Written by Oaklea Principal Brian Young
Editing and support by Liora Sponko, Lane Arts Council Executive Director
When you think about how you will sustain your project (or its most essential components), what are your greatest strengths or assets? How can you leverage those strengths or assets going forward?
Our greatest asset in our project at Oaklea Middle School is our cohesive team and partnership with Lane Arts Council. Lane Arts Council and our resident teaching artist, Betsy Wolfston, helped us establish sustainable foundation for building an arts-focused school. We have had a long-standing partnership before receiving the Studio to School grant and expect to sustain our partnership into the future.
Arts Integration and Studio Habits of Mind
During year one and year two of the grant, Betsy worked with sixth grade teachers to co-teach ArtCore. In year three, sixth grade teachers are implementing ArtCore on their own, with some support and coaching from Betsy. Now Betsy is actively working with seventh grade teachers to implement ArtCore. This model provides for sustainability as it increases teachers’ confidence and capacity to teach the arts.
ArtCore provides Oaklea with a heightened understanding of Studio Habits of Mind and its relevance to teaching and learning. We are currently working with our teachers and classified staff to engrain these habits with our students across grade levels. We are finding that these habits are profoundly impactful for student engagement and behavior. We plan to sustain these habits as central to our teaching and school-wide model.
Teacher Leadership and Enrichments
The Studio to School Initiative has allowed us to increase teacher leadership. We working with our team to establish more “Teacher Leaders” in our school who focus on various areas: grant writing, community partnerships, and professional development focused on arts integration.
Last year, we adjusted our schedule to include enrichments at the end of the day, three days a week. Teachers teach enrichments of their choice and strengths: printmaking, drama, theater, reuse art, computer animation, stippling, anime, and drawing/painting. It’s been wonderful seeing teachers excited and empowered to teach their craft.
Over the last year, we created the Oaklea Design Team. This group of teachers works with our teaching artist Betsy Wolfston and an arts integration consultant, Michelle Swanson, to envision the future of Oaklea and implement strategies to engage the entire school into this vision. They have been creating a “Portrait of an Oaklea Graduate” and creating professional development workshops (journey mapping, following a student for a day) to collectively shape Oaklea’s future and ensure that student needs are at the forefront of our decisions.
I am clear that this work is making a difference in our school. Our teachers, staff, district leadership and students extremely value ArtCore. We are developing common language and goals to help the school move forward and articulate our future needs. This foundation will set-us up for success as we advocate for funding and future arts integration teaching positions.
When you think about how you will sustain your work (or its most essential components), what are your greatest challenges? How might you work to overcome those challenges?
The Studio to School Initiative has been extremely valuable to Oaklea. The funding has helped us develop a new program and model that we seek to sustain as part of Oaklea’s identity. While exciting, it’s challenging to create school-wide change that will be adopted and embraced by teachers and administration, despite future staffing changes in the future. It takes something to institutionalize a new practice and model and change a culture of a school.
We believe it is important to have a dedicated staff position to support arts integration after the grant period has ended. I am going to work with our team to continue to leverage district funds and write grants to hire an arts integration teaching position by the end of the five-year grant period.
We will work to sustain ArtCore through the following means:
- Continue to share with our district and Board regarding academic gains and benefits of ArtCore to our school.
- Share data including attendance, feedback surveys, engagement levels, etc.
- Lobby for district funding for new arts Integration teaching position by 2019.
- Write grants and explore funding options
- Continue to provide high-quality professional development to teachers.
- Work with Design Team to establish priorities and plans for this year and future years.
- Work with our Studio to School team to determine the priorities for the grant in year four and five.
- Retain teachers and continue to work with Lane Arts Council for continued support and artist residencies.
When you think you’re done, keep going, add a little more, because you are never really done with it…
— 6th grade ArtCore participant