Over 200 teachers, teaching artists, principals, educators, and advocates met at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on August 7-8 for the International Organization on Arts and Disability (VSA) Conference. VSA was founded in 1974, by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of President John F. Kennedy. Ambassador Smith showed her continued support of VSA and the conference by attending a special luncheon on the first day. As a baby-boomer, I must admit that I was excited to not only have an opportunity to meet a member of the Kennedy family that has served our country for decades, but also to experience the passion that Ambassador Smith has for the mission of VSA. At age 85, she is still advocating for the importance of the arts in special education.
The theme of this year’s conference was Intersections: Arts and Special Education. The desire of the conference planners was to provide a place where two or more things would intersect: participants intersecting with their colleagues –old and new; art teachers intersecting with special education teachers; practitioners intersecting with researchers; visual educators intersecting with performing arts educators; and many other intersections of the field.
When President Obama announced his universal pre-K initiative during the State of the Union Address this past Feb. 12th, a preschool educator was listening from a very coveted vantage point: a couple of seats away from First Lady Michelle Obama in the House of Representatives chamber. Susan Bumgarner teaches four-year-olds at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City. The school participates in the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education program.
Since 1995, Susan and the other teachers at Wilson have attended professional learning programs sponsored in partnership with the Black Liberated Arts Center, Inc. The Kennedy Center program is a network of nearly 100 arts organizations and their neighboring school districts in more than 40 states that “partner” in offering professional development for teachers and teaching artists. The Kennedy Center program also offers a roster of trained teaching artists to support the Partners in Education sites.
Also offered by the Kennedy Center are national learning institutes on arts integration, online and traditional curricular and instructional resources and valuable lesson plans. Support for its programs is provided in part by the Office of Innovation and Improvement through the Arts in Education National Program grant.
Can studying music help students to achieve college- and career-ready goals? That was the case for Fatima Salcido, a student at Tulane University, and Christian Martinez, a high school junior who is earning college credits from Los Angeles City College. For both Fatima and Christian, the Harmony Project, a nonprofit instrumental music program in Los Angeles, provided them not only music instruction, but skills that helped them succeed in academic areas like reading.
Researchers at Northwestern University are conducting studies of the impact of music education on child and adolescent brain development, focusing on students participating in both the Harmony Project and public charter schools in Chicago. They are looking at how music education affects learning and communication skills, and exploring the possibility that music can positively affect the academic achievement gap between groups of students.
A new student art exhibit opened at the Department of Education’s headquarters on June 21, and its title, "Artful Expressions: From the Mountains to the Sea," had a dual significance: On the one hand, the 60 art works on display were created by students in that number of K-12 public and private North Carolina schools, stretching from Asheville in the western, mountain region of the state to Oak Island on the Atlantic coast. And for many of the more than 175 students, family members, and teachers who attended the opening, their day before it began before dawn as they boarded a bus in the mountains and made their way towards the coast, stopping for other art exhibit goers along the way to the nation’s capital.
The Google Doodle seen by millions on Google's home page on May 23rd was created by Sabrina Brady, a 12th-grade student from Sparta, Wis. Sabrina’s interpretation of the letters in Google was inspired by the day she was reunited with her father after he returned home from an 18-month tour in Iraq.
This year, Google hosted its sixth annual Doodle 4 Google competition. They received more than 130,000 submissions and after millions of votes, Sabrina's submission, "Coming Home," was named the 2013 Doodle 4 Google National Winner. She, along with four finalists from different age groups, will receive college scholarships; Sabrina will use hers when she attends the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this fall.