An Educator’s Manifesto: Part 2

“A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance.” – Wikipedia

It is time to talk about the value of Arts Integration as a strategy to propel student growth and achievement. In order to do so, however, we must all first acknowledge one simple truth – Children only grow to achieve if they are engaged.

Before I launch off into a diatribe here, I feel a disclaimer is necessary. What you will read here are my opinions, which are based on my own personal experience and a thorough examination of the academic research available to us. While I know edu-folk really love facts and the numbers and the hard-core evidence, I will first present the anecdotal evidence, saving the much anticipated, riveting data references for the end. Despite the risk of losing the more “data driven” readers, the storyteller in me must insist that we initiate this investigation with some personal experience.   So please allow me to first shine a light on my earliest impressions of arts education in general.

As children, my sister and I danced nearly every weeknight and endless hours on the weekends. We performed at every venue that would host a troupe of young ballerinas, Gumby-like gymnasts, and self-proclaimed hip hop artists. We would warm our muscles up by stretching against a fence or down dark narrow hallways, venue dependent, in order to prepare for our trophy-worthy performances on any number of portable stages temporarily installed in mall parking lots, town squares and community centers. Dancing was our life. Our passion for endless dancing is further illustrated by the fact that when we mouthed off to our parents (actually I was the one who did most of the mouthing off) we would be grounded from these precious dance classes, simply because it was the most effective method of discipline in our home. There was nothing more important in our lives than our passion to spin and tumble. It was a way of life for us.

Fast-forward a few years to the opening of a new arts middle and high school in our hometown. Enrollment was based on an audition, and I took a chance and auditioned for both dance and drama. After being accepted to both departments, I decided to try something new and register as a drama student. (After all, I had a lot to say. Dance just couldn’t satisfy my desire to be heard.) So I attended a public arts magnet school from the 8th grade until I graduated. My time at the Palm Beach County School of the Arts (now known as Dreyfoos School of the Arts) set the standards for many things in my life. First of all, if you couldn’t maintain decent grades you were expelled. So that was my initial motivation; I needed to keep up the grades so I wouldn’t have to go to a “normal” school. The fact that our arts classes were at the end of every day meant that I had to hang in there during the morning hours of Math and Science, English Lit, etc. Now, I am not saying that these academic classes were arts integrated classes; oh no, each class strictly maintained and delivered its specific content. However, despite my lack of interest in these traditional subjects, I was able to see a connection between my morning classes and my afternoon classes. I could see the value, for example, of reading Shakespeare in English Lit and performing Shakespeare in my Theatre class. I was able to connect my Geometry class to my Stagecraft class; I mean after all, isn’t set construction really just about angles and slopes? With cognitive connections like these I was able to maintain a high grade point average in my academic classes, not because I loved my academics but because I saw their relevancy in my art.

In college I continued to pursue my studies in Theatre, first at the University of Florida and later at the New World School of the Arts. I would say that my perspective on arts education shifted pretty dramatically once I graduated from college. After walking away with a BFA in Theatre, I realized that all of that exploring of self through movement and sound really distracted me from learning and doing other things. My studies appeared to me at that time as having been too focused. I certainly had developed discipline, what with the endless hours of rehearsals and performances, but I felt very unprepared for other things in life because I had focused so intensely on the craft of theatre. From my new perspective, art for art’s sake was useless. If one did not use art to DO something, what was the point?

So fast forward now past an six-year career as a stage manager, light and sound board operator, production manager, independent playwright, etc. in New York City.   Shuffle on past my time as an arts educator with a nonprofit in the inner city of Queens, NY. Keep moving past the Master’s degree I earned in International Education from New York University. And stop somewhere around 2011 when I began working with an organization called the Harmony Project at a Turnaround School in Denver, CO. My first very explicit experience weaving art into academic subjects came when I managed a number of Harmony Artists at a struggling school in the far northeast of town. (Feel free to explore the archives here. I actually started this blog with the purpose of documenting my time at that school with the Harmony Project.) During the two years I worked in this capacity, I aligned required curriculum with artistic explorations. I did this collaboratively with teachers and artists. It was one of the most joyous and traumatic experiences of my life. (Ultimately the program ended when the district changed principals for the third time in two years, but I will spare the reader the details on just how poorly managed “turnaround” schools can be.) One of the many things I learned in the process was that nearly all high-need, low-income, low performing schools share at least two similarities: They lack family engagement and they lack student engagement. Without these two critical components, a school and all of the educators inside are just spinning their wheels. If school leaders cannot find a way to authentically engage the learning community they are doomed to fail.

It’s funny (well, kinda); I observed school leaders try every trick in the book to get families to come into the building to talk about student “data”. (Who wants to talk about data anyway??!) But time and again the hallways on these parent nights are empty. And if you think that the families are disengaged in student learning then you should meet the students! I realize that I am making sweeping generalizations here; but suffice to say, many of the children couldn’t care less about learning in a classroom at their desk with a pencil and a paper. This kind of learning isn’t relevant to their lives. It does not allow them space to explore their questions or interact with the content actively. Standard curriculum these days is SO overwhelmingly over-scripted. As a result we are loosing teachers nearly as quickly as we are loosing the students. (Have you seen the drop out rate these days??! It is sad.) The material is dry. The content lives on paper, or in a book, or maybe up on an overhead projector. Students can’t play with it in their hands. Children can’t activate it in their bodies. It is a one-size-fits-few format. I would be snoozing too.

So this brings us to the value and purpose of Arts Integration as a strategy to boost student growth and achievement.

By adding music to a Science class, students are provided the opportunity to explore content in a new way. They can actively and interactively experience the science behind sound. The vibrations of a drum or a piano string, for example, can be seen and touched and comprehended through an artistic exploration.   Likewise, place a theatre artist in a Literacy class and watch student comprehension soar! Books come alive. Allow students the time to play with literature, through tableau for example, and just see how they can retell a story. Visual Art is another great vehicle for learning story structure. Have you ever seen a graphic novel? The images match the words and all of the sudden the letters and punctuation marks are given an aesthetic life, one many struggling learners would doubt even existed. I once matched a powerful but less known kind of artist, an Urban Designer, with a second grade class learning about their community. You can imagine how the children’s understanding of urban, suburban and rural communities shifted when they were given the space and encouragement to explore the art of land usage with a professional who turned a childhood passion for drawing and sketching into one of today’s most vital professions.

While you may only hear crickets in the hallways of parent night, have you ever attended a student showcase or art exhibit? I have had to add more seats at the back of auditorium to pack in the families, because the 300 seats already in place were not enough. I have had to ask the parents to hold their applause until every student has finished their demonstration because, frankly, I wanted to be home before midnight. And in divided communities, those riddled with gang activity or submerged in racial distributes, I have only found one commonality that has held these learning communities together – each and every parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle want the opportunity to come and celebrate their child. They want to take pictures and videos. They want to bring flowers and balloons. They want their children to smile and feel proud for what they have worked so hard to accomplish.

Knowing all of this, and I am sure many of you do, we must then ask ourselves… Why on Earth should we not merge academic learning with creative explorations? Bringing academics and art together will most certainly yield more engagement on behalf of the entire learning community. Teachers often experience the most pleasure in the arts integrated experience because not only are their students experiencing joy in the process of learning, but that learning can be seen with the eyes and heard with the ears. Learning is made visible and tangible when it is demonstrated through artistic mediums; it becomes measurable. Suddenly the process of teaching these youngsters becomes exciting and rewarding again because the teachers can see their impact in very real ways.

So let’s talk for a moment about those 21st Century Skills everyone is always referring to. What about collaboration, critical thinking and communication? Aren’t these some of the pillars American society was built upon? It is widely known that the Chinese can out-work us in terms of their endurance for long hours under less than ideal conditions. We also know that the Chinese government often sends their young scholars to the US to study because they desire these 21st Century Skills but traditional Chinese curriculum often lacks them. It has been said that our society values and fosters the ability of its people to “think outside the box”, and we have often been the envy of the world because of it. So how does the delivery of traditional curriculum really measure up to an arts integrated curriculum in terms of developing students’ abilities to think creatively, convey new ideas and turn them into action? How does a scripted curriculum compare to a curriculum with the space for freedom and exploration in the realms of inventiveness and risk taking?   I believe it is imperative that we analyze not only what we are teaching our students, but also how we teach them. Research has made it very clear that children learn through action and interaction, through trial and error, through doing, and through safe risk taking. Doesn’t this evidence explicitly make the case for using arts integrated strategies in the classroom? To me it is a no brainer.

Another hot topic is the notion of “college and career readiness”. The US has a problem arising; it is the problem of high school and college graduates emerging from their studies with insufficient skills to secure employment. Theoretical studies must transfer to useful knowledge. Earlier I mentioned an Urban Designer whom I placed with a group of second graders. When that artist departed after eleven weeks she left a cohort of young people who could very clearly explain what an Urban Designer does and how that profession relates to society. As part of their final project, the students participating in this program were able to look at their community through the lens of urban planning. Together these students wrote letters to their senators asking for access to a quality grocery store and an increase public transportation options like busses and light rails, citing their rationales in their requests. These students identified regions of concern in their communities, like empty lots lacking ample light where drug deals and gang activity often occurred after dark, making recommendations for how the space would better serve the neighborhood if they received the support they sought. These kinds of explorations allowed the students to make direct links between academic content and real life situations. Suffice to say that by the time the session had concluded we had many, MANY little second graders with ambitions of earning degrees in Urban Design.

Now… We all know the reality; not every student is cut out for college. So this begs the question, how can arts integration strategies support the developing careers of those students who will launch directly into the workforce without a college degree? My answer? Arts Integration can provide a window into a creative career simply by providing exposure and motivation.

Earlier I mentioned the rigorous dance schedule that my sister and I committed to at a very early age. Later, when I was knee-deep in theatre history classes at the University of Florida, my sister, Carrie, decided not to apply for or attend college. Instead she graduated from high school and started dancing professionally with a ballet company. A year or few later, when she had exhausted the ballet profession (typically a ballerina’s career is over by the time she is old enough to drink), Carrie began to chart her path as a young entrepreneur. She began teaching ballroom dance and competing at national conferences. Today, she owns her own successful ballroom dance studio in Las Vegas. Carrie never cared much for math, but today she handles the books of her thriving business. She never attended a university, but today she knows how to market and sell a product better than I do. How and why did Carrie strive to achieve such an ambitious goal in a marketplace of bachelor’s and master’s degrees? She was introduced to her profession very early on. She studied with some of the best dancers in our town. She learned the business of establishing and maintaining a niche clientele in ballroom dance by asking the right people the right questions. My sister is largely successful today because she pursued a lifestyle that inspired her.

Not every student in an arts integrated classroom will follow the college trajectory. But I do believe that access to creative explorations in an environment that is supported by a teacher who creates a safe learning environment for students to discover their own inner potential and passion, will yield the innovative and motivated workforce our society so desperately needs to maintain. Arts ignite, inspire and motivate. In a world of under-funded arts programs, isn’t it worth the effort to infuse traditional learning with a spark of creative possibility?

Congrats if you have read this far in my manifesto. Perhaps a few of you only stuck with me because you eagerly await the facts, stats and data I promised you. Well I won’t bother regurgitating what others have already beautifully presented. Instead, I will just provide you with some current resources to support my argument. Are you ready? Here we go…

Recent Research

Reinvesting in Arts Education: This is a research-backed document disseminated by the President’s Committee of Arts and Humanities (PCAH) in support of Arts Education and Arts Integration strategies specifically for high-need, low-performing turnaround schools.  http://www.pcah.gov/sites/default/files/photos/PCAH_Reinvesting_4web.pdf

Changing Education Through the Arts: This case study funded by the Kennedy Center explores the findings from a recent Arts Integration study conducted at a high-need public school in Washington D.C.  http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/ceta/

Why Arts Integration Improves Long-Term Retention of Content: In this academic review, researchers explore the long-term memory effects of students participating in arts integrated lessons. This document provides examples of how existing research from neuroscience and cognitive science can inform the work of practicing educators.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-228X.2011.01114.x/abstract

 Additional Resources:

Edutopia: Check out Edutopia’s Arts Integration page. This is a useful tool for educators who are interested in discovering and sharing strategies for integrating the arts throughout core subject areas.  http://www.edutopia.org/blogs/tag/arts-integration

Gaining Steam – Teaching Science Through Art: This U.S. News World Report illustrates nicely how some schools are adding art to “STEM” equation, with good results.  http://www.usnews.com/news/stem-solutions/articles/2014/02/13/gaining-steam-teaching-science-though-art

Artful Teaching: This book, written by David M. Donahue and Jennifer Stuart, delves into how the arts can be integrated across curriculum for students in grades K-8.  http://store.tcpress.com/0807750808.shtml

In closing, I also wanted to share some good news with you… Recently I was brought on as the Interim Executive Director of that wonderful organization I referenced earlier, the Harmony Project. For more information on the work we do at the Harmony Project please check out our website at http://www.coloradoharmonyproject.org/.

Your thoughts and reflections are always welcomed. Thank you for your time and attention…

Creatively and Passionately Yours,

Tamera Sakotas

An Educator’s Manifesto: Part 1

“A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance.” – Wikipedia

Arts Integration, Global Education and Project Based/Expeditionary Learning are, in my opinion, three of the most valuable strategies educators can employ to ensure the academic and social/emotional growth of their students. These three perspectives on curriculum design and direct instruction are rooted in student experience and driven by curiosity and exploration.   When merged together, these instructional lenses become powerful tools for teaching; tools that when utilized to their fullest potential can incite deep learning that resonates quickly and can last a lifetime. The terms themselves are also trendy titles by which people label their teaching styles these days. Many teachers will tell you that they receive workshop notifications and conference invites regularly from service providers begging their for their ear and their money in exchange for training and ongoing professional development in these areas. But is this kind of training worth it? How do the teachers benefit from incorporating these strategies into their daily instruction? Should these educational perspectives influence policy making? And (most importantly) what do these teaching concepts offer to the students themselves?   Can Arts Integration, Global Education and Expeditionary/Project Based Learning become foundations upon which we build equitable education systems in the future? In this philosophical declaration of mine, I plan to unpack the aforementioned terms and share with you why I am such an advocate of these instructional strategies.

But… Before I do…  Let’s address the big (GINORMOUS) white elephants in the room.  Standards Based Instruction and Assessment are at the core of many policy debates largely because they are believed to influence and even determine issues of equity in today’s schools. And since I will agree that you get when you measure, let us talk about what we should measure and how we should measure it.

First, given today’s climate of over testing, all classroom content must, must be rooted in academic standards. Without standards identifying the projected outcomes for academic growth, explorations can often go astray. Furthermore, the schools and students that I would argue need this kind of work the most – those living in underserved communities – cannot spare a second’s time for anything that is not proven to directly support student achievement. Therefore I support the use of academic standards in creative explorations, especially for our highest need schools. Educators in these schools are evaluated, via the assessment of their students, repeatedly throughout the year. In many cases teacher pay is inextricably linked to their delivery of standards based content as illustrated by testing data. Testing can often absorb more than 13 weeks of teaching and learning time per year; that is more than one third of the school year just for testing! Here in Colorado, for example, we have several state mandated tests; some of them include TCAP, CMAS, and ACCESS. Then there are generally three INTERIM tests required by the district throughout the year, each bringing the learning to a standstill while tests are being administered. Now there are also STAR tests and SMI tests; and while both are conducted digitally, each requires one-on-one time between the teachers and the students.   Suffice to say, testing is very time consuming.  Given this landscape of (test) results oriented instruction, if it does not push the students further and further down the line of academic achievement, there is no room for it in the classroom.

Gone are the days of an “art for arts sake” philosophy, there is simply no room (and often, no money) for it. And excursions taken beyond the school walls must be blatantly purposeful, linking to academic standards or, alternatively, the school’s Positive Behavior Incentive Support (PBIS) plan. The joy of learning must be discovered through the delivery of a standards-based curriculum; and for many teachers who have been cycled through the public school system and encouraged to teach to the test (yes, I’ve said it), keeping the joy can be a big challenge.  I argue that adopting Arts Integration strategies, Global Learning benchmarks and Expeditionary/Project Based Learning experiences into the classroom are three ways to keep instruction rooted in required content while also spinning the content on its head and providing the students with a new lens by which they can view and interact with the world, thereby bring the joy back into the teaching and learning process. Further, each of these three strategies provides teachers with avenues to diversify instruction. In this way our more advanced learners can go further and deeper, and our students performing under grade level can ground their learning in experience, which research suggests makes the longest lasting impressions.

Now that we have discussed what we should measure (academic standards), let’s discuss how we should measure it.

To begin this highly contested discussion I want to remind the reader that not everyone learns in the same way. According to research conducted and inspired by the revered Dr. Howard Gardner, there are seven distinct intelligences. Gardner argued that, “we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves.” Knowing this, it is unreasonable and irrational, in my opinion, to assess student learning in a uniform way. Standardized tests, or tests and quizzes administered via paper and pen, should not be the only way we determine if a student has truly met the standards we have aimed for!

I had the great pleasure of working with an organization called the Harmony Project a few years back. This group of forward thinking educators came to understand the need to develop assessment tools that are applicable to the multiple intelligences described above. As an organization whose focus it is to make integrated arts accessible to all children, they used the term “Demonstration of Learning” to describe a modified and active assessment tool/activity teachers (and their partnering artists) can use to evaluate student learning. Children, for example, who may have explored the life cycles of a butterfly through movement and dance, were able to demonstrate their comprehension of content in a physical way. Once the understanding had infiltrated their bodies, these kinesthetic learners were able to verbally express learned content in a clear and significant way.

Another way of describing a nontraditional and non-uniform mode of assessment was coined by some Harvard graduates at Project Zero. These pioneers use the term “Make the Learning Visible”. To make the learning visible, students and teachers must agree to a rigorous collection of data at various points throughout the year. In this way growth can be observed and tracked. This might seem like a lot of work, but given today’s landscape of digital learning and sharing sites, it really isn’t that challenging. For example, the work I did at Denver Center for International Studies at Ford provided me the opportunity to work closely with the very talented Mrs. Robbi Makely. She was our school’s technology extraordinaire, and with her help we were able to post student projects on our school’s wikipage. (This site is still active today and can be accessed from the school’s website, although the program was discontinued a year ago.) Utilizing a wikipage allowed teachers to easily post demonstrations of learning (videos, articles written, audio clips, photographs, etc.) regularly. Some teachers I know prefer to create sites on Google for their classrooms. Another of my favorite public platforms for sharing student work (portfolios) can be found at the Asia Society’s “ning” site. Through their education branch, the International Studies Schools Network, this organization has launched a brilliant resource for educators where classrooms around the world can document, save, track and share student projects. Regardless of preference, it is clear that technology has made the ability to track student growth extremely accessible even to the newest of techies. It is far easier today than it was ten years ago to “make the learning visible”.

So that about wraps up Part 1 of my manifesto. Moving forward I plan to delve deeper into the themes of Arts Integration, Global Education and Project Based/Expeditionary Learning. (I also plan to tell you why I have lumped the last two items together as one, because I know that doing so has really gnawed at the nerves of a few educators who prefer otherwise. –wink-) I also plan to broaden the scope of the discussion, and consider how these areas of instruction can and should affect the teachers, students and even public policy.

Before I close, however, I want to share with you some of my work that was recently featured on the Project Explorer website. This organization is making great strides in the realm of Global Education. As a contributing writer with Project Explorer, I root interdisciplinary and creatively integrated lesson plans into Math and English Language Arts Common Core State Standards as well as the National Science Education Standards. Please take a moment and check them/us out! (http://projectexplorer.org/teachers/)

Until Next Time,

tamera

Where the Wind Will Blow

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”

– Paulo Coelho

And so it happens that the wind stirs, and while the gusts of the moment leave me breathless I must trust that the change they bring is no happenstance.  I must have faith that the storm will subside and that the sky will clear and that the path will reveal itself.

This post is to announce that I am once again seeking meaningful work.  The one year I have spent building Trevista Enrichment has yielded a program model that others in the district now aim to replicate.  While the vision behind this innovative program is strong, more than one year of planning is required for long term sustainability.  Funds have been lost and so has my job.  Trevista Enrichment is being discontinued.

Some people ask me why I don’t conform to a career path that has already been paved by others, for surely it would be easier. My response is simple.  The path I walk now is the one I am meant to travel.  I had a dream nearly five years ago that I lived in Colorado.  So after finishing my Masters degree I left New York City and headed for the hills where I knew only one person.  I was going to build a new career in a new city.  I was never promised that the journey would be easy.  The road I embarked on was a long one…  I knew that then and I feel that now.

So if you find yourself here, reading these words, please take a few moments and peruse the new changes.  For now, this blog will be an effort on my part to share my accomplishments and ambitions with others, in the hope that new doors will soon open.  What you see on these pages illustrates the tremendous amount of hard work and passion I have generated in the past three years, both at Trevista and also at Denver Center for International Studies.  Someday I look forward to this space becoming a resource once again for creative educators who want to explore their professions in a new way.  For now, I will use this cyber space as a platform to share with anyone and everyone the work I have done and the work I aim to continue.

I will end this post with the same voice from whence it began.

Mitakye Oyasin.

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”  – Paulo Coelho

New Job, New School, New Kids, New Vision

Hello everyone!  

I am thrilled to finally be in a place where I can update you (and this out-of-date blog) on some of the innovative efforts being made by Denver Public Schools.  I will soon archive all of the earlier posts related to my work with Harmony Project (love them!) at Denver Center for International Studies, and post regularly on the exciting work we are doing at Trevista, where I now work to design and implement an Enrichment program unlike any other in the district.  The details will take some time to share; but for now, here is a little teaser…

Trevista Enrichment is transforming the traditional school day with opportunities for students to explore the world creatively and actively.  Every afternoon students at Trevista engage in an class of their choice, and classes rotate several times throughout the year.  Enrichment at Trevista provides students with alternate pathways to learning, while at the same time bringing an element of fun and choice into the school day.  Through this Enrichment Program students explore the world kinesthetically, verbally, spatially, visually, interpersonally, and musically.  For while we know that art forms like Music and Dance are not frequently tested subjects, we also know that exploration in these areas strongly support academic growth and increased attendance, particularly in students who do not immediately connect with traditional academic instruction.   Currently the program partners with several Community Partners who offer courses like Capoeira, African Drum and Dance, Public Art, Ballet, Piano, Vocal Music,  Soccer, Weightlifting, Native American Art and Storytelling, Acting, Technical Theatre and Yoga and other classes geared specifically to restorative justice through the arts like Social Imagination. 

Research suggests that involvement in the arts and other enrichment programming can stimulate areas of the brain that result in improved attention, sequencing, and processing.  Science tells us that these areas are often underdeveloped in children coming from low SES households.  At Trevista 98% of our students are on a free lunch plan.   Unfortunately our students have had far fewer opportunities to develop these capacities than students from middle-income households.  We strongly believe that our students have the right to experience the same character and brain building opportunities as children attending more affluent schools.  Through thoughtful and purposeful programming, we hope to offer our students rich opportunities to grow creatively and academically, while learning more about themselves and their passions.

I look forward to sharing our successes and our challenges with you.  Please check back from time to time to see what we are up to!

Best and Sunniest,

Tamera (Cone) Sakotas  

 

The End of an Era

It is with great sadness that I announce here the termination of my position and of our Integrated Global Arts Program for the 2013 – 2014 school year.  That is not to say that the Harmony Project will not have a presence here.  They might.  It just means that there will be no one here to guide the program and coordinate schedules.  There won’t be anyone here to align standards, progress report indicators, interdisciplinary units and elements of global competence with creative projects that make student learning visible.

Once my next steps have been secured I will likely articulate the circumstance and my opinions in more detail.  Until then, should you seek further insight please feel free to message me directly.

In closing, I have been told that this decision was made as a result of budget cuts…  A grim reality for many of our nation’s most under-served and under-performing schools.

Sincerely,

Tamera

Come See Us!

Well… Here I am again, posting long after I had hoped to.  The good news is that my time has not been wasted.  Instead of posting updates on this forum, I have been spending a lot of time working closely with our FABULOUS Instructional Technology Teacher, Robbi Makely, updating our school’s website and crafting our school’s wikipage.  Check them out!

DCIS at Ford Website

DCIS at Ford Wikipage

Our hope is that now the school’s website accurately reflects the values and instructional strategies we embrace here at DCIS at Ford.  Likewise, the wikipage is a dynamic new site where student learning is made visible and accessible.  Please visit this page if you are interested in seeing in detail all of the exciting work our teachers, students and their Harmony Artists have been up to.  The page is updated regulalry, so please visit often.  🙂

Other Updates…

We have Demonstrations of Learning on the calendar and I wanted to be sure to reach out to all of our supporters with an invitation.  Please check out the dates and times of the below happenings, and if you are able to attend one or more just let me know.  It would be an honor to show you just how much we have grown in the past year and a half.

March 22, 2013 – Kindergarten Presents The Life-cycle of a Butterfly

Kindergartners have been working closely with Harmony Artist, Rachael Sharp, to demonstrate through movement the miraculous journey each caterpillar must undergo in order to stretch its’ beautiful wings.  There will be two shows, one in English and one in Spanish, at both 9:00 and 10:00 in our school’s auditorium.  Come check out how engaging live performance can be when you add a layer of technology into the mix! 

March 2013:  Second Graders Launch an Anti-Bully Campaign

Second Graders are “Speaking Up” and raising awareness on the importance of accepting others just as they are.  Through a series of powerful events, these students are raising their voice and proclaiming DCIS at Ford a Bully Free Zone! 

April 4, 2013: No More Pain an Anti Bully Event

First, check out the talented Mr. Bentley Green.  He is well known child rapper (once seen on the Ellen DeGeneres Show) whose lyrics to No More Pain are about the standing tall in the face of bullies.  Bentley will be Skyping in with our second graders early in the day and sharing with them his own sentiment on why bullying should not be tolerated. 

April 04, 2013:  Anti-Bully Rally

Second Graders will take to the hallways with the school’s very first No Bully Zone Rally.  Starting in the gym at 3:10 students will commence with anti-bully slogans and posters of their own design.  Thereafter these little movers and shakers will infect the rest of the student body with positive messages of acceptance and perserverance.  This inspiring experience should not be missed.

April 11, 2013

Our kiddos have quite a surprise in store for the community during dismissal!  Mums the word on the details, but suffice to say these second graders are gonna show you some of their own skills in the front yard of our school at 4:00 sharp.  Are ya ready??!

April 25, 2013:  Anti-Bully Mural Reveal and Spoken Word Presentation

The third and final component to our Anti Bully Campaign will be held in the gym on April 25th when our students will reveal the giant mural they created with Harmony Artist, Adam Buehler.  The reveal will be followed by a few words from our students about their own exposure to violence and bullying.  Join us in celebrating the conclusion of this exciting campaign for change.

May 2, 2013:  First Grade Hosts a Healthy-Living Community Potluck

First Graders invite you to join us in the cafeteria from 4:30 – 6:00 on May 2nd to share in a healthy potuck dinner.  Students will be selling the recipe book they have been working on to raise money for a local charity whose focus is on building healthy communities.  Details are still being ironed out, but it looks like there may be some zumba in the air, so bring your dancing shoes.  I am sure you will be as impressed as I am as you stroll through the cafeteria soaking in all of the helpful and healthful art decorating the walls.  Another cheers to Harmony Artist, Adam Buehler, for helping our students take ownership in their learning enviroment in creative an educational ways. 

That should about cover it for now.  I will be back soon with some reflections on these events, but please remember to visit our school’s wikipage for more details on the exciting work underway here at DCIS at Ford.

Adios ~ Tamera

Third Graders Display Their Work at Local Library

I am thrilled to announce that several of our third graders were invited to display their work at the Montbello library.  Here is more from Harmony Artist, Adam Buehler, about this experience.

“Before the winter holiday break the 3rd grade classes were working on their personal narrative storytelling and descriptive writing skills. Our writing and art project was based around important family stories- telling them in words and pictures. I showed the classes photos from a large sculpture at the Denver Art Museum that explored themes of family. Then the students thought about their own family stories- some sad, some happy- and started to write them out. Several drafts and many hours in class with their teachers  turned their first ideas into very well written narratives. Then came time for illustration. I worked with the students to highlight an important scene from their story and turn this into an illustrated painting. The students learned different watercolor painting techniques to express their story through art. We partnered with the local Montbello Branch of the Denver Public Library and were able to display some of the best student artwork and stories there for the public to see. It was such a joy to share the students hard work in art and writing with the rest of our community.” ~Adam

Way to go, third graders!  You make our DCIS community proud.

~TCImage