Introducing Our Artists in the Schools Pilot Program

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As many of you may know, the Exploratorium (world famous science museum in San Francisco) integrates art into almost everything they do. When asked why, founder Frank Oppenheimer explained, “Art is included not just to make things look pretty, but primarily because artists make all kinds of discoveries about nature. Both artists and scientists help us notice and appreciate things in nature that we had learned to ignore or had never been taught to see.”

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At the Arts Council we are in full agreement with Oppenheimer. While we enjoy the fact that art does often make things “look pretty,” more significantly, we believe it has the capacity to support rigorous intellectual inquiry, illuminate scientific and mathematical discoveries and concepts, and promote thoughtful conversations about the human condition. To this end, we are beyond excited to announce that we are piloting a new program, Artists in the Schools, that taps art’s academic and social potential while building a strong partnership with the Mariposa County Office of Education.

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As the program’s name implies, we are placing trained teaching artists into all of Mariposa County’s 5th grade classrooms for 8-week residencies. These artists have worked with their respective classroom teachers to develop an arts infused, standards-aligned curriculum that teaches art in concert with at least one other academic subject. The residencies provide in-depth, hands-on visual arts and music experiences that develop students’ critical thinking and creative problem solving skills while challenging students to transfer knowledge across traditional subject areas boundaries. “Through viewing, making, and discussing art works, students come to realize that the arts do not exist in isolation, but are always situated within multiple dimensions, including time, space, culture, history, and [the sciences.]” (National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning) Furthermore, we know that students who participate in the arts are: 4 times more likely to participate in a math/science fair; 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance; 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement; and 3 times more likely to be elected to class office. (Brice, 1998).

The first of these residencies began last November and the last residency will wrap up at the end of March.

Here is what is going on in each classroom:

Gold Rush Charter School in Greeley Hill and Lake Don Pedro Elementary are working with visual artist Jackie Baxton. Ms. Baxton curriculum explores three-dimensional artwork (students will create and compare both a molded and sculpted model of their own hand) while also applying lessons about measurement/data, geometry, anatomy/bone structure.

Sierra Foothill Charter School is working with ceramic artists Phyllis Becker and Tiffany Newberry. Ms. Becker and Ms. Newberry’s unit is titled “The Mud Beneath Your Feet,” and examines chemical reactions and the (mathematically measurable) dynamic effect they have on the molecular and atomic structure of matter through the creation of whimsical ceramic pieces.

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Student at Sierra Foothill Charter Schools creates a ceramic piece during Tiffany Newberry and Phyllis Becker’s residency.

Woodland Elementary is working with jazz musician and mathematician Greg Ennis. Mr. Ennis will lead students through the musical application of fractions, powers of two, and the mathematical patterns found in musical scores and rhythms which will form the creative constraints guiding the composition of an original collaborative musical piece by the students.

El Portal Elementary, Yosemite Park Elementary, and Mariposa Elementary will be working with visual artist Anna Friedland. Ms. Friendland’s classes are aligned with the current English Language Arts standards and students will utilize the elements of art and principles of design in the fields of illustration, photography, advertising, and typography as they learn to effectively communicate ideas visually.

Teaching artist, Anna Friedland, examines vexillology, or the study of flags, in terms of the principals of design -- specifically balance and unity. El Portal.

Teaching artist, Anna Friedland, examines vexillology, or the study of flags, in terms of the principals of design — specifically balance and unity. El Portal Elementary.

The Mariposa County Arts Council believes that all students should have ample opportunities to participate in the arts, both in school and in their larger communities and so we have high hopes for this program and its potential to provide robust and consistent arts education infrastructure across all elementary schools in Mariposa County.

Special thanks to our partners at the Mariposa County Office of Education and the Mariposa County Unified School District, specifically Assistant Superintendent Jon Corippo and principals Sean Jacobs, David Naranjo, Jared Pierce, Ron Hamilton, Ron Henderson, and Alfonso Garagarza who cleared the path for this program. We are also grateful to the many amazing classroom teachers, Dan Housler, Tracie Lee, Cara Morrison, Donna Wight, Erika Miranda, Marianne Emery, Cheryl Horvath, Peggy Lyle, Patsy Fulhorst, and Cindy Medema who have generously inviting us into their classrooms and taken the initiative to expand upon the content presented in these residencies.

This program is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and the generous support of Pacific Gas and Electric.

Brice, Heath S., (1998). Living the Arts Through Language + Learning: A Report on Community Based Organization. An Americans for the Arts Monograph, 2 (7).

The first three images demonstrate how the fibonacci squence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…) is found in nature and also artistic composition techniques.