weekend, Charleena Lyles was shot and killed in her home, in front of her children, by two police officers. Charleena Lyles was a 30-year-old Black mother. Charleena Lyles was a member of the Sand Point community. Charleena Lyles was pregnant. Charleena Lyles was […]

Charleena Lyles.
 
Say her name.
 
Say her name.
 
This weekend, Charleena Lyles was shot and killed in her home, in front of her children, by two police officers. Charleena Lyles was a 30-year-old Black mother. Charleena Lyles was a member of the Sand Point community. Charleena Lyles was pregnant. Charleena Lyles was shot and killed Sunday morning by two White police officers while they investigated her report of an attempted burglary. 
 
We at Arts Corps, grieve for Charleena’s four children, for the child in her womb, for her extended family, and for her community. There is a hole in their hearts that can never be filled.  We also feel saddened for the school community at Sand Point Elementary where Charleena was a parent and where Arts Corps’ Creative Schools Initiative  integrated arts into academic curriculum, boosting students’ confidence and creative freedom.  
 
It is too early to determine if the officers involved will be brought up on charges. It is not too early, however, to advocate for justice. Arts Corps calls for a fair and thorough investigation into these events. Knowing that the criminal justice system disproportionately affects people of color, we ask that the police departments reexamine how officers are trained. Police in other countries are trained to deescalate a situation, fire warning shots, or aim for non vital areas. Yet, that seems to be missing from US training protocol. Why?
 
Black people are repeatedly killed by police officers. The police officers responsible for the shootings are either acquitted, or not indicted at all. We, at Arts Corps, mourn. We cry.
 
We demand justice.
 
Charleena Lyles is the most recent victim of police violence, but unfortunately she is not the only one. Arts Corps continues to grieve the countless other black lives lost at the hands of police officers, including Philando Castille, whose shooter was acquitted in court on Friday. In May, the Department of Justice decided not to bring charges against the killers of Alton Sterling despite cell phone footage of the incident. Officer Betty Shelby was recently acquitted of murdering Terence Crutcher, though that was also caught on video. The officer that killed thirteen year old Tyre King killer was recently acquitted, and his actions justified. 
 
Say their names.
 
The criminal justice system in our county has deep-seated biases that urgently need to be addressed, and Arts Corps lends our voice to the growing movement of individuals and organizations calling for reform, namely the Black Lives Matter movement  and its work to “build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.”
 
Fred Hampton said, “you can’t fight fire with fire, you fight with water.” Arts Corps knows the power of the arts, and wants to extinguish inequity in our communities. We need to come together as a community to help end this brutal cycle of police violence and create a better world for all of us.  
 
If you wish to donate directly to Charleena’s family, please visit her gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/bdgbc8pg
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City building at Mount View Elementary

I moved to Seattle eight years ago intending to dive fully into the city’s culture. I’ve wandered the halls of 619 Western Ave during art walks and cheered on slam poets late into the night. I’ve learned to effortlessly distribute waste/recycles/compost into each appropriate bin. I make my own kombucha and am pretentious about coffee […]

I moved to Seattle eight years ago intending to dive fully into the city’s culture. I’ve wandered the halls of 619 Western Ave during art walks and cheered on slam poets late into the night. I’ve learned to effortlessly distribute waste/recycles/compost into each appropriate bin. I make my own kombucha and am pretentious about coffee with the best of them. Weather does not deter my outdoor activities and of course I don’t use an umbrella.

I came to Seattle for much more than sipping lattes though.

I came to contribute to and see this city reach its full potential for greatness. At some point along the way, I decided that I wanted to do more than be an artist in my own right; I felt compelled to seek out opportunities for all youth in the city to engage in the arts. Arts had shaped my youth and my life in Seattle, and I wanted to see these opportunities made available to the generations behind me. Thus working with Arts Corps to teach ceramics at Mount View Elementary (within the greater Seattle area) has been such an honor and so fulfilling.

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Today our class wrapped up the City Building project that we spent much of Winter quarter working on. Students had collaborated and used various ceramic techniques to construct businesses, a zoo, a hospital, homes, parks, a soccer field, a transportation systems (and yes, our city had two coffeeshops). They saw the culmination of their hard work as they combined individual pieces into one collective city, choosing where to place each piece of the city and drawing roads connecting each piece to the others. As they stepped back, they saw how their individual contributions added to something so much larger.

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I was really excited about this project because it not only allowed the students to use all the ceramic techniques we had thus far learned, but the project also required the students to dream into and then create a city as they would build it. My hope was that the project would empower the students to think of themselves as significant contributors to their community!… That they are culture shapers!… That anything is possible!

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Today was also my last day as a resident of Seattle. Tomorrow I move to San Francisco to join the Exploratorium’s Extended Learning team, where I’ll continue to create opportunities for people of all ages to engage in curiosity, creativity, and possibility. I’ll surely immerse myself into that city just like I’ve done here, but as I leave, I’m hopeful that something lasting has been planted here in Seattle. More than a few skills in ceramics, my hope is that I’m leaving these students with a greater sense of their potential, both as artists and as contributors to their world.

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With all that Seattle has to offer (and yes, today was sunny and 70), I cannot think of a better way to have spent my last afternoon in this city than investing into these budding artists, moreover, young culture shapers.

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Growing Minds in Transitional Times

A major focus of Arts Corps’ programs is supporting healthy transitions to and from middle school.  Why? We all understand that routine is secure and comfortable, while change is unpredictable and risky. Transitions can require difficult adjustments. Recent research shows however, that the effects that difficult transitions have on youth (especially in the middle school […]

A major focus of Arts Corps’ programs is supporting healthy transitions to and from middle school.  Why? We all understand that routine is secure and comfortable, while change is unpredictable and risky. Transitions can require difficult adjustments. Recent research shows however, that the effects that difficult transitions have on youth (especially in the middle school years) can last much longer and have much greater impact than we once thought.

"I can be very creative and amazing if I apply my ideas and practice them, as well as try even though I could fail."-- Arts Corps Student
“I can be very creative and amazing if I apply my ideas and practice them, as well as try even though I could fail.”– Arts Corps Student

Without intentional efforts on the part of teachers and mentors, the path from elementary to middle school can negatively influence students’ academic performance, motivation, engagement, and behavior. Studies have shown that in addition to their immediate detrimental effects, poor middle school transitions are directly correlated with lack of success in high school and beyond (Schwerdt & West 2011). According to a study performed in Philadelphia in 2006, “40 percent of eventual dropouts could be identified on the basis of poor grades, attendance, and behavior as early as 6th grade” (Neild & Balfanz 2006).

"I can focus and achieve if I try."--Arts Corps Student
“I can focus and achieve if I try.”–Arts Corps Student

 

So how can we help support healthy and successful transitions during the middle school years? One way is to work toward instilling a growth mindset in our youth through intentional educational practices. A growth mindset, one of four elements of an “academic mindset” proposed by Farrington et al. in 2012 at the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, is a belief in one’s own ability and competence to grow with effort. As supported in a study by Blackwell, Trzesniewski and Dweck in 2007, a growth mindset can save a student from spiraling down a path of self-doubt during a time of transitional insecurity.

 

 

 

While a growth mindset can and should be developed in all content areas, we believe arts education is particularly well-suited for cultivating confident and engaged learners. Through Arts Corps’ Creative Schools Initiative (CSI) we integrate arts learning with academic subjects such as history, science, and language arts. In this middle school-focused integration program we encourage a growth mindset by:

 

"I am stronger than I imagine, and if I work hard, I can do anything!!"--Arts Corps Student
“I am stronger than I imagine, and if I work hard, I can do anything!!”–Arts Corps Student
  1. Encouraging students to set project goals, experiment with different mediums, fail, & learn from their failures.
  2. Emphasizing the practice & development of new skills by introducing new artistic techniques.
  3. Discussing the malleability of intelligence while teaching students that they can grow their abilities in the arts, reading, math, etc through practice and effort. Talent is developed, not born.
  4. Implementing peer & self-evaluation by requiring that students draft their work & evaluate it until it is the best that it can be.
  5. Critiquing students’ work with specific feedback & examples so that they understand not only what worked & what they can improve on, but also how they can make those improvements.

How will you instill a growth mindset in today’s youth ?

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#powerpose is the new #selfie

  We are living with the most documented generation ever.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and more keep track of everything from our meetings to our vacations, our pets to our dinner.  Is there a place for powerful portraits of people anymore?  Or are selfies now considered art?  In an age where “let me take a […]

 

We are living with the most documented generation ever.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and more keep track of everything from our meetings to our vacations, our pets to our dinner.  Is there a place for powerful portraits of people anymore?  Or are selfies now considered art?  In an age where “let me take a selfie” and “#shamelessselfie” are common phrases on the Internet and social media, are portraits and powerful candids obsolete?

 

As I led a group of nearly a dozen middle-schoolers through an after-school photography club, I gleaned some insight into these questions.  My number one goal for my first-ever photography club was that it be student-driven.  I told students that I wouldn’t give them assignments, or require them to take pictures of certain things.  Mostly, I wanted to guide them through an experience that would expose them to the traditional art of photography, while also letting them guide the club through their own middle school lens.

 

The first day, I created a diagram of all of the buttons on the camera, and numbers on the screen, and how to adjust for light on a manual setting.  The auto setting was off-limits.  They wanted to take pictures of their food, their friends, and most of all, themselves.  I was not, I repeat not, going to teach a class on selfies.  No no, I was much too much of an educated artist to allow that, and I owed it to the photo club to teach them about history, controversy, and the difference between what we see and what really is.

 

I showed them portraits taken by well known and little-known photographers, and suggested that they practice taking candid and posed portraits of their families and friend groups.  I quickly learned that this was not the best way to promote curiosity and persistence in photography.  I realized that the students were telling me that doing, going, seeing, and experiencing was how they wanted to learn.  So I learned with them.   We went to the p-patch down the street to capture flowers with the macro setting, created a photo studio in the classroom for some posed portraits of each other, and even walked to Starbucks one day to practice wide-angle shots…and get extra venti mocha frappuccinos… the first of the summer!

 

In the room next door to Photography Club is Drama Club.  Donte, the 7th and 8th grade Social Studies teacher, introduced me to Power Poses this fall, as I lent my photo skills to drama club rehearsals as they practiced getting into character.  We would put on Eye of the Tiger, get in a circle around the room, and jump into a character of power once in front of the camera.  Power poses, however, were not limited to the drama club.  Parents, teachers, the 6th graders for their Many Cultures One World project, the entire 7th grade for their film fest credits, and now Teaching Artists, have experienced the magic of the power pose.

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Donte

All these selfies- in Power Pose form- taught me that a selfie is not as narcissistic as older generations might think.  We all love to feel powerful, and a selfie is just that: a power pose.  It’s a statement.  It’s empowerment.  It’s self-acceptance.  (What if everyone in the world refused to take pictures of themselves because they thought they were too ugly?  Now that would be a project for the teaching artists out there!)

 

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Jeff
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As reflect on my year at Orca, I think about all that I have learned about teaching, learning styles, empowerment, flexibility, patience, empathy, self care, and creativity, I will remember power poses.  I will remember students jumping at the chance to use the big DSLR camera.  I will remember my photographs of students included in the MLK day slideshow.  I will remember starting a photo club.  I will remember my photo club students’ final slideshows that included flowers, friends, and frappuccinos!  I will remember how I was encouraged to contribute my creative gifts and talents to an inclusive community of educators that embodies a culture of creativity and empowerment.

By: Liz Farmer, CSI Artist in Service

 

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Song Writing and the Creative Process

One of the biggest perks of my job as a teaching artist at Orca is that I can practice being a teacher with the support and resources of several other educators at my side. I get to receive feedback, try new approaches and strategies, and assess how I am doing professionally on a daily basis. […]

One of the biggest perks of my job as a teaching artist at Orca is that I can practice being a teacher with the support and resources of several other educators at my side. I get to receive feedback, try new approaches and strategies, and assess how I am doing professionally on a daily basis.

Each day during first period, this dynamic works in my favor during the song writing class that I co-teach with the AWESOME sixth-grade teachers, Jeff and Tanisha.  In the classroom, I get to work through my own creative and professional process alongside those of my students and colleagues.

Our classroom culture aims to create an open and authentic space to write about what interests you. A typical day in song writing (if there is such a thing) might include any of the following: dance warm ups to Justin Timberlake songs, a get–to-know-you game based on Musical Chairs, a presentation on recording via Garage Band, a game of The Human Knot, a visit from fellow CSI teaching artist and song writing guru, Amy, and sustained time to work on writing lyrics.

While teaching artists consider myriad aspects of creativity and education, for now I want to focus on critique, feedback loops, and assessment because there is an element of each in the others. Critique is essential for any artist to hear new perspectives on their work and have the opportunity to engage in something they hadn’t considered. Feedback loops are the result of critiques. For example, “my classmates said the piece wasn’t relateable, so I will tone down the echo effect that makes my lyrics incomprehensible.” Assessment is trickier to define. Arts Corps’ definition is to “make student learning visible and give young artists reflective time.”  In no way is assessment a grade or judgement of a final product.  It is a chance for students to decide how their skills, understanding, behavior, and attitude have changed over the course of the class or project.  In a nutshell, feedback from others and the willingness to receive and create multiple iterations from that feedback is critical to how they will assess their own learning.

For the most recent project, we decided to try a new method of peer evaluation and feedback: post-its.  Since I am from Minneapolis, I decided it was good to keep my fellow Minnesotans employed by requiring each of our 20 students to give feedback to each of the 10 partner groups, including themselves, on post-its.  (I’ll leave the math to you.) After each song, we took a few minutes to write what we heard that we liked, and how we thought they could improve for the next project. This was the result:

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Suggestions, critique, feedback, and compliments were stuck to each laptop so that we all had the chance to receive feedback. For self assessment, we asked students to write (again on post-its. You’re welcome, 3M.) responses to the prompts, “one thing that was awesome about the way I worked was…” and “one thing I would change about the way I worked was…”  Their thoughtfulness was impressive:  “I helped pick out tracks. I would want to give more ideas.” And, “I tried new things and pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone.  I would change how I worked by pushing myself a little further to sing maybe.”

At a time of transition in my life, my Uncle Dave told me to, “Measure your success in ways that are meaningful to you, not what others might think.”  I have it written on a (virtual) post-it on my laptop screen as reminder to myself of what is important as I experience new identities in various stages of young adulthood. As a rookie artist and educator, evidence of my learning is visible in how I encourage students to be honest and vulnerable, create stories from potentially nebulous ideas, risk putting them on display for peers, and stand tall in their own definitions of success— and to do the same things myself.

-Liz Farmer
AmeriCorps Artist-in-Residence
 
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What place does audio production have in the classroom?

Sound is all around you. It manifests in music and alongside visual media; in espresso machines and drops of coffee filling your mug, in freeway traffic, in dog whistles, shouting bats, and cell phone transmissions – it exists as vibrations in the air even when we believe it to be silent. Upon waking every morning, […]

Sound is all around you. It manifests in music and alongside visual media; in espresso machines and drops of coffee filling your mug, in freeway traffic, in dog whistles, shouting bats, and cell phone transmissions – it exists as vibrations in the air even when we believe it to be silent.

Upon waking every morning, we are bombarded with sensory information but are not often taught how to wield the power of our senses to create new understandings of the world. This is the culture that audio production fosters.

Audio production includes your favorite CDs and vinyl records. It includes video game sound effects and everything you hear in movies. It is at the heart of live concerts and podcasts and broadcasts and the reason you can hear sound coming out of speakers. Audio production is the process of capturing sound and reproducing it back to an audience – or perhaps to document and archive to retrieve in the future.

In my personal process of integrating arts into the classroom at Madrona K-8, I have been striving to give audio production equal weight as an art form and as a tool for students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic in an unconventional way. To demonstrate this, I recorded and edited my own podcast to represent my own understanding of the unit topic: Poverty.

I worked with a fellow AmeriCorps member at Arts Corps to record one of their spoken word pieces that deals with privilege and opportunity, and then included an interview portion where they talked about the meaning and intention behind their piece. Not only did I end up with a great podcast example, but I managed to show multiple levels of art – not just the artistry of the podcast itself being put together, but the art in crafting words to create meaning and the power this has in a recorded medium.

For the poverty unit, my fellow teaching artist and I collaborated on a rubric to include the choice between a visual project, an audio project, or another mixed media project. Many students took to the idea of using audio recorders to perform a rap, song, or commentary that showed their understanding and interpretation of the poverty unit theme.

There is a certain fearlessness that young people possess when it comes to giving them choices. Too often, the school system institutes rote procedures that allow little room for creative exploration and personal expression. One project really struck me as an example of what we may have never learned about two students’ unique expressive ability had we not given them this creative choice in the classroom.

Poverty project – rap

Audio production teaches young people how they can use their voice as a mechanism to express ideas, how to practice and plan for the moment of recording, and eventually transcend the fleetingness of time by contributing their voice to recorded history.

In the end, it can just be a playful process where students have a means to demonstrate their understanding of a topic in an unconventional way that now has a chance to be shared and celebrated.

 
-AMY
AmeriCorps Artist-in-Residence

 

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