Earlier this winter, teaching artist Beth Bundy worked with three classrooms as part of an “Example Residency” for a school new to Right Brain—Oregon Trail Primary Academy, an IB charter school in Boring, Oregon. Beth took a departure from her usual visual arts residencies and planned a new kind of experience for students based on Stanford’s d.school (Institute of Design) Design Thinking process. One of intents behind Design Thinking is to prepare future innovators to be breakthrough thinkers and doers. What could be more Right Brain than that?
Beth met with teachers to frame a Design Challenge for each classroom with explicit connections to academic content, which ranged from big topics like understanding a marketplace or engineering for a sustainable world to more heart-centered skills like personal growth and wellness.
Students would be working in small collaborative groups to create prototypes that visually represent their solution to their classroom’s design challenge. But before the kids began, the adults needed to have a clear understanding of the kind of deep commitment to experimentation that a focus on Design Thinking requires.
So, Beth and OTPA first invited teachers and family volunteers to attend a hands-on crash course in the give-step process of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. In under an hour, participants had a taste of the messiness, risk, good listening and persistence that is needed for creative solutions to arise.
As Beth says, brainstorming and experimenting is often where group work can be profound:
“Sometimes schools just want artists to teach techniques with materials rather than help guide students’ inquiry. But artists work with ideas as well as materials and we should be able to teach kids the power of the creative process, especially with the clear structure and group roles that Design Thinking provides. This is more “real world” work—the problem-solving is the art—and the students need to incorporate each other’s feedback to make their solutions even better.”
It can be scary for teachers and artists to have less control over the final product, but it’s very rewarding to see the creative solutions that bubble up when we allow children to direct the process, practicing their own risk-taking and experimentation. I think it’s another definition of bravery – how can we make a leap into an atmosphere of possibility without feeling foolish or setting ourselves up for failure? We need to connect with each other as a group and leap together.
Emily Stone has worked as a Right Brain Coach since The Right Brain Initiative entered classrooms 2009. She currently works directly with Right Brain schools in the North Clackamas Schools and the Oregon Trail School District.
We are quite proud to announce today that we’ve been awarded a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)! This is the second time we’ve received support from the NEA; we won the first grant in 2011.
The NEA awards Art Works grants to “support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence.” We were selected from 1,547 eligible applications to receive funding, and—needless to say—are truly humbled by having made the cut. This grant will primarily support our work providing hands-on professional development to teachers and community-based teaching artists.
Winning this selective award puts us in incredible company with fellow local winners (and friends) BodyVox (Right Brain roster artist), Broadway Rose Theatre Company, Caldera, Portland Art Museum (Right Brain roster artist), Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Western Arts Alliance, and Wordstock (Right Brain roster artist).
Congrats to all the winners!
The solar system, the seven continents, the plants and wildlife of the earth’s many regions, sea life, people from all over the world, Oregon’s landforms, and the St. John’s neighborhood: the beautiful mural at Sitton Elementary in North Portland encourages you to stop and take in all of its details – just as many families, students, teachers, and community members did during Sitton’s Multicultural Night on Thursday, March 21. A mix of painted paper cut-out designs, painted and glazed tiles, and clay constructions, the mural fills almost the entire wall in the hallway that leads to the café-auditorium and gym where the festivities for Multicultural Night were being held.
Before they got in line for the dinner provided by a local Mexican restaurant or watched the many cultural dance performances, students proudly led their families to the mural to point out the piece they contributed. Conversation followed with the students explaining how they designed their tile or clay piece, how they painted and created their animal, person, flower or insect, or how they made the Oregon landform or St. John’s landmark. Even the students who were performing found time to share and marvel at the mural. And, some of the liveliest reactions were from visiting George Middle School and Roosevelt High School students who were clearly jealous that they hadn’t had a chance to participate in making the mural!
“Art Tells Us About Our World” – this title isn’t just for the mural. It’s also an apt way to describe both the intention of the mural and the many learning opportunities that students experienced during their Right Brain residency with artist Sarah Ferguson of Young Audiences. Sitton teachers were committed to using the residency to support their classroom instruction – they wanted the art-making process to enhance students’ understanding of geography, science, social studies, and most importantly, their understanding of community and connectedness. To reinforce this idea of interdependence even more, the Sitton staff participated in the mural-making as well – their panel is the centerpiece of the seven continents! Just as this mural helped to create conversations between people passing by during Multicultural Night, it will serve as a permanent reminder and reference point for the entire Sitton community.
Congratulations and thanks to the entire Sitton community and to artist Sarah Ferguson!
Amy Botula is a Coach with The Right Brain Initiative, facilitating the Right Brain experience with partner schools in Portland and Gresham. Read more about Amy and the rest of the Right Brain staff.
Six years ago, I heard my school was joining a new movement called The Right Brain Initiative. My first question was, “Does this mean I have to stop my goals and objectives as a music teacher in order to do this special project?” I was assured this was not to be an interruption of my music class, but extra arts for my students in addition to my music class. I thought The Right Brain Initiative sounded great, and in these five years together I have been so blessed.
Recently, Right Brain brought together all specialists (PE, Music and Art teachers) for professional development. This was not for classroom teachers, but specifically for us. We began the day learning about the new national standards coming, called Common Core State Standards. Although these are being taught to classroom teachers, the common core is good for the arts as well. The standards talk broadly about skills important in our subject matter, too (such as pattern recognition, or speaking and listening). Instead of filling in the bubble tests, students will be expected to analyze and create photos, digital media, and lyrics as well as the standard English essays.
I then shared some possibilities to bring dance into a music classroom, as an example of possible connections between teaching specialists and Right Brain residencies. We experimented with instruments (hand drums, rhythm sticks, egg shakers, and jingle bells) by creating an ensemble sound when a ball was bounced. Then everyone tried to find a different way to produce sound on the same instruments when a ball was rolled or tossed. Soon we were composing our own song as conducted by the ball, and then added dance movements. One musician commented, “I especially noticed how much fun the non-music teachers had. I think they were surprised!”
My first indication of Right Brain influencing my music classroom appeared in 3rd grade, where I teach a folk song and dance called Alabama Gal. I chose this song because of my musical goals to teach syncopation, and the notes Low La, and Low So. When explaining the dance movements to my 3rd grade students, they quickly said, “We already know how to do that because of dance class [Right Brain residency with Oregon Ballet Theatre] , and it’s not called a side-ways skip, the real term is sashay [and the real ballet term is chassé (Fr)].” I was pleased to have students who could use appropriate dance vocabulary and already had an experience with the movement. This accelerated my teaching so we could simply put the movements together, instead of me describing, demonstrating, and then giving practice time to experience specific steps and phrasing.
Small gains such as this happen all the time at Quatama Elementary because of the Right Brain work. Another positive from the residency is I haven’t had to fight against dancing being for “girls only.” There are so many things I would love to teach, but sometimes I am so focused on the music aspect I forget to teach the dance part when we move. With Right Brain in my building the children already have dance knowledge and now I can simply compliment and reinforce their informed choices as they move to music. Since I work in two schools (one Right Brain, the other not) the difference Right Brain makes becomes very apparent. At my non-Right Brain school I have to be more specific in order to get good creative movement instead of dance happening naturally because of my students’ Right Brain arts background.
The day concluded with how we can continue to build upon each other’s work as artists. Some teachers said they loved a specific idea and would use it in their class tomorrow. Others were really excited their school had just begun this process and couldn’t wait to help be an advocate. Imaginations were sparked with brains thinking and collaborating. There was and is such excitement and hope about this worthwhile work.
Carissa Martus is a music teacher at Right Brain partner school Quatama Elementary in Hillsboro, Oregon.
We are deep into our Imagination Fund campaign and we’re delighted to report that we’ve so far raised over $11,000 of our $25,000 goal, through individual contributions of $250 and higher! That makes just $14,000 left to raise by June 15th.
Thank you to all who have supported our work so far, either by making donations on our online campaign page, or hosting a Dine in for Right Brain event. We are really pleased with our progress and love that so many of our advocates have been able to have fun while supporting this campaign.
Imagination Fund Donors
- Mandy Allen
- Emma Beckman
- Deborah Brzoska
- Duncan and Cindy Campbell
- Charmian Creagle
- Katherine Drew
- Allen Eraut
- Sean Hammons
- Brook MacNamara
- Gary R. Maffei
- Mary Maletis
- Lori and Max M. Miller, Jr.
- Ian Mullen
- PGE on behalf of Carole Morse
- The Regence Fund of OCF on behalf of Alexis Rolloff
- Anna-Katharina Rigby
- Marna Stalcup
Dine in for Right Brain hosts
- Kimberly Brecko and Ron Miller
- Rebecca Burrell and Becky Miller
- Katherine Drew
- Sam Ellingson, Molly Cochran and Kate Clark
- Abbie Hebein, Lindsay Burnette and Sula Wilson
So, why all the hootenanny about this campaign? If we can raise the remaining the full $25,000 by June, all donations will be generously matched by the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Fund. That means we’ll have an additional $50,000 to support our work bringing creativity to classrooms throughout the region.
Can you help us make our match? Please consider making a donation or hosting a Dine in for Right Brain event. We won’t go into too much detail, but for those are considering hosting an intimate fundraising event with your friends, we’ll tip you off that we just received some wine and beer donations and would love to help out the first few to schedule an event with us by contributing beverages to your cause. Learn more about the Dine In events at the link above, or by contacting Becky Miller at email@example.com.
Thanks for your support of the arts in public schools!
The Right Brain Initiative is pleased to partner with a brand-new school this year, Corbett Arts Program with Spanish (CAPS) in the historic Springdale building. The staff of this newly-created school chose Oregon Ballet Theatre (OBT) as their first Right Brain residency because they were looking to teach students the discipline and perseverance required to create art. Often students stop after their first try, and are either pleased or frustrated, but the CAPS staff recognized the importance of revision and critical thinking in all student work—academic and artistic. As an arts-focused school, they were also eager to discover ways to integrate movement and dance with their curriculum.
Teaching artist Kasandra Gruener of OBT worked closely with the teachers in grades K-8 to create a residency that would meet their content areas while getting at bigger goals and values of creative thinking and creative movement.
One of the teachers referred to the residency as “flawless” in its ability to energize, motivate and inspire his students, boys and girls alike. Teachers complemented Kasandra Gruener’s sessions with poetry writing, critique groups, and a field trip to see Swan Lake.
In the middle school, teacher Aaron Long collaborated with Kasandra Gruener by challenging students to model with movement the electron energy levels of an atom. Their experiment included reflection and Aaron Long said, “Later we explored what parts of the model were accurate and what parts were inaccurate. The students really “got it.” (See a video of this work here.)
The curriculum connections of this residency were plentiful. Students even created a poetic representation of the Gettysburg Address.
Springdale CAPS staff and students embraced their first year with Right Brain and we look forward to partnering with them in the future.
“Thank you for helping me to improve as a teacher and artist and for allowing me the experience of dancing intelligently and artistically with my students. What a joy.”
—Aaron Long, Springdale CAPS, Corbett, middle school teacher, residency with Oregon Ballet Theatre teacher Kasandra Gruener, Jan-Feb 2013.
Kristin Walrod is a Coach with The Right Brain Initiative, facilitating the Right Brain experience with partner schools in Portland, Hillsboro and Corbett. Read more about Kristin and the rest of the Right Brain staff.
“You just have to be passionate about it.”
At The Right Brain Initiative, we are very excited to work with a growing group of Parent Advocates , who act as a link between our organization and the parents and neighborhoods of the schools we serve. To celebrate the work our fabulous parent advocates are doing, we are beginning a series of profiles to show you all ways in which these advocates make a big difference for The Right Brain Initiative!
For our first profile, I had the pleasure of talking with Kim Strelchun, a woman whose two children have attended Right Brain partner school Jackson Elementary in Hillsboro, and whose work has become a model for the entire parent advocate program. A former volunteer with Stand for Children, we are also proud to say that Kim is now an elected member of the Hillsboro School Board.
What First Got Her Involved
Kim has always had a passion for arts education. After putting her children through an arts- and project-based Kindergarten, she felt that these elements should be more present in public schools and jumped onboard with The Right Brain Initiative when her district was selected as a partner in 2009. The desire to “share the mission of Right Brain outside our four walls” led Kim to embrace the process of “making the children’s learning visible, not just to the children, but to the parents, the teacher, and the artist.”
Kim’s Work as an Advocate
The primary role of Right Brain Parent Advocates is to facilitate communications and engagement around the work of Right Brain in their school. But in her work as an advocate, Kim has constantly gone above and beyond this call of duty. In order to show families and the community what kids in Right Brain schools are doing, Kim began documenting the work being done in the classroom so that it could be displayed around the school. She created in-depth descriptions of the work done in the residencies, which were sent home to the families of the children involved. She also served as a member of her school’s Right Brain planning team. And as all Parent Advocates are encouraged to, Kim attended our professional development several years in a row, working alongside the teachers and principals of Right Brain schools to learn strategies to seamlessly integrate the arts with other subjects.
What She Finds Most Memorable
The most rewarding part of being an advocate, for Kim, is “making the children’s learning visible, not just to the children, but to the parents, the teacher, and the artist.” She loves participating in Right Brain’s process of documenting residencies because she gets to see first-hand how successful students feel when they are shown that they are heard and valued during Right Brain programming.
How Right Brain Shaped Her Kids
Both of Kim’s children, now 10th and 7th grade students, have been involved in Right Brain schools for multiple years. She describes her kids as “confident learners” who are not afraid to advocate for themselves and say “let me show you the ways I know something.” Though already interested in creative pursuits, Kim appreciates that “Right Brain exposed them to other media and different types of expression,” in a way that was “broader than just getting better at one fine art” because of our unique integration with the academic process.
Changing Parent to Child Interaction
“Being an advocate, I built a relationship with the teachers and artists, which gave me a deeper understanding of the work that was being done and allowed me to go deeper in the discussions with my kids, “ said Kim, when I asked her how her advocacy role has affected the ways she can interact with her children as students. As an advocate, “you can learn side-by-side with them,” Kim told me. With a daughter who is a burgeoning artist, she feels that being involved with Right Brain has allowed her “to go on that journey with her.”
Advice from the Experts
Initially, being a parent advocate was a big step out of Kim’s comfort zone, but she is quick to express the value that can be found in these new experiences. When asked what advice she wishes she would have received when first starting as an advocate, without hesitation, Kim told me: “Don’t be afraid to just jump in; you don’t have to be an expert in art, you just have to be passionate about it.”
Are you a parent at a Right Brain partner school interested in being a part of our Parent Advocate program? Please contact Rebecca Burrell, Outreach Specialist, at 503.823.2965 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Deal is Right Brain’s Outreach Apprentice for Sprinter ’13.
Come join us this Friday, February 22nd, for an evening of celebrating the arts with Revel in Portland, at The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel. Any donation will get you in along with making one copy of Revel in Portland yours to keep, and all proceeds go to The Right Brain Initiative.
This celebration marks the release of Revel in Portland, Volume 1, a unique new travel guide for arts and culture in Portland. Ranging from successful artists to those on the edges of popular culture, ten of Portland’s most interesting characters offer a personalized view of the city through conversational interviews. Along with the featured interviews, Volume 1 will contain beautiful pictorials and 72 personal recommendations on Portland’s best of everything.
This Friday’s benefit will host curated vendors, music, art, film, and everything else needed to make the night feel like the experience of reading the book itself, while being at a party! We hope you will join us to receive your copy of Revel in Portland, celebrate Portland arts and culture, and support The Right Brain Initiative.
Please also visit the Facebook page for the event , RSVP, and share the page so that all of your interested friends may see. Another great description of the event and The Right Brain initiative that you may find useful is on the website of The Ace Hotel and can be found here. Thank you again for your interest in the event and your help spreading the knowledge of this celebration.
Friday, February 22nd
The Cleaners at Ace Hotel
403 SW 10th Portland,OR 97205
Editor’s Note: The Right Brain Initiative is dedicated to working with our partner artists and schools to create unique classroom arts experiences that meet the needs of the students. Right Brain teaching artist Beth Bundy shares the challenges—and ultimate satisfaction— of collaborating with other educators to design meaningful arts education.
When creating a custom-built arts residency, collaboration is key. Imagine sitting down at a table with a group of teachers, a school administrator, and an eager coach, all with the expectation that in one hour you will create a plan for an art residency for 75 – 500 students that will allow them to think critically, creatively, and collaborate while communicating. All of this must fit within the budget, and usually will take place in just a few weeks’ time. No wonder I lose sleep the night before planning meetings!
Planning meetings are challenging, but I enjoy the challenge of being a teaching artist with The Right Brain Initiative. Give me a problem and I will give my all to solve it innovatively and fully.
Fortunately, I am not left to solve the problem on my own. I have enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable teachers, a supportive Right Brain Coach, and an arts advocating administrator on my side. Plus, The Right Brain Initiative is continually confirming their support by offering planning templates, professional development, and encouragement.
I recently went to a planning meeting with a school art installation residency in mind. I had already met with the Right Brain team and the principal, but had not yet met the teachers I would be working with. I introduced my plan and they nodded their heads in agreement. As we began to focus on what we really wanted students to be thinking, the plan began to magically transform. They jumped in with ideas that related directly to the classroom curriculum, and I used the concepts they put forth as inspiration for the visual art that would occur.
Before the meeting was over, we had a plan that would challenge students to think in new ways, allow for creative choice, and push them to explore new materials and ideas with their peers. A good idea became an even better idea because the teachers were willing to dream big and engage collaboratively.
They say that two brains are better than one. With The Right Brain Initiative residencies, it takes a whole team of brains to construct residencies that are thought-provoking, fun, and creatively stimulating for students.
We think The Right Brain Initiative exists in so many places – in our hearts, minds, and schools – and especially in our homes! Introducing Dine in for Right Brain, a program of dinner fundraisers for friends, family and community interested in enjoying a great meal in support of Right Brain programming and residencies. We want to rally our community to host 20 dinners by June, and spread the word about this important initiative. We have the awesome potential to reach out to the furthest corners of the districts we serve, and catch friends in their own communities. This also ties in to our Imagination Fund, a generous match we secured with the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Foundation.
Each person who hosts a dinner will:
• Invite 10 friends to your home, who will each pay $25
• Provide a delicious meal and drinks (either donated by a restaurant or the host)
• Host a Right Brain artist or staff member to share stories about the program
That’s pretty much it! Our intention is to have these be accessible and fun dinners for a wide variety of pocketbooks, thus our reasoning for $25/person. We are open to different takes on dinner (like “brunch”), OR, if you are someone who thinks your community might want to go bigger, then by all means, GO BIG! Talk to us about ways to amplify your dinner.
Interested? Great! Contact Becky Miller, at email@example.com, with the following information.
• Your name/location
• Potential date of your dinner (please give us at least 2 weeks notice)
• Any preliminary questions you may have
Thank you! Your interest and connection to our program help us to increase understanding of how arts-integration builds better learning opportunities for children in our communities. Your participation ensures arts programming has a sustainable future.