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?
Big question! Participating in the Studio to Schools Initiative has been a living, hands-on, action research project for arts educators. More often than not, core curriculum departments have sustainable funding with heavy support from legislators and administrations to learn and grow in professional development, assess learning, and collaborate in meaningful team PLCs (Professional Learning Communities). In addition, these subject areas often have federal funds which fulfill the financial budgets needed for the rigorous curriculum and goals.
However, art educators, do not have this same opportunity. We are often “specialty” areas that work alone, as the schools can not afford to have a “team” of teachers who teach music, art, digital arts, drama, culinary, band, orchestra, etc. Over the last last five years, Studio to Schools and OCF has offered an at large learning community for us art teachers, with funding!
With this support and funding, it allowed art teachers and professional artists to work together to create rigorous curriculum, assessments, and opportunities for public school students. We were able to dream big, dive in deep, take three steps back, draw new awareness, grow new relationships, be in “awe” with evidence of students developing their craft. We were given the chance to create a “common” experience base on similar principals and we know that we made impacts on the last five cohorts in this next generation.
How did we do it? OCF provided well organized and thoughtful professional development opportunities, paid time together to reflect and problem solve, funding to pay for instructors, supplies, materials, more paid time to work as professional learning communities, guided us with essential questions to work through learning moments, helped us form meaningful assessments, and again paid time to work together. We can not stress enough how nice this was to have. Do you see the common thread? It is simple, they provided the time, support and funding to allow arts education to happen.
As we reflect on the “how did the learning community impacted or school and community”, we have tasted the sweetness of the village that it takes to make incredible learning opportunities for youth in arts education. In our school alone, these last five years have pushed us to spend money to buy the best equipment, buy plenty of materials, pay for professionals, pay for subs to create space to work with each other on common assessment tools, and we have learned so much! Moving forward, we are stronger. We have common principals in what we want our all our art programs to embed. We have community partners, resources, and the skills in finding our unknown stakeholders. We have assessment tools to make sure our students are getting the best rigorous curriculum. And last but not least, we, as a village, have a sense of pride in our work being as equitable as common core subject areas.
Thank you OCF for giving the opportunity for arts educators to experience the learning community at large. 18 projects, hours of professional development, days of working together to problem-solve, reflect, and create a professional learning community. This experience has filled the sails of many artists, teachers, and professionals to fight, integrate, and never let arts education diminish again.