Learning by Doing: The 2015 Summer Arts Institute

by Susan W. Trimingham, SAI Coordinator

“I have had so much fun. It was one of the most rejuvenating, professional learning experiences I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with my students and staff.”
(Kelly Marquez, First Grade teacher, PVUSD)

educators working on large art canvases on the ground togetherFor the fifth consecutive year, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, in collaboration with the Santa Cruz Arts Council, produced an inspiring Summer Arts Institute (SAI) for twenty-eight elementary and middle school teachers and SPECTRA teaching artists during the week of June 22-26, providing instruction for teachers in the arts. Instruction included projects and activities in visual arts, music, and performing arts designed to reinforce the California Common Core State Standards in a fun and rich environment. The instructors are both artists and educators who understand the challenges of classroom teaching. The theme of this year’s institute was: “Visual and Performing Arts Fusion: The Power of Arts Integration.”

The week’s activities focused on the collaborative arts process, hands-on arts content and techniques for encouraging collaborative classroom environments. All of the attending teachers and teaching artists participated in two different arts disciplines so that they could experience different perspectives on teaching the arts. In the first session the participants and SAI instructors worked together to create a mobile, which became the guiding metaphor for this year’s SAI. The mobile visually demonstrated the balance between the binary attitudes and behaviors essential to successful arts integration: Separation/Connection, Movement-Adjustment/Structure, and Unexpected/Predictable. The mobile provided a means for everyone to see and understand the relationships between different subject matter such as math or language arts and the arts. As Diana Ganz, an Ohlone Elementary School second grade teacher, said that by the end of the week participants were “more aware of the multiple opportunities for integrating the VAPA Standards with the Common Core Standards” and ready to bring stronger and deeper levels of art and music to their classrooms.

This summer the SAI introduced Art Camp, inspired by the Edcamp Foundation to encourage participants to generate their own agenda for small discussion groups. Participants discussed their own issues such as art and fearart and classroom management, and art on a budget. “They really gave us an opportunity to go more in depth (small groups) with a subject that was meaningful and relative to us,” (Rebekah Freels, Grades 8-12, PVUSD) and supported each other. “The ‘teacher’ talks were very helpful. Talking with other teachers about components of teaching arts helped me realize that we all are facing similar challenges and rewards.” (Doug Boyd, Grades K-5, PVUSD)

By the end of the SAI, participants felt empowered, energized, and renewed, ready and prepared to thoughtfully integrate the arts into their classrooms. “I arrived on Monday without an understanding of the application of the arts to fulfill academic and creative learning needs of students. I leave on Friday with that understanding.” (Ismael Cruz, PVUSD)