What have you learned about resources both monetary and non-monetary that are needed to be successful in implementing your project?
We have learned that there are many steps to wade through when trying to access the resources of a school district. The main capital project we were hoping to undertake this year was postponed over and over again. There are forms to fill out, there are un-posted rules to navigate and there are many people with a lot of their plates. We are still waiting on the electrician and contractor to fix the ducts and electricity in order to install the kiln. Once this is done, this will allow for other improvements to that room.
We learned that with materials, it is important for teachers to have access directly in their classrooms. From initial meetings and conversations we had planned to put together a series of material bins that could be checked out by each teacher. We had planned to include three different types of paint, printmaking supplies, and different types of drawing materials, clay, and other sculptural materials. After weeks of these bins not being used, we redirected our efforts to providing each cohort teacher with a class set of three types of materials. This simplified things in that the teachers did not have to worry about locating a material. They were able to call on materials quickly if a day’s plans required it, and they were able to feel more confident by focusing on fewer materials. Having a few materials at the ready helps to eliminate a lot of the barriers that prevent material use in the classroom. We have included funds in year two’s budget to support both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 with consumable materials in their classrooms.
We have learned that time together is the most difficult commodity to come by. We all agree that conversations together are the only way we can truly move forward. We all value the communication that comes from direct interaction, and yet, finding time for that interaction is very difficult. This is true even when things have been on the calendar since the beginning of the year. We are hoping to alleviate this to some extent by hosting professional development workshops during evenings at Woodlawn.
What has been the most impactful way you have used grant funding in year 1?
It has been very impactful to have a teaching artist who is able to visit the classrooms on a long term basic. So many “push in” programs are only a single visit or are only 3-4 visits. The facilitator doesn’t get to know the students at all and thus cannot incorporate any of the classroom culture or students thinking into the work. By returning to the same classroom over time, the teaching artist and teacher are able to connect on continuing concepts. With more time, the sessions do not feel as rushed. The teacher and teaching artist can feel open to exploring different ideas together without feeling pressured to fit it in everything at once. It is the continued direct interaction between teaching artist and classroom that has been the most beneficial piece of this work.
The work being done in the classrooms would not have weight or context without time spent in conversation with all the teachers. The professional development workshops helped get everyone in the cohort on the same page. Only then, could the teaching artist come in to the classes to continue the conversation and to offer examples to the teachers of how art materials could be languages of learning. Next year, we will include both cohorts in this conversation so that we can have a greater knowledge base to draw on.
One indicator that we are witnessing the development of a culture of the arts as languages for learning is in the increasing visible documentation of learning at Woodlawn. This year’s project participants have communicated the value they see in hanging images of the children at work with studio materials and sharing their thinking. Next year, we look forward to the further development of making visible children’s thinking with the tools of the arts with a new cohort while continuing to support this year’s group.
How might you apply what you have learned to funding resources in year 2?
We will continue to focus our efforts on the teaching artist having lots of time in the school. Given that this person is also acting as the project lead, we will also be adding .05 FTE to their schedule to account for the reflection, evaluation and administrative work that needs to happen on a monthly basis.
We are creating a new schedule of professional development offerings in order to better support teacher’s needs. The inconsistency of having a substitute teacher is quite difficult for this population of students. Next year, teachers will only be pulled out of their classrooms for one full day workshop and the other workshops will instead be offered after school and with extra duty pay. We will tailor the content more specifically to inquiry-based exploration (forming good questions, checking back in on how their teacher research is progressing, etc.)
We will be offering a family art night in the fall in order to give teachers the opportunity to collaborate on a larger scale materials project. This will also get parents involved in the conversation as well. We will include food in this event to make it a more enticing option for Woodlawn families.
If your anticipated budget is changing for year two, how do you think the change might result in different work for you and your team?
With a different set of professional development workshops, we will have to work closely together as a grant team to establish what questions we want to explore and which topics we would like to focus on.
Hosting a Family Art Night at Woodlawn will give more Museum staff the opportunity to be involved as stakeholders in the programming of this grant. It will also involve more families in the work being done at their child’s school.