E-journal Post #8 November 1, 2016
Studio to School, Year 3
Sisters Folk Festival/Sisters School District
In implementing our S2S programming in year 3, the greatest strength and asset is the partnership and long-term commitment with the Sisters School District. I believe we‘ve made a long-term alliance with the District, and many facets of the S2S program is utilizing the school districts teachers in valuable ways. We are focusing on the big picture, allowing the S2S funding to build the foundation at the K-8 level to make the most compelling music and visual arts programming. Further, in helping establish the vision for a shared music and visual arts model K-12, we have been successful in both developing and supporting programming in all three schools in the district.
Visual Arts Education
Our K-4 visual arts teacher, Karen Williams, is now teaching in her third year and has become a key person both culturally and academically on the staff. She teaches within a wheel, and the schedule now dictates that every Wednesday she meets with teacher teams and has time to plan integration activities to tie curriculum together. Further, our S2S funding includes Professional Development for Storyline training and the entire SES staff has been through Storyline I, and plans to do the Storyline II training next summer. Many of the teachers at SES are implementing Storyline projects in their classrooms this year.
With these connections to integration and Karen becoming an important member of the staff, we plan to have her salary become a District expense as an employee, helping us with the financial sustainability. This has been a challenge as school funding is hard to predict, especially with stagnate or declining enrollment. We do, however, have open, collaborative and direct communication with the Superintendent, principals and teacher teams.
This year through SFF funding, we hired a grade 5/6 visual arts teacher, Judy Fuentes. This has helped bridge k-12 arts opportunities district-wide, so that the school district art teacher, (who teaches grades 7-12) has consistency, and all the arts teachers participate on our planning team to create an aligned scope and sequence.
This year in music education, the K-4 music teacher Shelly Hicks (who is ½ time with the District) is offering an after-school strings program that leverages her strengths, and is building a program based on her first instrument, the violin. We are offering this Americana strings program to student grades 3-6, with our goal being to build musicians for the future. Through S2S funding year 3, we purchased 4 cellos and 11 violins, and the students are excited with the new offering. This plan ties into S2S funding year 1, where we purchased the General Music/keyboard Lab and are utilizing the lab daily at the 5th grade level, taught by a school district employee, Julie Cash.
We are beginning to offer an after-school Americana Music Club at SMS, and are exploring the potential for an in-school Americana music, songwriting and recording/ technology class. This trimester class would be taught by a Sisters school-district employee and offered to students grade 7/8. Between these two offerings, young artists will have the opportunity to participate in an Americana music model to compliment the Americana strings after-school program, band and choir offerings.
We believe with this addition, it will amplify and expand the high school programming in Americana Project. Our SFF programming at the high school includes the Americana Project class, (songwriting, performing, American music cultural influences), recording opportunities and training, music academies, guest artists, residencies, and the Americana Luthier guitar-and-ukulele-building program. We are working in collaboration with the Sisters School District administration and teachers to create a k-12 scope and sequence for music education and career related experiences.
The shared plans we have developed have deep ties and commitment to the Sisters School District, and it is both one of our greatest strengths and challenge. With school district budgets not being consistent year to year, and not having firm commitments in writing, coupled with changing administration and staff we set a “road map” with them for creating sustainable programs. We still need to be flexible and accommodating to the changing needs of the schools, while advocating for our programs, as they help build self-confidence, critical thinking, problem solving and creative skills in our youth. They also tend to build the good will of the community, which we ask to support some of these programs through fundraising efforts.
In addition, one of our biggest challenges is the evaluation work, and gathering both qualitative and quantitative data that supports the success of our programs. In working with the school district to create a shared vision and belief in the work we are doing, we hope to use the evaluation work to lend credibility to our programs, both academically and as enrichment. For the past 2 years we have struggled with capturing more than anecdotal evidence, and in that light, this year we are working with an outside arts evaluation specialist to work with our teachers to design systems and methods of capturing the evidence needed.
Our core programming established a few very clear goals: 1) for students to work as artists, with artists, 2) to have regularly scheduled arts experiences k-12, and, 3) the students’ experience extends beyond the classroom walls and into the community. With these goals, in-school and after-school programming, servant leadership and community involvement are key to the long-term sustainability of our programs. We need to continue to have open and collaborative communication with the administration, teachers, school board, community leaders and supporters.