Critical Thinking and Sixth Graders

December 13, 2011

Young Audiences visual artist Augusto Bordelois is working with Chardon Middle School students for 14 days over the next couple of months to create a 9/11 memorial mural for the students’ school.

On the second visit of the residency, Augusto asked the students to brainstorm about the events of 9/11 and come up with ideas for the design.  The students suggested several symbols, such as a helmet to represent fire fighters or a red bandanna to represent heroism and bravery (a red bandanna was worn by well-known 9/11 hero Wells Crowther who gave his own life to save those of many other people).  The students then broke into groups to sketch images that would help tell the story.

A particular group of sixth grade boys worked on sketches together.  They decided they wanted the American flag in the mural to represent patriotism, and they also chose to depict it with flames all around it, thinking that the flames would make it a glorious, “cool” image – similar to flames on a car or motorcycle. Their vision was of an American flag flying high, surrounded by flames.

The groups presented their sketches to each other and had to try to persuade their peers to include them in the mural. There were interesting debates about what different symbols represented. When the boys presented their flag surrounded by flames, their peers immediately pointed out the flag didn’t look “glorious,” but rather on fire and in the process of being burned. Their interpretation was completely different than what the boys intended.

Through this exercise, the students got one of the main points of the residency – that artists have to be careful and think critically about what they include in their imagery because art can be interpreted in different ways. Augusto helped underscore the idea by pointing out that the students need to think of how people 30-40 years from now will perceive the design.  He challenged the students to question whether the images will make sense and be understood by future generations.

Thanks to the Lake Geauga Fund of The Cleveland Foundation for making this great residency possible. We can’t wait to see the finished product.


How Do We Teach Kindergarteners to Read?

December 9, 2011

Right now, in classrooms everywhere, kindergarten teachers are covering the basics of literacy – introducing sounds, rhyme and letters as the building blocks of reading to some of the youngest learners. But what is the best method for teaching literacy?

Consider what’s happening in Elyria, Ohio. For five days this fall, Young Audiences storyteller and musician Susan Weber conducted an Arts for Learning residency with 87 students in four kindergarten classes at Franklin Elementary SchoolBeginning with an assembly performance, the “What’s in a Name?” Between the Lions residency emphasized basic literacy concepts using music and segments from the popular PBS-TV series.  Using rhythmic songs, students interacted with names, colors and animal images to explore letter-sound correspondence, segmenting words and rhyme. Students composed original word patterns and participated in solo and unison performance.  The residency added a rich layer of learning to an already strong literacy program at the school.

Teacher Stephanie Burnside commented, “I love having [teaching artist] Susan Weber and Young Audiences.  I think it’s a great asset to my class.”  She also shared that the most outstanding part of the residency was when her students used rhythm sticks to connect sounds with actions.  On the other hand, teacher Christine Klein said, “The best component was the use of instructional strategies that are research-based.”  The residency was funded through an arts learning grant from the Nord Family Foundation.

The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts don’t explain the best way to teach literacy, it only tells you what benchmarks to aim for.  How do you get there?  We believe that one of the best ways is through the arts.  The arts give students at all ability levels opportunities to engage with content, creatively express themselves and strengthen creative and critical thinking skills.  Through the arts, literacy lessons are made hands-on and meaningful for five-year-olds or learners of any age.

Take a look at this short video clip to get a glimpse of just one moment in the residency:


We’re Not the Only Ones Who Think ArtWorks Is Great!

December 6, 2011

Young Audiences is very proud of the recognition that ArtWorks received last week! ArtWorks is the only multi-disciplinary, arts-based job-training program for Northeast Ohio high school students that provides training in the arts while developing 21st century skills for the workplace, such as teamwork, discipline, creative problem solving, critical thinking and personal responsibility.

Sebrina Matchura

On December 1st, The Ohio Department of Youth Services in partnership with the Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice and the Ohio Association of Juvenile Court Judges awarded its Director’s Community Recognition Award to Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio for the ArtWorks program. The award also highlighted a young person whose life was positively influenced through ArtWorks.  High school student Sebrina Matchura struggled with drug addiction, and ArtWorks became a place to learn self-discipline and how to express herself in a positive way. Sebrina used art as her refuge and safe place.

On Friday, December 2nd, Deborah Ratner received the MyCom 2011 Youth Voice Civic Leader Award from Cuyahoga County’s Family and Children’s First Council and The Cleveland Foundation. With Mrs. Ratner’s creative vision, generosity and volunteer leadership, ArtWorks has flourished into a coveted career development opportunity for local youth from diverse backgrounds that offers long-lasting individual and public impact. Since its inception, ArtWorks has employed more than 600 teens from private, parochial, and home schools and has expanded to two sites, the Halle Building and Tri-C Metro.

Ron Ratner, Deborah Ratner, Marsha Dobrzynski

Want to know more about ArtWorks? Check out this awesome video that captures the amazing experience that 131 Northeast Ohio high school students had last summer at ArtWorks:

Applications will be available in early January 2012 on the Young Audiences website.