Studio to School

E journal Reflection #14

How has the learning community impacted your organization?  How do you think it might shape your work going forward?

The learning community has met, shared and networked for the past 4 ½ years, and is an invaluable partner with Sisters Folk Festival. We have found in our cohort members, arts educators, non-profit leaders, school administrators and teaching artists a learning community that works collaboratively and shares experiences and key insights into planning and execution of music and arts education.  The development of the cohort has provided integral support and “belief “ in a collaborative process.   As Adam Davis said early in the initiative, “the network is the innovation.”  We believe the data and findings from the learning community ought to continue in some capacity and help shape arts education in Oregon for years to come.

Below are key examples of effective cohort support and impact: 

   – We’ve partnered with our IT teacher to provide training to take teachers/students in a completely new direction utilizing iPad technology within the schools.

            – We’ve cross-trained our teachers, utilizing strengths of other cohort leaders to share knowledge/skills with our team such as storyline training, social/emotional training and applied arts training from highly qualified individuals. 

            -We have shared the struggles in each community for buy-in, strengthening partnerships, and engaging the learning community, which has allowed for sharing of resources to access outside support and expertise that has increased our impact.  

            -Participated in sustainability training that occurred in February and have the ability to access one another for further support.

            -We have ongoing evaluation support to validate the work being done and provide credibility to school boards, stakeholders, etc.

Our core group within Sisters has developed a collaborative planning model that will carry well beyond the 5 year S2S initiative, developing programming and even helping shape the school schedule together.  This model has come from OCF and the development of this collaborative process and the need to bring folks together throughout the cohort and our community. An example of something extremely valuable was when we did in the board game in Eugene.  Stakeholders and all involved need to be at the table and expanding that circle over time is key to long-term sustainability.  

With proper time and resources allocated, we believe we can move the innovation of our programs into new territories, with professional development, best practices and ideally modules of “replicatable” models for art and music education.  The experience and data gathered sheds light on learning across divides of urban/rural, socio/economic, non-profit/school partnership and other barriers we have all experienced. 

In Sisters, we see our teachers networking, idea sharing, problem-solving, inspiring, motivating and coming together with empowered energy to make arts come alive for all of the students in our communities.  At this time in our school district, all students grades k-12 receive an articulated art and music curriculum.  With the integration of art, music, science, health and social/emotional skilled leaders, we feel that our organization has grown to become a strong source for collaborative work between our community, parents, kids and school district.  We believe it has strengthened our communities’ identity as an arts-based place, and our schools being a focal point and deeply committed to arts programming as part of that core value.

In the Sisters community, for twenty years, we had been working alone to bring the most valuable arts experiences to our students that we believed possible.  We now know people, equally as energized, inspirational and talented, who are doing similar work in other communities all across Oregon and beyond.  We will have much more success working together and supporting each others’ efforts than when we go it alone.  It’s that realization that …”the whole is much more than the sum of its parts.”

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