Friday, July 7, 2017

Adding an “A”: What an Arts Education Means for Our Youth

by Lizzy Wimberly, Education Intern

In a global environment that continually grows more complex, it’s important now more than ever that young people are educated and equipped with the proper skills to take on life’s challenges. In the U.S., we often think of these “proper skills” as limited to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM. All of these subjects are important; in the coming years, demand for scientists, software developers, engineers, and mathematicians are all expected to continue to rise beyond that of non-STEM occupations (U.S. Department of Education).




But in a STEM curriculum, a very important component of learning is missing--the letter “A” for Art. For young learners, art is a part of growth and development that is of paramount importance. Just like STEM, art provides students with the skills necessary for lasting academic, personal, and professional success.

According to Americans for the Arts, students engaged in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. If they take four years of art in high school, they’re also more likely to score higher on the SAT than students who take only one-half year or less. Furthermore, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association, children who engaged in simple, art-based interventions displayed better divergent thinking and creativity after the intervention than children who did not have an art-based intervention. The study evidences the measurable boosts of creativity achieved by engaging in artistic learning. Great news, especially considering that 72 percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they seek when hiring. 

ARCK’s founder and executive director, Sara Demeter, has even witnessed creativity blossom first-hand. During a weeklong art-healing workshop, Sara worked with Syrian refugee children. At the start of the program, the children expressed their sadness on paper with images like tanks, fires, and guns. But as the week progressed and they got to do activities like building their own cities and learning about physics through simple experiments, they were able to portray beautiful stories like olive groves and peaceful homes. They finished the workshop with hope, conveying their new dreams of being scientists, doctors, teachers, architects, and more. One little girl even said she’d like to open up an art nonprofit of her own.


For these reasons and many others, STEAM education is on the rise. Originally coined and championed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the STEAM movement moves to incorporate Art and Design into the current national agenda of STEM education. The STEM to STEAM movement has its origins in a 2012 club fair at RISD, where leaders of the new club pledged to foster creative, innovative thinking at the intersection of science and art.
While interning at ARCK, I had the opportunity to observe STEAM in action. Understanding that art has the capacity to foster creativity, confidence, and critical thinking, the ARCK curriculum aims to engage students in STEM with art as the mechanism. In doing this, like those over at RISD, we aim to combine the logical mind with the imaginative mind, ultimately making for individuals who are truly creative thinkers and inventors.

For example, one of the projects in our Social Justice module examines oil spills and pollution through abstract painting. We begin this lesson by explaining oil spills, the harm they cause to the ocean, and giving examples like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Observing aerial shots of such spills, students understand the effects of pollution on the environment, as well as visualize the connection and the opportunity to portray similar scenes through painting. With this, students paint their own depiction of oil spills, understanding the catastrophe through their very own artistic rendition.


Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Artist: Karl Goodnough (2010)

Gardner Pilot Academy students, May 2017


Not only that, students in ARCK classrooms also learn to utilize their art as calls to action. As an intern in a classroom of 5th and 6th graders at Gardner Pilot Academy, I got to see students excited to bring attention to the Boston area’s gas leak problem. With the help of Mothers Out Front, a Massachusetts nonprofit that raises awareness about environmental issues, we learned that many of Boston’s aging gas pipes are corroding and leaking, and that everyday people are the ones who pay for it. Not to mention, gas leaks are dangerous for both the environment and for human beings. After hearing of this, students were nothing less than animated--extremely excited to start the project. And what was the project? Well, creating posters to protest gas leaks, of course!

Lisha, 6th grade student at Gardner Pilot Academy, April 2017


At the end of every day at ARCK, though the main lesson of each project varies, one primary idea is consistent. Each of our lessons involve the use of both logic and imagination. From environmental science to geometry, painting to printmaking, ARCK’s goal is to utilize a STEAM curriculum to cultivate as many as possible creative, confident, and critically-thinking young people.


Friday, May 19, 2017

From School Days to Evenings: Engaging Parents in their Children’s Art Learning

by Marlena I., ARCK's Development & Marketing Assistant

ARCK’s Financial Literacy Through Art workshop, piloted on May 16th, marked the first of hopefully many workshops we will offer to the parents of our students this upcoming year who are English language learners. This component of our programming aims to engage parents in their children’s school lives and to extend the therapeutic benefits of art into their lives as well as their kids’.

ARCK has partnered with the Adult Education Program at Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA) in Allston, one of the Boston public schools in which we offer our core arts integration program for K-8 students. The Adult Education Program offers evening English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes along with childcare, free of charge to participants. To reach our students' parents in this wonderful program as well as other adult ESOL learners, we are planning a series of Literacy Through Art workshops. Since the Adult Education Program’s ESOL curriculum is theme-based, geared toward teaching students English skills and areas of knowledge relevant to their daily lives, each of ARCK’s Literacy Through Art workshops will align with some of these themes, including personal financial literacy.

  Photo May 16, 7 23 55 PM.jpg

This past Tuesday evening, around 18 GPA parents from various levels of ESOL classes participated in a hands-on, arts-integrated lesson on using checks. We were fortunate enough to have the help of Rick and Spencer, representatives from Commerce Bank, who taught students how to properly write a check, record checks in a check register, and balance a checkbook.  

Photo May 16, 7 14 02 PM.jpg 

At the beginning, ARCK teaching artist Will asked, “Who here has a bank account?” Most students raised their hands.

“Who has written a check before?” Most students had not.

The second half of the workshop was an art activity; students designed their own checkbooks using an array of materials including tissue paper, feathers, colored pencils, and stencils.

Photo May 16, 8 01 10 PM.jpg           Photo May 16, 7 45 35 PM.jpg
  

Students were given the opportunity to think about how they might incorporate their own identities into their artwork. A single father of four, originally from El Salvador, shared images of tecomates (gourds used for carrying drinking water) that he said could serve as a point of connection between immigrants from similar backgrounds.

The class also gave parents the opportunity to speak to us, ARCK staff, and ask questions about the program.

Overall, they were excited to exercise their creativity, de-stress, and learn about personal finance -- all through art!

Photo May 16, 8 08 13 PM.jpg         Photo May 16, 7 54 50 PM.jpg


We thank Commerce Bank for lending their expertise to the financial literacy lesson and for their generous sponsorship. We thank Michelle Duval from GPA’s Adult Education Program for helping coordinate our partnership.
 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Project Idea: Light-Up T-Shirt for Bike Advocacy

 Are you a parent looking for a fun and educational project to do with your kids? Or are you an educator hoping to combine STEM and art into a creative STEAM activity? Look no further -- we’ve prepared a lesson demo on How to Make a Light-Up T-Shirt for Bike Advocacy.

In the video below, ARCK’s executive director Sara Demeter and curriculum developer Lisa Pastore walk through the project step-by-step. 



ARCK's video was included in Education Closet's Arts Integration and STEAM Conference in February.

With this lesson and ARCK's other STEAM projects, students can learn how to live more sustainably and develop advocacy skills. This fits in with our environmental justice-themed curriculum this year and our second curriculum module, Civic Engagement. By biking, we can improve our health and contribute to better, cleaner air. 


Lesson Objectives:
  1. Students will develop skills needed to be an active member of their community and to be an agent of change.
  2. Through research, students will analyze bike statistics to look at inequalities in biking culture.
  3. Students will enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills that they identify and devise a solution supporting their theory and problem-solving skills.
  4. Students will learn to incorporate a simple circuit of e-textile components using conductive thread, LEDs, batteries and battery holders into their design which is all using STEAM components.
  5. Students will practice drawing and painting techniques as they create their t-shirts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Join us to Stand Up For Art!


In these times of budget cuts to arts and culture programming on both the federal and state levels, ARCK is taking a stand. We are committed to using art as a vehicle to engage children in learning, because we see firsthand in the classrooms that art empowers and heals students.

At our ArtWeek Boston event, #StandUpForArt, we will be amplifying the voices of those who, like us, believe the arts and arts education are worth fighting for.

Check out our Facebook event for more details, and we hope to see you at #StandUpForArt!

Why do the arts matter to you? Let us know in the comments!