The Right Brain Initiative


New “ah-ha” moments: One artist’s perspective

May 19th, 2010 by Right Brain Team

Teachers, administrators, artists and Right Brain staff meet to review student work samples for evidence of learning during professional development at the World Forestry Center. (Photo: Jo Grishman)

Last week, all hands were on deck at Right Brain as we engaged roughly 200 of the teachers, school administrators and artists we work with during two days of professional development at the World Forestry Center. We had representation from all 23 schools we currently partner with in Gresham-Barlow, Hillsboro and North Clackamas School Districts and Portland Public Schools. These lucky ambassadors, and many of the artists they worked with, met to examine where student learning took place through the Right Brain classroom residencies they teamed up to implement during the 2009-10 school year.

Greta Pedersen—Young Audiences National Artist of the Year 2009,writer, musician, woman about town—is a Right Brain roster artist brought to us from the umbrellas of both Young Audiences and Wordstock. Greta worked with Glencoe Elementary (Portland Public Schools) and Sunnyside Elementary (North Clackamas Schools) this year to help the students create songs that reinforced the grammatical conventions they  learned in class. Also a member of Right Brain’s Professional Development Task Force, Greta served as a timekeeper during the discussions of other classroom residencies.

Read below what Greta had to say about the experience:

I attended Day two of Right Brain’s spring professional development. I reconnected with teachers and principals with whom I have worked in the past, caught up and shared experiences with fellow teaching artists, and met new colleagues. All together, we engaged in very constructive dialogue that reaffirmed our work together in bringing arts education to more Portland-area students. After a quick general meeting outlining the day, we met in our assigned groups (four in all) and got down to business: guided reflection. The reflective protocol allowed time for observation of student work and student reflection, time for observers or “responders” to offer “I wonder about” questions, a segment for those questions to be answered by the presenting Right Brain team (including classroom teacher and teaching artist), and a final opportunity for this team to share their next steps and final reflections.

Most powerful for me was that each example documented powerful growth in the observed students through the various art forms. One was a quiet, shy individual who found confidence through experiencing, and then performing, the compelling rhythms of Taiko. Next, a student who first viewed masks in a distant, unemotional manner (something you buy and place on a wall) and post-residency, described it as a medium of multiple meanings and interpretations, full of messy, “cinda goopey” (sic) fun where you “feel really free.” The Glencoe team and I shared the final piece of the day, “Spicy Convention Rock,” a class collaboration about writing conventions. Even before the song was finished, teacher Christina Self reported that she was referring to the song when guiding students in correcting their papers. And we recalled how students described the writing process — “hard…AND fun.  Not a bad life lesson.

Our group take-away for the day: when we offer something real and meaningful to students, they produce better samples of writing: more content, with greater depth of emotion and thoughtful description.

For a taste of what Greta and her team shared at the professional development session, listen to Greta and the Glencoe student’s “Spicy Convention Rock” here.

Right Brain artist Greta Pedersen leads 2nd graders from Glencoe Elementary through their original song "Spicy Convention Rock."

Read more about professional development and The Right Brain Initiative.


Right Brain Team