Growing up as a child living in a small town in the rural south, I attended school with a multitude of cousins and spent the summers with my grandparents.
How I loved those summers! I’d leave on a Monday morning, bag packed, to spend hot South Carolina days visiting with my grandparents. I remember cutting flowers in the garden, eating tomato sandwiches, and dripping-down-your-chin peaches. I could usually be found painting in the barn loft, building forts in the woods and digging clay from the creek behind the house. Above all, what I remember from my summers was enjoying more creative moments in those two short months than the rest of the year combined. An imaginative and productive family surrounded me. My uncle was a wood carver; my cousin was a sculptor, and my grandmother was a quilter. They were all artists. Their homes were galleries, complete with original pieces of art, simply functional at times but always beautiful. Repurposed tools became sculpture, bolts of textiles and scraps of fabric became quilts or tapestry hangings, all with the timeless elegance of quality. Innovation and creativity were important to my family-a cultural nexus. The making of art was fundamental and came with the sheer joy of creating something new with a unique sense of style. I was given the freedom to experiment with materials, found objects and the space to work on a big back porch. I didn’t know it then but what I was given in those early formative years was a creative spark, or “expeditionary learning”. This catalyst of self-discovery inspired me, motivated me to learn, and fostered curiosity.
My story is not a rare one. No anomaly, but rather I joined a legion of individuals who have found meaning, a method of communication, and a veritable lifeline through exposure to the arts. This creative stimulus was further fueled via encouragement from arts educators in my local school district. As I grew up, I gained more perspective and a deeper understanding with the study of art in school. Beginning with my first art class, my art teacher, Liz Smith, was such a positive influence on me I immediately knew that I too wanted to teach art someday. We traveled to galleries, museums and visited artists’ studios. I experienced first hand her dedication to our profession and she affected my life in a profound way. She inspired me as an artist and ultimately to seek a career as an art teacher. She encouraged me to pursue an arts education in college where I was mentored by Roger Wolford. What a difference great teachers can make!
Again, I share my story as yet another illustration of why it is important to advocate for the importance of a quality, sequential arts education in our schools. For many children, school is the only place where they will get this kind of exposure that will stimulate their creativity. Once it’s sparked, truly sparked, it cannot be diminished, but it must be encouraged. If it had not been for this exposure, I would not know creativity and all of its possibilities. Instruction in the arts can keep our most at-risk students from falling through the cracks. We need the arts so students may have a place to celebrate individuality. One example from my early teaching career centers around a painting class made up of twenty 8th grade boys. I began the year by giving them an art survey to determine their level of knowledge. The results were telling. When I asked, “What are the primary colors?” The answer I received was, “The really important ones.” They thought Leonardo Di Caprio painted the Mona Lisa and Raphael and Michelangelo were both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I threw out all my lesson plans and started over to create individualized instruction. Curriculum that lent relevance to their lives, gave them confidence and avenues for success. And successful they became! These were students who had never picked up a paintbrush or lump of clay. These are the students I keep in the back of my mind when I am advocating for arts education in South Carolina—students who do not even know that they are artists, actors, musicians or dancers.
In addition to creativity, an education in the arts does an excellent job of giving students the skills, knowledge and understanding that leads to art making and skills that last a lifetime. Students will either be creators of or consumers of art. In my current position, I have found that arts education, in all its disciplines, creates a connection with the community at large by utilizing the arts as a tool for communication with families and fostering relationships. As school districts partner with higher education institutions, arts organizations, and local businesses, we expand the opportunities for student exploration and learning. Our most gifted art students need accelerated courses such as Honors and Advanced Placement to best serve their needs. Art education is visible, vital and valued in Spartanburg School District One. I am fortunate to work to work in a district that does not marginalize the arts but has embedded a vision for our program within each school, and has formulated a plan to achieve it. In fact, Dr. Ron Garner was the 2013 South Carolina Art Education Association Art Advocate of the Year.
A student-centered approach recognizes that art education contributes to the overall growth of experience; it enhances the meaning of everyday life and provides cognitive development. In the process, students develop a passion and commitment to achieve excellence as they master the communication, problem-solving, and technical skills to allow for a high-quality personal and work life. As arts educators, we encourage creativity to meet the demands of the rapidly changing workforce of the 21st century. More specifically, in South Carolina, the arts align with the following elements for success; World Class Knowledge, World Class Skills and Life and Career Characteristics, as outlined in the framework that supports the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate. Not only does art teach pride in the satisfaction of a job well done, but the arts also teach our students not only how to look at the world differently but how to perceive the world differently.The arts are not elitist; they are in fact, inclusive. The arts have always reflected an awareness of social and cultural contexts. In our world where multitasking is commonly praised, the gift of deep thinking and the creativity and freedom that it brings, are skills that the arts teach. This is the spark that an education in the arts can bring.
Finally, the educational success of our children rests on creating a school environment that is both literate and imaginative, both competent and creative. There exists a robust body of research in various scientific fields including sophisticated brain imaging techniques supporting the idea that music, dance, theatre and visual arts positively affect cognition and intelligence. But consider this, should we just teach art for arts sake? Yes, because it is the right thing to do for our students and can create lasting, positive change. Art, taught with passion and purpose, encourages a child’s creative spark and is an essential part of the fabric of a child’s education. I believe that all children should experience such a spark. Arts education fosters the discovery of our innermost creative selves. Just like that little girl I once was, many students crave a creative outlet. They deserve it.
by Frank W. Baker
If you read any news story during the past year about “fake news” you no doubt also came across the phrase “media literacy.” Many of those stories recommended that “media literacy” be taught in our schools. And that’s a good thing.
But what exactly is media literacy? Since I’ve been teaching it for the past 20 years, I can tell you, from my perspective, that media literacy is applying critical thinking to media messages. Media literacy is about engaging students in both analyzing AND creating media messages.
One of the major ideas in media literacy is that all media represent something or someone. So looking at the photo below, I’d ask you: what is this?
If you answered: “it’s a horse” you’d be wrong. It’s not a horse. But rather it’s a photo of a horse: it represents the horse. We can’t touch the horse, or feed it, because it’s not real. I am willing to bet that many of you reading this have had no training in media literacy and so you would not have known about media as representations.
Most students, who see a production on the screen, aren’t thinking about how it got to the screen—the process. But knowing how media are made is really important.
Take movies as an example. The people who make movies are all crafts technicians who specialize in one area or another. Everyone from the camera operator to the costume designer to the storyboard artist has been trained to utilize certain techniques that communicate to us, the audience. It is these techniques that media literacy hopes to teach.
Media literacy also encourages critical inquiry—questioning. Who made this; why did they make it; what techniques did they use; who is the audience; who benefits; and who or what might be omitted? These are just a few of the questions students could and should consider when they study media. Most teachers teach with the media, but not many have been trained in teaching ABOUT the media.
So how do we get started teaching “media literacy” if we haven’t been trained? For years, the workshops I have conducted all start with visual literacy---learning to read images. I can take a photo from the morning’s news, cut off the caption, and engage students in a “close read” analysis.
I can take a magazine from the media center and have students deconstruct how the images on the cover communicate and persuade. I can take a commercial or film clip from YouTube and challenge students to understand how to analyze lighting, sound, camerawork, music and more.
The 2010 revision of the SC Visual & Performing Arts standards included “media literacy” for the first time. The 2017 revision now includes “Media Arts” which embeds media literacy within that standard.
If you teach with images or video (and I assume most educators do), then you should be interested in media literacy and how teaching it can enhance learning.
Want to know more? Here are two books I authored recently which I hope you might ask your school library media specialist to acquire:
In the meantime, if you have a question about media literacy education, and how to implement it, send me an email.
Guest blog post submitted by:
Frank W. Baker
PSAE Board Member
I grew up on one of the Finger Lakes about forty miles east of Rochester, New York where summers were spent in a carefree existence of riding bikes and playing tag. Our concerns were the color popsicle we’d get at the end of the day (hopefully cherry) and if the fireflies would be out that night. I can remember so many specific details from my childhood summers, almost forty-five years ago, as if they happened yesterday. Yet, I don’t remember the capitols of all fifty states (even though I memorized them in 5th grade) and I can recite less than ten presidents in order (even though at one time I could rattle off Washington to Ford in less than two minutes). Why is it that we remember some things, while others fade away almost immediately? I’ve learned through the years that what we remember is connected to experiences that were fun, engaging and interesting. The things that get us excited and that spark our curiosity are the things that keep us motivated and inspired to the point we often lose track of time.
When I was teaching first grade, I would start virtually every lesson or book by tapping into my students’ past experiences. “Who has seen a bird’s nest,” “Have you ever slipped on a wet rock?” Inevitably, the high achievers in my class were always the students who had a wide range of experiences and opportunities, especially over the summer. From horseback riding to playing guitar, swimming in the lake or playing Kick the Can, those experiences provided the platform for future learning. It’s important to point out here that incidental learning is just as important, and sometimes more important, than intentional teaching. My summer experiences provided opportunities such as learning about plants by creating my own terrarium or reinforcing geometry and engineering when we were building a tree fort. Play is a child’s job.
Tips to Prevent Summer Learning Loss
For more tips, see our article in the spring issue of National Association of Elementary School Principals Magazine.
And lastly, please consider participating in National Summer Learning Day on July 12, 2018.
National Summer Learning Day is a national advocacy day aimed at elevating the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer, ensuring they return to school in the fall ready to succeed in the year. Your participation sends a powerful message across the nation that summers matter and offers an opportunity to showcase how summers can make a life-changing difference in the lives of young people.
We all know that it takes a village to develop and sustain a successful arts program. That includes having a highly motivated and competent teacher at the helm, student buy-in, support from parents, support from the community and support from school and district administration. If any one of these components is lacking or missing it is likely that achieving success, whatever that might be defined as, will be hard to come by. In our blog today we are going to take a look at support from school and district administration – what it looks like, is it given or earned, developing professional relationships and how to handle situations where you might not feel supported.
What is Administrative Support?
School and district administrative support for arts programs is going to look different from district to district, school to school, program to program and teacher to teacher depending on the scenario and a million different variables. That means there is not just one clear cut answer. What one district or school can do to support teachers might or might not be possible in other places. However, here are universal supports that can be provided by school and district administration, in my opinion.
Is it possible for every administrator to provide all of these supports to all teachers every single day? Of course not. However, it is a great place to start and a good way to do some self-reflection as an administrator to see if you are providing support to arts programs in the way it’s needed the most.
Is School and District Administrative Support Given or Earned?
The answer is very simple. BOTH! Some of the supports listed above are simple and come very natural to administrators. However, many of the supports listed above only come with trust. Trust is built when teachers demonstrate over time that he or she is highly competent, dependable and a team player. Remember, actions speak much louder than words. If you want a high level of trust and support from administration you’ve got to be sure you are 100% professional, 100% of the time too. Be on time, be organized and always be willing to be a team player. That means that you are willing to work with others outside of your arts area and do whatever is needed to be done. One last thing that will help you earn the trust of administration is to be FLEXIBLE. That can sometimes be hard for arts teachers but your flexibility helps the administration carryout initiatives that are important to them. Your willingness to help and your flexibility will make you a valuable team player. In the long run that builds credibility and trust and as a result you will feel valued and supported by school and district administration at a higher level.
What Kind of Relationship Do You Have With Your Administration?
Get to know your school and district administration. Communicate with them on a regular basis about all of the great things going on in your program. They should hear from you, know you and know your program long before a problem comes up. Watch this great video to hear more about this from a teacher’s perspective.
What Can You Do If You Feel That You or Your Program is Not Supported by School and District Administration?
This is not a concrete list and I’m sure all of you could come up with just as many if not more suggestions. However, here are my thoughts on what you can do if you feel that you or your program is not supported by school and district administration.
On an afternoon in May of 2000, I received a call from a friend of mine, Dr. Roxanna Albury. Roxanna was on the board of the then SC Alliance for Arts Education. She said that they were in the midst of a board retreat with the purpose of revitalizing the organization. One of the ways they had come up with to move SCAAE ahead was to hire an executive director, and would I be interested. After finding out a little more including the fact that the board was made up of an incredible group of people, I agreed.
Since that time, what changes have I seen! – the most obvious being the name change to Palmetto State Arts Education. But the most substantive changes have been in the organization’s finding of purpose. When I joined SCAAE in 2000, we were focused on trying to find our niche – a place where we could make the most difference and where we were helping our state partners, not competing with them. In 2003, that place was identified as arts infusion/integration. A few years later, professional development for district arts coordinators was added as another place where SCAAE/now PSAE could make a difference.
Now it’s 2018, and the PSAE board remains incredible with a new generation of dedicated professionals! They are hard at work expanding what we do, always with the same goal in mind as we had in 2000, to ensure that the arts are an integral part of all students’ education.
You've read about the history of PSAE, now it's time to discover some new projects PSAE will be working on during 2018:
The Arts Ed Thread
On February 2, PSAE released the inaugural issue of a new electronic newsletter. Designed to keep educators up to date, Arts Ed Thread features news and trends in arts education as well as updates from statewide partners such as SC Arts Commission, SC Dept. of Education, and SC Arts Alliance. Arts Ed Thread will be produced quarterly (late January/early February, late April/early May, August, late October/early November).
We would love to include news from you! Contact email@example.com to submit news items for the late April/early May issue. And if you didn’t receive the February 2 issue, be sure to sign up!
PSAE has been invested in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) for a number of years. STEAM has been an important strand in every PSAE annual conference since 2011 when our annual conference theme was Powering STEM with STEAM. This year, PSAE is expanding its STEAM work in 2 ways, both designed to help support STEAM efforts in South Carolina.
The first will be the creation of a SC STEAM Schools Directory, which schools can use to identify others that are like them or have programs they are interested in. Using an online survey developed by PSAE, information will be gathered from schools that have identified themselves as having a STEAM focus. The survey will be sent out this spring. PSAE will then compile the information and release an online directory by late fall.
PSAE is also developing a new STEAM School Award. South Carolina has so many schools that are doing such amazing things in STEAM. PSAE wants to recognize those schools through its new award. Details will be coming out in the next several weeks. So please look for that and plan on nominating your school!
And of course, we will continue our work through…
(left to right) 2017 SC School of Excellence in Arts Education Award winner O.P. Earle Elementary School (Brian Murray, Principal), 2017 PSAE Arts Administrator of the Year winner Tonya Fryer (Principal, Saluda River Academy for the Arts), and the 2017 Ray Doughty Arts Integration Award winner Susan Woodham (Dance Teacher, Pine Street Elementary)
Help us advocate for quality arts education by identifying the schools that are doing an outstanding job of making arts essential to the education of their students. Be sure to nominate your school for the SC Schools of Excellence in Arts Education Award so that it can receive the recognition it deserves!
Celebrate administrators who are making a difference in our schools through their support of arts programs. Nominate your administrator for PSAE’s SC Arts Administrator of the Year!
What better way to honor those individuals and/or organizations who have helped to support, strengthen and grow arts integration opportunities in our schools than to nominate them for the Ray Doughty Arts Integration Award, an award designed to recognize those who embody the true spirit of arts integration through the use of community partnerships.
Deadline for award applications is Monday, April 16.
Rising Stars Piccolo Spoleto
The Rising Stars Piccolo Spoleto Series is 10 years old!
PSAE is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Rising Stars Piccolo Spoleto, a series designed to give young artists the opportunity to participate in the high profile venue of Spoleto USA Festival through its affiliation with Piccolo Spoleto.
Who is eligible?
Help us celebrate our artistically gifted young people!
Deadline for applications is Friday, March 30.
2018 PSAE Annual Arts Integration Conference Innovate!
October 15-16, 2018
How do we as educators and administrators empower our students to question, to explore, and to become the creative innovators that the future will need?
On October 15-16, 2018, PSAE will host a two-day conference to help educators and administrators meet this challenge. In its 16th year, this annual conference will offer a wealth of opportunities for potential sessions and workshops that explore innovative strategies to nurture inquiry, prepare for inventiveness, and stimulate creativity in today’s classrooms.
The theme for the 2018 conference is Innovate! And PSAE has its own innovation for this year’s conference. PSAE will be offering ½ price conference registration for the proposals for sessions that best address the theme of innovation. Up to 12 proposals will be selected, so be sure to get your proposal in before the April 30th deadline!