This was an easy blog post for us to compile, as we have all learned so much through our five years in the Studio to School cohort. Contributing to this response were Christine Tell, the original project lead, and Mark Sanders, who is helping to lead our new nonprofit Music is Instrumental, along with former Taft 7-12 Principal (and now curriculum specialist) Majalise Tolan and visual art educator Krista Eddy.

How has the learning community impacted your project, organization, school, or community (your choice)? How do you think it might shape your work going forward?

Because Studio to School was designed to encourage new approaches, allow risk-taking and permit “do-overs,” the learning community was critical to the success of the project overall. Project lead meetings and rendezvous became a place to share ideas, successes and failures.

At the project level, our “learning community” of teachers, principals and arts organizations met monthly to plan, make decisions and move forward. Hopefully, we will continue to do so as we enter a period of sustainability under Music is Instrumental, our new non-profit. I think we have developed a level of communication and honesty that supports timely decision making and the wise use of resources in a way that always benefits kids. We all genuinely celebrate successes across all three of our schools.

At the OCF/Studio to School Project Level, I was surprised at how most of our 18 projects experienced changes in key personnel that impacted their progress. In the future, I think it would be helpful to have some learning community time spent on these kinds of issues.

— Christine Tell

What has been the most useful aspect for you? Is there a particular topic, event, or activity from a previous meeting or rendezvous that stands out to you as especially impactful?W

I most appreciate the time for brain-storming sessions between our peers.  The opportunity of addressing needs, issues and development of our teams execution of the process, while tracking development. The mixture of activities vs. learning vs. networking is an ideal mix, creating great discussions.  The OCF team, always exceptional with program orchestration, enables attendees to be comfortable and forthcoming with best practices / concepts / future learnings.

Regarding the activities at the gatherings, motivational speakers have been a highlight. The selection of presenters has been ideally selected to both engage and energize the audience.  At the Pendleton rendezvous, the ‘youth’s’ who presented how they benefited from the program in their school, instilled that our efforts the OCF financial generosity continues to change lives.

—- Mark Sanders

Oh, that’s easy. For me, the main speaker at the rendezvous that I attended spoke about the power of storytelling to get your message across. I have used those ideas many times since,  both in talking to adults and for motivating kids. It has been incredibly useful and this workshop helped me focus on how to do it in an easier, more natural way. Also at that rendezvous, we did a stop-action animation clay video in teams and I’ve used what I learned from that with my Saturday kids art classes this year.

— Krista Eddy

What has been most challenging for you? What do you wish OCF did differently, or would do differently when developing learning communities like this in the future?

The most challenging thing for me has been to be bold, to try something really new and not get bogged down (negatively) with logistics. I also struggled with reworking the budget and staff expectations between grant and general fund and “other duties as assigned.” New can be exciting, but making sure it is sustainable and contractual is the necessary work to make new things truly happen.

— Majalise Tolan