Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From Laurie Olk: Problem Solving Problem

Last month, I mentioned a report I had read this past summer. Just this week, I’ve begun to move in my thinking. I have been pondering the problem of how to teach my students the art of identifying the problem to solve every since I read that interesting survey.

The survey asked school administrators and business leaders what they considered the most valuable skills students needed to be taught. As expected, administrators had identified that skill as problem solving. That’s good. I consider that a big part of what I do on a daily basis.

But, as you recall, the business leaders’ decided to take it a step further and make my job harder, I think. They identified the main skill necessary as that of “identifying the problem to solve”. This all makes perfect sense though. Corporations are looking for minds that can solve the problems, but first identify those problems to solve. They know that if we are to keep ahead of the economic curve, we need to be innovative. And to be innovative, we need to create new things and come up with new ways of doing things. That doesn’t happen by someone telling you what to create.

I’ve been struggling with how this would look in the classroom and have spoken about it to the gifted ed teacher. Then I saw a commercial on TV the other night for a major vacuum cleaner company. They were talking about their new model of upright. How, instead of 4 small wheels that only go one direction and don’t turn, they now have one big ball shaped wheel that allows the vacuum to turn any direction. I’ve never noticed, when vacuuming, that I’ve had problems getting around the room, but someone identified the problem and came up with this new design.

How do I now relate that to my classroom? I know that it will require my classroom to be less teacher centered and more student centered. I will no longer be center stage. Of course, this change will not happen over night. Instead of me talking to the students, and telling them what they need to do to improve their artwork, I’m going to need to let go and have them identify what their next step is, and even better, down the road, I suppose I need to let them set the problem to solve entirely.

There is a great school in Italy, the Reggio Emilia School, where students set the direction of their learning. If they are studying birds, they decide what they want to do. One time it was to design a bird amusement park. That led them to all types of research and design. Ah, ha! The learning. They set the problem, and the teachers facilitate the research and design process. I think in big companies, they call that the R & D department.

In infancy, this could look a bit like my fourth graders this week. They were working on drawing things to look 3-D, the real skill was looking and thinking. So, as I work individually, I point out to them, over and over, what to do with their shading to make things look more 3-D. Perhaps, what I should be doing is to let them draw their pictures and then after they look at them, they should tell me what the problem is with their work. For some it might be scale and proportion, for others, color clarification and for others 3-dimentional shading. Just as my art ed. professor Dennis Dake always told us, “Like all teachers, we are teaching students to think, it’s just that we are using art to do it.” And here, I thought I was teaching students to make art.

Education will look drastically different if we switch to this way of learning. Students will look different in the classroom. They will be excited and they will apply real life processes and who knows what kind of great things they will be involved with. Will basic skills and information be left behind? Absolutely not! They will have to learn those basic pieces as part of their research process. They will learn to play instruments, to communicate ideas, to make things and do other kinds of artwork. The ideas can go on and on.

As you proceed through the school year, I challenge you to think of ways that you can turn more of the problem identification over to your students. Yes, it’s a longer process, but it is so empowering and it gives our student such a powerful life skill. And isn’t that really what we, as teachers, are here to do? Yes, expressing yourself through your favorite art form is valuable as both a vocation and avocation, and necessary, but I see that delicate balance changing. We are more than painters, singers and actors; we are thinkers. I would appreciate views from more of you on how this would look in your classroom. Our editor, Nancy, keeps trying to encourage me to work this into a Blog, so maybe your responses will be here.

Happy Thinking

The Jumpstart Iowa Recovery Initiative

Please, let your friends and neighbors know about this program.

The Jumpstart Iowa Recovery Initiative is a $40-million housing and economic development program developed to address the immediate financial needs of Iowans affected by the 2008 storms, flooding and tornadoes. The assistance provided through Jumpstart Iowa will help bridge the gap between the immediate needs and the first installment of $85 million in Community Development Block Grant funding distributed by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency.

The Initiative contains two new programs: one to address housing needs in storm-impacted communities, and one to help small businesses damaged by this year’s severe weather.

Monday, September 29, 2008

DOE Before and After School Grants

The deadline for submitting Before and After School Grants to the Department of Education has been extended to October 31, 2008.

Other changes have been made to the grant application. To view an updated application, please follow this link: http://www.iowa.gov/educate/content/view/1482/526/

FEMA Extends Deadline for Disaster Assistance until October 31

Today, Governor Chet Culver and the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that residents and business owners who suffered damages from the tornados and flooding in disaster-declared counties now have until October 31 to register for federal-state disaster assistance. More info...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

From Diane Franken: Cultivating Demand

The Rand Corporation has published a monograph entitled Cultivating Demand for the Arts: Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy.

"To shed light on the decline in demand for the nonprofit arts, the authors describe what it means to cultivate demand for the arts, examine how well U.S. institutions are serving this function, and discuss whether it is in the public interest to make such cultivation a higher priority than it has been in the past."

You can purchase the monograph or you can download the pdf file to read on your computer. Go to The Rand Bookstore.

From Diane Franken: Arts Education

Arts Education
September 17, 2008 by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo
Arts learning can play a central role in giving students a lifelong appreciation for cultural activities and ensuring that as adults they will demand and become patrons of high-quality arts programs, according to a new report.
Read the article from Education Week.

From Diane Franken: New Skills for Global Competition

Quality Arts Education can be the primary source for student learning in innovation and cultural competency.
New Skills Seen Essential For Global Competition
September 17, 2008 by Dakarai I. Aarons
To remain internationally competitive, group argues, schools must teach innovation and cultural competency.
An Education Week article.

From Diane Franken: Consensus on Learning Time

"Is this a way to have equal time for the arts for all children?"
Consensus on Learning Time Builds
September 24, 2008 by Catherine Gewertz
Under enormous pressure to prepare students for a successful future—and fearful that standard school hours don’t offer enough time to do so—educators, policymakers, and community activists are adding more learning time to children’s lives. Read the article from Education Week.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Des Moines Register's Roundtable on World-Class Schools

The Register invited five educators to talk about how educators can make sure students have the knowledge and skills to be globally competitive. 
The full transcript of educators' discussion about world-class schools is posted online.

Diane Franken's Letter to the Des Moines Register:

Response to the Des Moines Register Panel Discussion on World-Class Schools…

I am the Executive Director of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, a non-profit, non-governmental organization whose mission is to support and advance arts programs across Iowa. I would like to bring to your attention, through quoting recent studies by leaders in business and education, that your responses have missed the mark in leaving the arts out of your solution for Iowa’s students and, therefore, being represented on your panel. I provide evidence for my remarks below.

The original question posed was to identify the knowledge and skills necessary in education to be globally competitive. The responses at the beginning of the discussion from the college contacts centered exclusively on obtaining more and more math and science skills. According to the authoritative evidence I refer to below, this simply is limited in scope in today’s world. One of the teachers, to their credit, pointed out that education should not be about preparing for the next level, (a place where the college contacts had misdirected the original question) but to be “prepared to live in a global society.” Yet, responses continued to be primarily about obtaining basic skills in math and science, even when it was brought out that there is just too much information out there and that students now should be life-long learners not information gatherers. Only at the end of the discussion, did one of the college contacts bring up the creative thinking skills and innovation of the U.S education system. However, this was not connected to the arts education, the original purveyors of these skills. I cannot stress the need to emphasize their importance. Please do a search for the studies I am quoting so you can read the complete reports and see the emphasis on the essential arts education skills of creativity and innovation by business leaders and economists, as well as art education leaders.

First, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has developed a vision for 21st century student success in the new global economy in their recent report, Learning for the 21st Century. The Framework of their recommendations includes the arts as one of the Core Subjects. The Partnership also includes the skills of Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration. These skills have always been at the core of arts education teaching. The Partnership also includes the Life and Career Skill of Social and Cross-Cultural Skill and an Interdisciplinary Theme of Global Awareness, which your panel seemed to agree, are important. Why is this study particularly important? For one, as I pointed out, this call comes from the business leaders who authored the document with educational leaders. The Alliance applauds Governor Culver for recently signing Iowa on as a Partnership State, and the Iowa Department of Education’s inclusion of Arts Units in the Iowa Model Core. The Alliance plans to continue to collaborate with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Iowa Department of Education to include all the above recommendations from the Partnership that will further support and advance arts education programs.

The second document I wish to cite, Tough Choices, Tough Times, by the new Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce from the National Center on Education and the Economy concludes that the skills of CREATIVITY and INNOVATION are essential for our students in the 21st century and goes on to say that: “While the basic subjects of math, science, language, etc. are still important, they are no longer enough for our graduates to compete in our global world. Our education system is built for another era. Our testing system rewards students who will be good at the very routine work that will not be waiting for them. While doing this, we are not providing opportunities for students to display CREATIVE and INNOVATIVE thinking and analysis. The problem is not with our educators. It is with the system in which they work. A system that pursues the wrong goals more efficiently is not a system this nation needs.” Again, they echo that: “an equal preparation in the arts that teach these skills will make the competitive difference and translate to all types of jobs.”

The third document is a recent survey, called Ready to Innovate: Key Findings, by the Conference Board, Americans for the Arts, and the American Association of School Administrators that found 85% of employers, concerned with hiring creative people, say they cannot find the applicants they seek. The findings indicate that in most high schools, this study in their curricula is only offered as an elective not as an essential core learning for all. A national survey of American voters( artedpartnership.org ) indicated that the “majority are dissatisfied with public education’s narrow focus on the ‘so-called’ basics and believe developing the imagination is a critical, but missing ingredient for student’s success in the 21st century and for moving students beyond average. 88% of respondents indicated that: “An education in and through the arts is essential to cultivate the imagination."

International lecturer and author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Ken Robinson, says: “American’s education system continues to stress the skills needed in the past, ignoring the real needs of today’s workforce. The biggest mistake is educating people to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. CREATIVITY is central to the practice of science and business and more. The U.S. needs creative people in all fields. CREATIVITY is now as important in education as literacy and mathematics and we should treat it with the same stature.” He goes on to say: “It is essential that there be an equal balance between areas of the curriculum and between knowledge and creative development. We need an education that values different modes of intelligence.”


Improving Iowa schools: Use arts to nurture a global outlook

If you want to see global education right in central Iowa, look no further than Phenix and Hillside Elementary in West Des Moines. Granted, the Leonard Bernstein model of "artful learning" emphasizes the arts as the vehicle to hook kids into engaging in learning, but globally speaking, it does so much more. More...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

From Diane Franken: Congressional Art Contest

An Artistic Discovery is the annual art contest conducted by Members of Congress for high school students across the country. Students submit original works of art to their Representative’s office, and the winning piece from each Congressional district goes on display as part of a year-long national exhibition in the Cannon Tunnel, an underground walkway to the United States Capitol from the House office buildings.

The Congressman’s First District Art Competition is open to all high school students residing in the First District of Iowa. Only one entry per student will be accepted.

Guidelines and rules for the competition follow:

Only high school students in grades 9-12 may enter the art competition.
Artwork must fall into one of the following categories: painting, drawing, collage, print, mixed media, computer generated art or photography.
The following guidelines apply to all submitted artwork:
All submissions must be 2-dimensional
Artwork can be no larger than 30x30 inches, including the frame
Artwork can be no larger than 4 inches in depth.
All artwork must be protected by a frame. Metal frames with glass or Plexiglas recommended.
Each entry must be original in concept, design and execution; no violation of US copyright laws. Pictures reproduced from existing photos, paintings graphics or advertisements will not be accepted.
Artwork must be submitted for the entire year. Artwork cannot be removed early for any reason.
A completed Student Release Form must be submitted with all entries.

Artwork must be submitted to one of the Congressman’s District Offices by Monday, May 5, 2008. Entries should be mailed to the Waterloo office or delivered to any District office. The Release Form

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

National Arts and Humanities Month

October is National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM)—our opportunity to recognize and celebrate the positive impact the arts bring to our schools and communities. We hope you’ll join us along with other arts leaders and supporters across the county in recognizing the importance of arts and culture in our daily lives.

This year’s highlights are listed below, but be sure to visit the NAHM website at www.AmericansForTheArts.org/NAHM for additional information.

Participate Locally (Des Moines Symphony is listed)
National Arts and Humanities Month Events Map—Learn more about the NAHM events happening nationwide this October. Use this Google Map to create, track, and share information about your NAHM events and programs with others. To have your event included, e-mail nahm@artsusa.org.

Creative Conversations—Are you an Emerging Arts Leader? Attend or host a Creative Conversation in your city this October and connect with others who want to make a difference for the arts in your community.

Get Involved
Become a fan of NAHM on Facebook—Americans for the Arts is encouraging all arts lovers to join Facebook to show support and promote the arts and humanities during NAHM. On the page, you can view videos and photos from NAHM events around the country or post your own. Be sure to leave a message on the Wall and read NAHM’s twitter feed for the latest news.

Advocate for the Arts—Anyone can be an advocate: parents, teachers, children, artists, arts organizations, and patrons. Defend, support, or promote your cause by writing your local newspaper, contacting local political leaders, organizing community meetings, circulating a petition, or finding other ways to make your voice and message heard.

Official Proclamations—Encourage local public officials to support the arts by signing a NAHM proclamation. Samples are available from the online tool kit. And send your signed proclamation to nahm@artsusa.org to have it posted on the website.

Promote NAHM—Include the NAHM logo in your publications, or place a Web sticker on your website or blog. These graphic resources are available as part of the online tool kit.

Be Inspired
National Arts and Humanities Month presents the opportunity for every American to experience the arts this October, whether it’s attending the theater or other cultural event, taking a ceramics or dance class, or singing songs with your kids. Please join Americans for the Arts in recognizing this special month.

Monday, September 22, 2008

From Diane: World-class Roundtable?

"World Class Education in Iowa" Roundtable from the Des Moines Register. The Register invited five educators to talk about how educators can make sure students have the knowledge and skills to be globally competitive. You may not be surprised by their opinions!
While you are on that site, don't miss the Related Article: Improving Iowa schools; Use arts to nurture a global outlook. It is an article written by Candice McMains, a fourth grade teacher at Hillside School, West Des Moines.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

From Laurie Olk: Changing Makeup of Iowa Schools

At the secondary level, the squeeze is starting with those pesky new regents entrance requirements and also staff additions to cover model core concepts, cutting in the fine arts. It just doesn't get easier.
Interesting mtg. and discussion at the IMEA mtg. today. Something brought up was the changing makeup of Iowa Schools and request for mariachi bands competition, apparently big in the South and West, and other needs that align with other cultures, like the Bosnians. They spoke about how involved these other cultural populations are at the k-8, but then drops drastically at 9 - 12. Something I think we'll need to address more of in the future.

Keeping the Arts in Front of the School Board

Here is a very good article by a PTA Music Education supporter that articulates just how to keep the arts in front on the School Board and make the message meaningful enough to get them to not flinch in the face of economic difficulties.

I am hearing reports from all over SW Iowa about the impending student count (coming up October 1) and all the numbers are showing many significant decreases. Small schools are getting hit the hardest. Red Oak, 1300 students, is loosing 30, but Nishna Valley, 500 students, is loosing 35.

I have no reason to believe that SW Iowa is any different than any area of the state of Iowa. This is most definitely a harbinger of problems for elementary and middle school arts programs come this spring. Each student lost translates to $5,300 lost to the school district. Thus, 35 student lost in the count means a loss of $185,500.

Why are elementary and middle school areas being hit the hardest? The community won't stand for not having a band on the field for half time, or a pep band in the stands for the basketball game. Most vocal music programs have groups who get out into the community and entertain the clubs, service organizations and many retired citizens. The school musical production is always filled to the rafters with audience members. The high school art program has many exhibits that the public invited to see and discuss. High school theatre and speech contest cost the district very little to offer, yet the number of qualified people willing to step up and take the leadership is growing smaller and smaller

Where calls for help to IAAE have come from centers in the elementary and middle school programs. Elimination of elementary art and music teachers, and then bringing music and art teachers from the high school to take those places, but in a diminished capacity.

Teachers of the arts in all schools of Iowa must begin now to realize the impending fight we are all going to up against when these numbers begin to hit next years school budgets. If teachers of the arts don't have a strong and aggressive advocacy program in place now, and have begun to implement the elements of that plan, they most assuredly will be blind sided by administration and board considerations next spring during budget time.

It is my experience that most of our arts teachers have their heads securely buried in the sand believing that advocacy is not what they are paid to do. Numbers do make a difference and no matter how important we feel that arts are in the lives of Iowa children, dollars are the numbers that pay the bills.

Teachers of the arts must know what that count is on October 1 and how the numbers have changed over last year and in the past five years. Do the math and see how this is effecting your district financially.

If you are a teacher who has a hurt in your stomach about what may happen to your program, now is the time to do something about it. Doing nothing will do nothing but hurt children who want and need what we teach. Developing and directing an advocacy program IS the responsibility of each teacher of the arts and their department whether we like it or not. It was not taught to us in our college program, we must learn to do it ourselves: with the help of IAAE

Does your school district have a "Arts Matters Coalition"? Do you have an Arts Advocacy program for your district?

Larry Brandstetter

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

IAAE At Work for You

As Executive Director of IAAE, I met with Representative Bruce Braley at one of his "Congress on Your Corner" meetings held at the AEA in Bettendorf, Iowa. The meeting was well attended and Congressman Braley remained beyond the time he had alloted to allow all who wished to speak to him on a one-on-one basis. I shared information on the Alliance and its involvement with the Department of Education and the office of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the status of arts education in Iowa, including our current part in the Model Core and the 21st Century Skills along with our efforts for expansion in these areas as well as others. I also left a packet of materials on the latest research of the importance of arts education in a total education. Senator Braley shared that his own children are involved in the arts and that he is an arts advocate. The conversation was most productive and I look forward to a continued dialogue with the senator.

Congratulations, Southwest Iowa!

Southwest Iowa will be rocking with the Wilson Performing Arts Center!
Get your tickets for the Grand Opening Season.
A note from Larry B.:  The Wilson Center is a Performing Arts Center. The lobby will be open to SW Iowa artists to put their work on exhibition and we will rotate artists every 2-3 months. We didn't have enough money to build classrooms for visual arts classes, but are currently working to find a space, much like the great Arts on Grand in Spencer, to offer classes, have exhibits and have a space for sales of work.
We are offering classes in strings, guitar, and creative drama. When the building opens, there will be a beautiful dance studio featuring a state of the art floor. The first classes we will offer will be "ballet for adults." We have many adult women who took ballet when they were young and want to renew their feeling of the muscle pain associated with the experience.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Millions of Dollars Available

eSchool News posts deadlines and opportunities for teachers to apply for funding for student projects. Take a look at the videos produced by student teams: How Technology Helps Me Learn. The ideas are also reflected in an article on the eSchool News website--The America Association of School Administrators' annual conference in Tampa seemed to agree that the old ways of rote memorization, standardized testing, and chalkboards are not what students need to succeed in today's schools and the world at large. You can subscribe to the eSchool News site to receive the latest from them, too.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Newsletter about Non-profits

GuideStar--Connecting People with Nonprofit information. Larry B. recommends their newsletter. I just read a President's Article about Branding that spoke loudly to me!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Roses to Larry Brandstetter!

Larry is the emeritus newsletter editor and webmaster for IAAE. In fact, when the IAAE board met for their summer meeting, it was the first board meeting that Larry was not involved in since the organization began in 1988!
Thank you, Larry, for your able assistance in setting up the new website and newsletter. I truly could not have done it with out you! 
I found this photo of Larry by doing a Google image search. If anyone can provide me with a more recent (or higher resolution) photo, I'll be happy to post it. ;)

Advocacy in Other States

An article in the Philadelphia Daily News carries the bad taste of politics in schools outside of Iowa. Read more...
And it sounds like New York is the site of more need for advocacy in the arts at Poplar Ridge.