Archive for October, 2015



October 31, 2015

Commissioner’s Update

MDOE logoIf you are not receiving the Commissioner of Education’s weekly update, I suggest that you sign up for them by going to the Maine Department of Education website at

Recently below was posted in the update so other Maine educators learned about the recent arts education biennial statewide conference.


Camden Hills Regional High School

October 30, 2015

Fall Musical


Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 11.30.38 AMScreen Shot 2015-10-26 at 11.30.54 AM


My Vacation, Part 2

October 29, 2015


Guards at the palace

Guards at the palace

This is part 2 of my stories about my vacation to Barcelona and Denmark. Yesterday’s post provides information on Barcelona.

In 1975 I was an exchange student in Denmark as part of the DIS program. At that time it was called the Danish International Student program. The DIS has remained, but it is now known as the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. I spent an amazing semester studying in Copenhagen, taught by Danish professors in English with about 300 other Americans from all over the country. One of the highlights was living with a Danish family. I knew that I was fortunate at the time since my family was a perfect match for me. We lived about 30 minutes by train north of Copenhagen in a town called Holte. Jens, the dad, Helene, the mom and the daughters Vivian (15) and Nana (12) were a delight. It turned out we had a strong connection, my Helene was Greek and they spoke several languages. Each day I’d take the train to Copenhagen for my art courses. I can still hear the voice on the train announcing the stations: “next astacione Holte”. The Danes would be silent reading the morning paper on their way to work. I had a great semester, learned a great deal both in class and out and a lot about myself. I can trace threads of who I am today to my time in Denmark.



I returned to the United States with one more year of college and a new lens, thanks to my learning opportunity in Denmark. Fast forward many years and I reconnected with my Danish family through Facebook. I have wanted to travel to visit for a while so when I had the chance to travel to Barcelona with recently retired Bangor High School art teacher Kal Elmore I decided it was the right time.

On my first night there I had a delightful visit with my younger sister, Nana. The next morning I was excited to stop by the DIS office to let the staff know how much I appreciated the program from 40 years ago. Even thought there weren’t staff there from all those years ago, they were very appreciative that I stopped by and all very delightful to meet. It was well worth the visit. I learned that the program was in a bad place about 15 years ago and today it has 1200 students a semester and an office in Stockholm, Sweden is opening soon. Without reservation, I recommend the program for college students who you may know considering studying abroad. Program information is located at

Lego store on the Stroget

Lego store on the Stroget

The rest of the day I spent walking and traveling by bus and train around Copenhagen. The largest mode of transportation by the locals is bicycle and they came in a variety of styles and many went quite quickly. The car drivers are very respectful of bicyclists. The Stroget, the main walking street looked similar, flourishing with stores and restaurants, even a giant lego store under construction. In addition to the Stroget there are three other walking streets that were fun to explore. I visited Amalienborg Palace to watch the changing of the guards which happens once a day at noon. The palace is Danish Rococco architecture and constructed in the 1700’s. I visited the Danish Design Museum which houses an incredible collection of Danish designed chairs. I loved seeing them. And, of course I stopped by the Little Mermaid who sits in the harbor and the Round Tower which provided a 360 view of the city and a delight at days end.

viv and jesper

Jesper and Vivian

I met my older sister, Vivian, at the train station and we headed north by train one hour to her home in Vestergade. It was so wonderful to meet her husband Jesper and daughters Sophia and Isabel. I felt at home immediately and it was the first night of quiet sleeping for me since I left home.

My visit with Vivian was filled with a visit to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It is like no other I’ve seen. The museum was abuzz with people of all ages. People were very engaged. Each of the areas and gallery’s flow into each other seamlessly and makes for a delightful visit. The studio space for education is alive with color and motion. It opened in 1958 and was intended to house only Danish art but has turned into an international museum with a variety of modern pieces. It is built on the water and includes an outdoor sculpture park which is part of their permanent exhibit that meshes beautifully with the environment. One of the highlights of my visit was definitely the Ayoi Kusama exhibit. Born in 1929 Kusama is a ball of energy and the comprehensive show can sense her commitment and vitality. The pictures of hers throughout provide a sense of who Kusama really is. Please do go to the site and take a look at her varying work.

Louisiana Modern Art Museum, Kusama's artwork

Louisiana Modern Art Museum, Kusama’s artwork

What a special treat to visit with Helene and Jens at their apartment. Since I saw them last they spent many years living in France and Greece, returning to Denmark a year ago to be closer to family. We had a wonderful time celebrating Helene’s 84th birthday with Vivian’s family and Nana’s daughters.

After spending time with Vivian our worlds got a closer together and I am confident this time that we will not lose track of each other again. I am sooooo fortunate that I have the time and made my visit a priority. I urge you to not put something off that you’ve been thinking about or wanting to do. Life is precious!

Please email me at if perhaps you also were on an exchange that impacted your life. Perhaps even one with the DIS program! I’d love to hear from you.



Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama


Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama


Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama


Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama


Children's studio, Louisiana Modern Art Museum

Children’s studio, Louisiana Modern Art Museum


Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama


The Stroget

The Stroget, Copenhagen


From the Round Tower

From the Round Tower


Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama


My Danish mother with her granddaughters

My Danish mother with her granddaughters


Jens and Helene

Jens and Helene


The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen Harbor

The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen Harbor


My Vacation, Part 1

October 27, 2015

Taking risks

Many days students are put into situations that encourage them to take risks and to stretch. As adults we have fewer chances to do so and, in fact, often the only time is when it is intentional. Some of the meartsed blog readers know that I just returned from a trip where I traveled to Spain and Denmark. I spent a week in Barcelona with recently retired Bangor High School art teacher, Kal Elmore. I arrived a day and a half before Kal and it had been 40 years since I had traveled out of the country by myself. This is where the risk and stretch connections were made for me.

I’m not great with directions or maps (gotten used to my gps) BUT, I quickly got the hang of it. I didn’t have a phone to refer to and wanted to know that I could do it the “old way” without using an electronic device to assist in getting me where I wanted/needed to go. After leaving Barcelona I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit the family I stayed with while there as an exchange student 40 years ago. The exchange program is known as DIS, Danish Institute for Study Abroad. I stopped at the office and visited with several staff members letting them know how much my college experience impacted me.

Getting around Barcelona and in and around Copenhagen on public transportation and by foot were both challenging and rewarding. Letting go of knowing exactly where I was all the time was freeing. I saw and experienced life in both places as soon as I let go of being in control. In my professional life I have to be organized, know where I am going, and learn what the possibilities are. It was enough to have an idea of the general direction for the day and what we’d find when we got to where we were going. Without making this blog post really long I’m including the highlights for those of you who might be interested.



Arc de Triomfe

There is no shortage of things to do and see in Barcelona and it has a wonderful mixture of the old and new. Kal found a reasonable “flat” for us to rent through Air BnB that had everything we needed and was in a great location. We could walk or take public transportation to all of the highlights easily. We were located a stones throw from the Arc de Triomfe which was a great landmark if we got lost. It took 15 minutes to walk to the Barceloneta along the water and beach. We saw remnants of the old city where the fisherman lived and the changes when the city prepared for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The city had only one beach previously and several were created. The wide walking way/boardwalk was filled with the locals selling all kinds of items at reasonable prices; scarves, shoes, pocketbooks, t-shirts, jewelry, selfie sticks, and souvenirs. The boats ranged from small personal fishing to sailboats to giant yachts. Beyond that were the trawlers that catch the variety of seafood available in Spain’s many restaurants. And continuing along the water area were container ships filled with cargo.


Street vendors in the Barceloneta

Southwest, not far from the city center is Montjuic, which provides a view of the enormous harbor and back at the city and the La Sagrada Familia Cathedral. Las Ramblas is a walking street with interesting shops and street artists. Part way through Las Ramblas is La Boqueria, a food market with the freshest of items. I love fresh figs and can not find them in the states and the first bite reminded me of my trip to Greece when I ate figs from my cousins tree. We wound our way through the many little streets several times wondering where we were since the maps don’t include every one many seem more like alleys. One of the tiny streets we found the home of the Picasso Museum which housed many of the artists earlier pieces, pretty amazing. On Sunday many Catalans gather at the Cathedral to perform the traditional Sardana dance. Their personal possessions are put in a pile in the center of a closed circle (for safe keeping) and the live music moves the people, young and very old, through the simple steps. Everyone is welcome and I had goose bumps with thoughts of my own Greek family dancing traditions. Of course I joined in! The cathedrals are amazingly beautiful and are located among the neighborhoods and are open all the time with people coming and going lighting candles and saying prayers.


Casa Battlo

We spent a day at the amazing Park Guell, my pictures just don’t capture it. The outside is a public park emphasizing natural gardens and architectural elements designed by Antoni Gaudi. Eusebi Guell and he collaborated in creating the homes and gardens in the park. Guell’s farmhouse is now a school that can be seen from above and nearby. I watched a class play a game that was a combination of dancing and movement. The intricate walkways lead visitors around and through with attention to every detail everywhere you look. There were individual and group musicians and dancers that entertained for whatever folks offered. In 1926 the park was officially opened and on the inside is where Gaudi’s work is at the highest level. The forms, patterns and organic shapes are a delight to the eye.

Gaudi designed other structures in Barcelona. We visited Casa Battlo located in the center of the city. We could tour the roof which looks like an animal’s spine. His work was influenced greatly by nature. We could also tour the attic which is made up of 300 brick arches and one of the

Park Guell

Park Guell

apartments which included a historical perspective. Once again the attention to detail is amazing.

The highlight of Gaudi’s work is La Sagrada Familia which is in its last phases of creation and slated to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. It is 565 feet tall and has amazing architectural details everywhere your eye takes you. Again, I don’t think my pictures quite capture the intensity of the artwork.

And, of course we ate some really delicious foods. The most delicious and interesting was eggplant, sliced really thin, with cheese on top. The breads, pastries, seafood were all yummy! The graffiti is located on the fronts of every building doorway – metal doors cover the businesses while they are closed. Be ready for anything when traveling to Barcelona and be ready to stretch. People were helpful even if they couldn’t speak English. The pace of life is slower and the tourists are plentiful, even in October. Watching the people was a wonderful part of the experience. The interactions between generations told a lot of the story.

La Famila Sagrada

La Familia Sagrada



Street art


Street artists

Street artists



Fig from the La Boqueria market


Eggplant from Mundial restaurant

Eggplant from Mundial restaurant



Performers at Park Guell



Bakery, located all over the city

I will write about the Denmark portion of my vacation on the blog tomorrow. Please let me know if you have any questions




Obama Announces End of Era, NCLB

October 26, 2015

From the White House – October 24, 2015

By Jameson Parker

One of the worst legacy of George W. Bush’s presidency is also one of least talked about, but American children feel its effects every day. Bush’s sweeping educational reforms known as “No Child Left Behind” has left in its wake a dysfunctional school system, demoralized teachers, and stressed out, over-tested children. Unsurprisingly, educators have long been saying that the “teaching to the test” mentality of No Child Left Behind is causing serious damage to the nation’s educational aspirations.

All the way back in 2006, educators were frantically warning the Bush administration that an obsession with test scores over other measures of success was a recipe for disaster.

Education sociologist David Labaree once posited that an overreliance on testing causes students to care only enough to ask, “Will this be on the test?” NCLB seems to have transferred this problem from students to teachers, who may well approach teaching with the same attitude: “Whatever is not on the test is not worth knowing, and whatever is on the test need be learned only in the superficial manner that is required to achieve a passing grade” (Labaree, 1997, p. 46). Under NCLB, teachers feel great pressure to focus their energies solely on preparing students to excel on standardized tests.

And unlike Bush’s recession, No Child Left Behind seemed stubbornly persistent well into the Obama administration. Even in recent years, policymakers have hardly seemed motivated to redirect education away from the nearest multiple choice answer sheet. Until now.

In an announcement which is sure to cause celebration among America’s educators, the Obama administration called for an end of the era of over-testing and back to more sensible, informed approaches to education. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan didn’t mince words.

“I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.

It’s important that we’re all honest with ourselves. At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation. We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”

While Duncan admitted testing isn’t going away completely – it’s still necessary to have some standardized rubric for ensuring children are where they need to be – the role of testing in the classroom should be greatly diminished. In a recent survey by the Council of the Great City Schools, researchers found that the average student will take around 112 mandatory standardized tests during their school career. With so many tests, it’s a wonder that any student makes it through with even a speck of passion for learning left. To combat this test fatigue the proposal the White House sent to Congress specified that in order to reduce “over-testing” school districts should ensure that no more than 2 percent of classroom time is devoted to taking tests.

For teachers who have long been complaining that their lesson plans no longer allow for inspired teaching and instead feel like an endless bullet list of test questions, giving them their classroom back (or at least 98 percent of it) could be huge.

In a way, Obama isn’t just reversing Bush’s actions, but his own. During his first term, Obama seemed content to simply continue along with Bush’s education plans, despite signs that they weren’t working. In the last few years, things have changed. Perhaps Obama was informed by his experience watching his own daughters go through school, or maybe enough educators spoke out, but whatever the reason, Obama is showing signs of a radical new approach towards education. Holistic, teacher-inspired, and child focused, this new way of doing things couldn’t be more different than the No Child Left Behind era.


On Vacation!

October 25, 2015

I have been on vacation, perhaps you can tell where I’ve been from these images.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 10.51.05 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 10.52.12 PM


STEAM Opportunity

October 23, 2015

Innovation collaborative

The Innovation Collaborative (a multi-disciplinary coalition of arts, sciences, humanities, and education leaders) is launching a research project designed to strengthen STEAM education in K-12 schools. The goal of the project is to promote effective teaching practices at the intersections of science, technology, engineering, the arts and design, math, and the humanities.

Teachers are invited to submit STEAM lesson plans or model projects to the Innovation Collaborative for review by an expert panel. The top entries will be named Innovation Fellows, will be eligible for a stipend, and will be invited to present their work at national conferences.

For more information please go to



October 22, 2015

Maine College of Art

Now on view at the Maine College of Art is Inside/Outside, an exhibition of work by members of the Maine Art Education Association. The show features a stunning array of drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, fiber arts, ceramics and mixed media work by over 35 member- artists and will be on display through Saturday, October 17th in MECA’s Zand Head and Hall Galleries at 522 Congress Street in Portland.

MECA held a spectacular opening reception on Friday, October 2nd during Portland’s Artwalk that brought in a large and enthusiastic crowd. There to celebrate were MECA President, Don Tuski, Admissions Director, Liam Sullivan and Art Education Professor, Kelly McConnell all of whom have been avid supporters and collaborative partners of the MAEA and served as generous hosts of this wonderful annual event.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 10.02.53 AMScreen Shot 2015-10-12 at 10.03.15 AM



Beautiful Collaboration

October 21, 2015

Misty Copeland and Yo-Yo Ma

On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, American Ballet Theatre’s first black principal ballerina Misty Copeland performed the courante from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 2 with legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma.


This We Believe!

October 20, 2015

MALI makes it clear

This summer while attending the Teach to Lead Summit in Washington D.C. the team representing the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative decided to take action on the MALI Teacher Leaders idea of creating Belief Statements. The topics were selected based on the past 4 years of MALI and ones that MALI Teacher Leaders are engaged with, individually and/or collectively: Arts Integration, Advocacy, Assessment Literacy, Creativity and 21st Century Skills, Educator Effectiveness, Effective Teaching and Learning, Proficiency Based Learning and Student Centered Learning, and Teacher Leadership.

IMG_1901At the Summer Institute that MALI had August 3-5 participants worked in groups to draft the statements of which everyone provided feedback on during the institute culmination activity. As a follow-up to the institute they were updated with the suggestions and went back to the teams who collaborated on the writing of them. One last look by the Leadership Team and what you can read below is the result of the several months process. The collaborative effort is another example of the grass-roots work of MALI.

These statements were created to help guide MALI as we continue to move forward with our work. Will these This We Believe statements change? Perhaps, as is most things with MALI, changes are made to move the initiative forward to meet the needs of Arts education in Maine which should positively impact every Maine student.

These statements now live on the Maine Arts Assessment website at!this-we-believe-statements/cmni and were unveiled recently at the Biennial Statewide Arts Education conference on Friday, October 9.

  • ARTS INTEGRATION… allows for cross-curricular collaboration within the creative process. Interconnected learning provides students an opportunity to demonstrate understanding and knowledge using multiple avenues.

  • ADVOCACY… educates communities that arts education is essential. Arts advocacy should involve the presentation of solid, factual information that challenges misconceptions about the role of the arts in our society. Arts advocacy should also highlight the various benefits of the arts through the creation and viewing process; involving the larger community in purposeful and meaningful ways.

  • ASSESSMENT LITERACY… is an ongoing dialogue between stakeholders that informs instruction, supports learning, clarifies understanding and validates what we do as educators.

  • CREATIVITY AND 21ST CENTURY SKILLS… quality arts education is critical to fostering Creativity and developing 21st Century Skills. The arts provide authentic, real life opportunities that nurture:

    * Collaboration

    * Communication

    * Critical Thinking

    * Creative Problem Solving

    Creativity is the ability to connect ideas, information and issues, through exploration, and in novel ways in order to develop personal and relevant solutions.

  • EDUCATOR EFFECTIVENESS… effective teachers are passionate, and love what they do. They are problem solvers, able to reach all learners. They are informed about current pedagogy. They are flexible and can adapt their perspective. They are positive, with a focus on developing student growth.

  • EFFECTIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING… effective teaching leads to effective learning when students are actively engaged, the learning is individualized and relevant, and feedback leads to informed teaching practice and improved student progress.

  • PROFICIENCY BASED LEARNING AND STUDENT CENTERED LEARNING… students are encouraged and empowered to become independent learners, ultimately taking charge of their own education. Experiences within the learning environment are active, collaborative, and engaging; supporting students to explore their artistic processes in meaningful and purposeful ways.

  • TEACHER LEADERSHIP… is collaboration, the ability to foster change, challenging and supportive of others, advocating for the needs of all, and inspiring others to become leaders. Teacher Leadership is an intentional, collaborative strategy which supports and inspires: a) students and their learning through effective teaching practices and  b) the teaching profession through shared expertise, resources, and high quality and ongoing professional development.

Please note: On August 3, 2015, MAAI, the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative, announced its new name, MALI, the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. MALI is a program of the Maine Arts Commission. You can read about it at Please email Argy Nestor if you have any questions at

%d bloggers like this: