Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Learning Through the Arts - local Newsletter

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Learning Through the Arts
Fort McMurray

Welcome to the second LTTA Newsletter!

It's spring! As part of LTTA's spring cleaning, we are shaking the dust off of our newsletter system and getting it going again. The newsletter will include updates on our programming in Fort McMurray schools and the community. We hope you find the information transparent, and inspiring.

For those on our email list who are new to LTTA, here is a brief overview of our program. Learning Through the Arts is a part of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, and is one of the largest public school initiatives in the world. The program pairs school teachers with LTTA Artists, who together plan and teach lessons around a curricular objective, but use the Artist's background and expertise to teach the curricular material a new and fresh way! We believe that artist educators can bring creativity to classroom instruction, that the partnership between a teacher and an artist can lead to differentiated instruction skills for the teacher (together we're better!), and that students learn in different ways and artist educators can devise lesson plans and can connect with students to bring more student engagement.

Programming Updates

FMCSD CORE Programming
We have been having a blast with the grade six classrooms in the Catholic District. Since January, LTTA has provided six different artist educators to work with 17 different classrooms.

In February, Jane Mennigke joined with Cheryl Hickey's sixth grade class at St. Gabriel's School. Jane was kind enough to lend some comments on her experience:

Our objective was to teach the Social Studies curriculum, dealing with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To start, the students were asked to choose a right or freedom from the Charter, and then to make a drawing and paper sculpture based on images that came to mind as a result of the Charter's text. The students were given two sheets of paper; one was used for drawing, and was finally cut and shaped into a paper sculpture which was pasted down onto two or three places on the base paper. This exercise gave students a way to think about their chosen right or freedom in a fairly personal way: through art. Once the sculptures were completed they were added together on the wall outside the classroom to create a mural.

The next class we viewed You-tube clips and newspaper cuttings of public protests. Cheryl read a story called "Dalmore Itch" and the students decided on ways to protest a about a polluted river to the fictional Mayor. The students made posters and placards, wrote letters and held radio and press conferences. Life was full of action. One of the super fun parts was doing the role plays before  the meetings with the mayor. Finally came the last lesson with the  presentation to the mayor- kindly acted by Cheryl's EA, and filmed by Shelley.

One of the crystallizing moments in the few days I spent at the school was to hear one student shyly and profoundly reflect, “I learnt that I didn’t have to be a loud make my voice heard."  It was great working with a partner like Cheryl, and reminded me of how much more we can achieve through the partnerships than on our own.

FMCSD YEP Programming
LTTA's Youth Empowerment Project works with students in grades seven, eight and nine. Since January, LTTA Fort McMurray has had 12 different artists working in 36 YEP classrooms.

As a part of her artist training, Sarah Neiman is currently observing Marce work with Jana Slaney and her two grade eight classrooms at Father Mercredi. These are a few of Sarah's observations:

On my first day in Jana's class, what I was struck by was the energy of the students. Marce introduced her concept of creating a murder mystery to the grade eight's, and then jumped into our hook activity: looking through other people's trash. We had the students form groups, and each group was given a garbage bag full of stuff. The students then sorted through the thrown away items, and were encouraged to not only catalouge the items, but to infer what the items could tell us about the person throwing this stuff away. The kid's quickly became engaged, and came up with some really creative and clever deductions. The energy in the room began to crackle, and all of a sudden, the whole lesson plan was set in motion.

From the garbage bags we developed our characters, then we plunked our characters into the midst of a hip- hop murder mystery! It wasn't long until we began asking the students to offer their own creative writing, and with a few more hooks along the way, the students stayed really engaged and excited about the writing process. One of the my favourite moments happened after I was side coaching a student; Jana observed that she had never seen this student so engaged with writing. I felt excited to have been part of that student's journey in finding the fun in creative writing.

Math Mania Programming
LTTA is thrilled to introduce our newest pilot project with the FMCSD. We will be partnering with Math teachers in the Middle School (grades 7, 8 and 9) to bring arts-infused differentiated instruction into the math classroom.

On Friday, March 16, five of our Learning Through the Arts artist-educators, three math teachers, and two consultants from the district met at Holy Trinity School to explore the possible connections between grade 9 math concepts and visual arts, movement and drama. We started with an amazing activity led by April Killins– a Cartesian plane laid out on a tarp– that led us to explore plot points and reflections/rotations of objects through drama and movement.

In mid-April, two of our brave artists will work with the teachers to deliver 5 sessions of arts-infused math lessons. We will be following the students' responses to this work through anecdotes and through their test results. In September, we will provide more specific training for a larger group of artists and we will be working with several FMCSD Middle School classrooms.

After-School Programming: Father Mercredi and Holy Trinity
LTTA is proud to offer not just classroom programming, but after school programming as well. Students from all cultural backgrounds gather once a week to share in games/physical activity/team building fun, cultural activities and creating or sharing a meal at both Father Mercredi and Holy Trinity High School. The intergenerational program brings middle school students (grade 7 to 9) and  high school youth (as mentors) together with adult mentors Gitz Derange, Nick Heffelfinger, and Aboriginal Elder Hazel Derange. The students discuss and agree on cultural activities and the menus for their time together. Shelley MacDonald and Mar'ce Merrell are welcomed to the group when they are in town and the feeling is one of a family playing, growing and sharing.

After-School Programming: Fort McKay
It is a pleasure to report that after school programming at the Fort McKay Youth Centre has recently begun, and will be running until the end of June. Four LTTA artists will be offering eight sessions of their artform each for the youth. The artforms being offered are voice lessons ending with an open mic night, recording studio instruction, hip hop dance classes, and visual art sessions culminating in the creation of a black light room.

The Youth Centre has been open for about a year now, and it is beautiful facility that offers the youth a place to hang out, cook, do homework, and experiment with art. Part of the mission statement of the Youth Centre is, "To create a safe, fun, and empowering environment for the youth of Fort McKay. This is a youth directed program: if they can dream it, we can make it happen!" LTTA is honoured to work at this centre, and so far the youth have been really excited and responsive about the programming we've offered.

FMPSD Programming
We are happy to report that we'll be working with 10 junior high classrooms at Ecole MacTavish Junior High School. Our focus will be with Language Arts and Social Studies classes with an interest to tie into the project-based learning initiatives that Ecole MacTavish staff have been exploring this school year.

FMNI Elder-in-Residence Programming

We're pleased to report the huge success of our Elder-in-Residence program. Hazel Derange, from the Pikani Nation of The Blackfoot Confederacy, has been living in Fort McMurray for the last 40 years and has been an integral part of our programming in FMCSD. She's presented, alongside several artists in the classroom, at the FMCSD and FMPSD Professional Development Institute Day, and at the LTTA Banff Institute. With support from Shelley MacDonald and the LTTA team, Hazel has become a welcome celebrity in the schools! Her most recent work with Jason Campbell's classes have used the medicine wheel and cultural teachings to explore language arts, health and wellness, and social studies. Along with her son and LTTA artist Gitz Derange, she and Shelley MacDonald have partnered with Mr. Campbell to create a project that will culminate in students gifting handmade culturally inspired items to local Aboriginal Elders. 

Info for Artist Educators Old and New!

FNMI Artist Information Luncheon
Date: April 20, 12-1:30 pm
Location: Father Turcotte
Who is invited: LTTA Artists and local FMNI Elders and Artists

FMNI Artist Workshop
Date: April 21, 10:30-3:30 pm
Location: Father Turcotte
Who is invited: LTTA Artists and local FMNI Elders and Artists

Training for New Artists
Dates: May 11, 12, 13, and 14
Location: TBA
What the training is about: Our training provides the foundation for work in classroom settings and after-school programming in Fort McMurray and outlying regions. We train the way we teach, through hands-on exploration of ideas and reflective questioning. Part-time to full-time work is available in the fall of 2012.
Who is invited: Any artist who is interested in working with LTTA in Fort McMurray's classrooms. We are always looking for new artists who fit well with our program; please pass on this info, as well as our names and numbers if you get a chance!

ALL Artist Training
Dates: May 12, and 13
Location: TBA
What the training is about: As a large group we will explore the areas where we can all benefit from more time together: creating a worthy and "short" hook, breaking down the art of instruction, improving our ability to ask a great question, understanding the brain part 2, and partnership with the teacher! Shelley Mac and Mar'ce M will lead the session that's sure to have us laughing, thinking and walking away with new ideas and insight.
Who is invited: All current LTTA artists, and any artist who is interested in working with LTTA in Fort McMurray's classrooms.

How to get PAID!
Reminder for all artist educators. Placement sheets must be sent in to head office...attention Laura the 5th of each month will be paid out in that month. Please copy me on any e-mails you send to Laura so that I can follow up on them. If you are having any difficulty with the placement sheets, contact me ASAP! I want to make sure that you are paid for your hard work!

If you are still feeling mystified by the payment process, please check out the xtra-normal video below. It is a lot of fun, and has the answers to all of your questions!

Convocation for Level One Artists
Date: Thursday, May 12th
Time: Evening
Location: TBA
What it's about: Artists who have completed their level one training and classroom hours will be invited to attend convocation through an e-mail invite. Shelley and I are thrilled to make this a special event!

LTTA Calendar
In an effort to better communicate to schools exactly when artists are in their classrooms, LTTA Fort McMurray is in the process of creating a master calendar of artist's schedules, that can easily be shared with school administrators. The calendar is in the process of being updated with artist information, and we hope to begin sharing the calendar with artists and schools in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading,
Marce Merrell, Shelley MacDonald, Sarah Neiman
LTTA Fort McMurray

1 comment:


    Gitz Deranger working in the schools.