2014 Scholastic Art and Writing Award Winners Featured at ED: They Gave Their Inspiring Voices and Visions

Each September brings a special day at the U.S. Department of Education: a day when the marble halls and foyers of the agency’s headquarters fill with excited crowds of students, teachers, families, local and visiting officials, and passionate supporters of the arts.

This year was no exception: on Friday, Sept. 19, winners of the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards were honored for their accomplishments. The Department sponsored the opening of two exhibits, one of awardees from around the country and one of Portland, Ore., awardees, with a total of 80 works of art. Among the honorees were the five newly chosen National Student Poets.

The day began with two workshops — one in the visual arts for the teachers of student winners, and one in poetry for the student winners.

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NWP Report Contributes to National Dialogue and Action

nwp teacher voicesThe National Writing Project (NWP) released the third installment in its Teacher Voices series, Teaching Young Men of Color. The report is a welcome addition to the national conversation about expanding opportunities for minority males, the focus of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

Resulting from a collaboration of the NWP and the College Board, Teaching Young Men of Color delivers the insights of 12 extraordinary classroom teachers, who reflect on their students’ experiences in the academic world and society at large.

These educators, from diverse geographic and racial backgrounds as well as academic disciplines, offer powerful insights about young men of color that could only be derived from years of successful classroom teaching. The insights fall roughly into two broad themes:

  • Gender: Along with factors such as race, language, and socioeconomic status, gender plays a critical role in the teaching and learning process.
  • Effective classroom practices: There is an abundance of classroom practices that teachers surveyed for this report identified as effective for minority males. Some are tied to the fundamentals that undergird all good teaching, and others are specific to particular populations.

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Students Learn About the Power of the Arts and Serendipity

Eighteen middle and high school students from Los Angeles and Lawrence, Mass., learned about the power of serendipity at the ED headquarters on May 15. The students — from the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles and the Elevated Thought Foundation — were there to demonstrate their artistic achievements and speak to both the importance of arts education and the power of student voice in education reform. The lesson on serendipity was courtesy of ED’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows program.

Former Teacher Ambassador Fellow Linda Yaron shares the experience she and her students had in preparing for their art exhibit and exposition on what it means to be a learner.

Former Teacher Ambassador Fellow Linda Yaron shares the experience she and her students had in preparing for their art exhibit and exposition on what it means to be a learner.

Linda Yaron, a 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF) at the ED headquarters, worked with seniors from the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities to showcase their art and writing in response to the question: “What does it means to be a learner?” As plans for the exhibit were discussed with the Student Art Exhibit Program team this past winter, current Washington TAF Emily Davis shared her experience with students from Elevated Thought, an extra- and co-curricular program in Lawrence that uses the arts to examine societal issues that the 12- to 18-year-old participants encounter in their community.

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NWP Teacher-Leaders Promote Civic Engagement in Cyberspace

Every spring, the National Writing Project (NWP), an OII grantee, brings together a core group of teacher-leaders from across the country to study and share effective practices that enhance student writing and learning. This year’s Spring Meeting was held on March 28 in Washington, D.C. Matt Williams, educational technologist at KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area’s award-winning PBS affiliate, led off the day with an engaging discussion about the powerful role of digital tools in promoting and improving civic engagement among the country’s youth. Matt was joined by NWP teacher-leaders Janelle Bence, Chris Sloan, and Meenoo Rami, who are implementing the Do Now project in their classrooms as part of a collaborative effort between KQED and the NWP’s Educator Innovator network. There are currently 150 schools across the nation actively participating in this endeavor.

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Time Out for Writing

In mid-September, as most of the Department’s staff was focused on closing out the federal fiscal year, a group of more than 10 employees from a number of department offices, including Teaching Ambassador Fellows, took a hiatus from “end-of-the-fiscal-year mode” to learn about innovative and effective ways of teaching writing that are being used throughout the nation’s classrooms.

Margarita Meléndez with the June 2013 edition of Language Magazine, in which her article about Digital Is appeared. (Photo by Judy Buchanan, courtesy of NWP)

Margarita Meléndez with the June 2013 edition of Language Magazine, in which her article about Digital Is appeared. (Photo by Judy Buchanan, courtesy of NWP)

Staff from the National Writing Project (NWP) presented a two-part seminar that highlighted the organization’s cutting-edge work in the fields of digital writing and digital writing instruction, as well as information on successful initiatives that integrate writing across the curriculum at all levels of instruction. The seminar was organized by the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Teacher Quality Programs Office.

As most readers of this blog are familiar, the goal of the NWP is to improve student achievement by improving the teaching and uses of writing in the nation’s schools. Headquartered at the University of California – Berkeley, the NWP serves teachers nationwide through a network of more than 200 local sites hosted by colleges and universities. The Department has supported the NWP for many years, most recently as a recipient of the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program. The NWP received SEED grants in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013.

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Virtual Poetry Slams Deliver Multiple Benefits for Urban Youth

Kimbrlyn Hernandez was so excited when she learned that she and her 8th-grade classmates at M.S. 145, Bronx, N.Y., would be going to Chicago and San Francisco for poetry slams. But the “trip” to those cities to share her poems would take seconds rather than days, thanks to the Internet and Global Writes, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to promoting literacy, communication, and collaboration among young people and an OII grantee. As the virtual encounters and “trips” began, Kimbrlyn’s thoughts were random sentences, but as the sharing and “travel” continued and she gained both confidence in her writing and comfort in the interpersonal relationships she formed online, Kimbrlyn’s poetry evolved.

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Young Artists Are Shining Examples of Quality Arts Education

On Friday, Sept. 13, the Department was honored to host some of the nation’s most creatively accomplished middle and high school students at the Student Art Exhibit Program’s opening ceremony of the 2013 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners in Barnard Auditorium. These bright, young visual artists and writers — some of whom made the trek from as far away as Hawaii and Oregon — were celebrated by their families, their teachers, Department staff, and outside arts educators as shining examples of the importance of a strong arts education.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners cut the ribbon to open the exhibit. (Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams)

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners cut the ribbon to open the exhibit. (Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams)

There are two award-winning Scholastic visual art exhibits of more than 85 original pieces on display in the LBJ headquarters lobby. A year-long, national exhibit is mounted all around the lobby walls and a special exhibit of Scholastic’s Massachusetts affiliate’s award-winning works are on display in the rotating gallery through September.

The artists and their guests arrived as early as 8 a.m. to enjoy a continental breakfast and preview the exhibits. Later, the students and their teachers broke off into separate groups and the students attended a storytelling workshop, led by Writopia Lab, while their teachers attended a professional development workshop. At this time, other guests were treated to a screening of the 2013 Scholastic National Medalists’ award-winning film and animation works.

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Military Children Share Their Experiences Through the Arts at the Department of Education

Students cut the ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

Students cut the ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

In celebration of the Month of the Military Child, the U.S. Department of Education Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to host the art exhibit “America’s Children.” The exhibit features some 50 works of visual art and writing from students based around the U.S., including Puerto Rico, and Canada and Germany.  Communicating the unique life experiences of military-connected children at the event were Taylor Walton, MCEC Student 2 Student president at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va.; the Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Programs Eric Waldo; Mary Keller, president and CEO of MCEC; Patricia Shinseki, board member of MCEC; and student performers from Mount Vernon High School.

The school’s Marine Corps Jr. ROTC Color Guard began the program by presenting the colors.  Quincy Smith, an 11th-grader, sang the Star Spangled Banner. Eric Waldo welcomed the audience and provided context with remarks about the importance of military families to the current administration. He also spoke about the character traits he encountered over and over again visiting students on U.S. military bases worldwide: “Military-connected kids are some of the most impressive, resilient, and incredible kids … they have had a really rich and robust experience dealing with the stresses of their lives and using that experience to make them stronger, make them more able to adapt to the environments they are a part of … I am so fascinated by their experience. Sometimes the cultural or the social and emotional experiences they have will make them so much more successful in their lives.” Mary Keller helped to paint a clear picture about military families, stating, “There are two million kids whose parents are serving and another two million whose parents are post 9/11. The bottom line is, it’s just one story. It’s one child’s story and we want you to share with us the joy of that story.” While there are many military children around the world, the art on display represents individual voices and experiences unique to each student artist.

Oliver McKellips, a 9th-grader, and Marissa Taylor, a 10th-grader, presented the Children’s Ethos for military children.

  1.  I will always place the mission first.
  2.  I will never accept defeat.
  3.  I will never quit.
  4.  I will never leave a fallen comrade behind.

The “battlefield” on which they perform their mission is the classroom and the community, reaching for excellence in everything they do according to the mandates of that ethos.

Elisa Solomon, a 9th-grader who dreams of attending and graduating from West Point after she completes high school, presented a powerful poem she wrote, “I Know,” and described the inspiration for her poetry: “My parents serving in the Army has impacted my poetry. Poetry is a way to release my emotions when my father is deployed. Poetry is a gift and I have been involved in poetry for four to five years.”

Here is an excerpt from “I Know.”

I know what it feels like to move again and again, I know what it is like to see the brown cardboard boxes
never end.

I know what it is like to have to adapt to a new environment, and I know what it is like to see loved ones
dream of retirement.

I know what it’s like to have to make new friends, just so you can leave them before the year ends. […]

I‘ve seen the sense of relief in my mom’s eyes, the gentle exhale, the soothing sigh. And I often wonder
how we did it, and then I remember we’re military, we push through it.

     
Logan Beveridge plays “Soldiers Return” and Elisa Solomon recites her poem “I Know.”

The program ended with a moving bagpipe performance of “Soldiers Return” and “Amazing Grace” by 12th-grade student Logan Beveridge, who was inspired to learn to play the bagpipes after hearing them at his grandfather’s funeral as a part of the burial ceremony.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a few of the students provided insights on their life experiences as military children.

Taylor Walton, 12th grade: “I started moving when I was 12 years old. At first it was easy to understand other military students until I moved from Louisiana [he had always lived in the South] to Nebraska. After Nebraska I moved to Florida. When my dad was deployed to Iraq I had to fill in for him and start to help my mom around the house.”

Logan Beveridge, 12th grade: “When my parent was deployed to Germany I started playing the bagpipes and I have continued to learn and to show this skill off as a military child.”

Guests view the exhibit after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Guests view the exhibit after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Allison Kline, 12th grade: “My mom just joined the military five years ago. Having lived both in the civilian and the military worlds has made me realize that the lifestyles are very different. I would like to be an army officer and work in medicine.”

Danielle Leon, 10th Danielle Leon, 10thgrade: “I get to be a part of different cultures and meet new people. While my dad was stationed in Japan, I started learning Japanese language.  I would like to take Japanese classes again.”

The day after the opening, part of the exhibit moved to Vice President and Dr. Biden’s home at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., and the rest moved to the Department of Defense Education Activity headquarters in D.C.

Click here to view photos from the event.

Chareese Ross is an Information Resource Specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach and is on temporary assignment with the Student Art Exhibit Program.

The Department’s Student Art Exhibit Program provides students and teachers an opportunity to display creative work from the classroom in a highly public place that honors their work as an effective path to learning and knowledge for all. To visit the exhibits or for information about exhibiting, contact Jackye Zimmermann at 202-401-0762 or at jacquelyn.zimmermann@ed.gov.

ART.WRITE.NOW.DC 2012–13

On Friday, Oct. 12, the U.S. Department of Education was fortunate to host the ninth annual Student Art Exhibit opening of works by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers (AYAW) 2012 Scholastic Award winners. Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for Innovation and Improvement, welcomed hundreds of guests—students, teachers, parents, policymakers, leaders from both public and private arts and education organizations, and other stakeholders—to celebrate in person the more than 50 young artists and writers whose works are in the exhibit.

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