Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category


Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award

August 27, 2016

Opportunity for Maine


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Bay Chambers

August 25, 2016

On the water concert

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 6.53.54 PMEveryone’s buzzing about the concert ON Megunticook Lake that happened last Friday evening, August 19 brought to the community by Bay Chamber Concerts. The concert on the water featuring Slavic Soul Party! was filled with energy. It was a perfect evening to be on the water – the light over was amazing. There were kayaks, canoes, motor boats and paddle boats. I am guessing about 100 boats, about 300 people and 27 dogs. (Look closely in the photo and you can see the activity). Adults and young people and dogs swimming, dancing and listening to great music – it was a real fun time!

Most interesting – as we paddled back to the landing as the sun was setting there was a peaceful rare stillness. Two couples paddled by singing in their old green canoe with straw hats, bunches of plastic flowers and a dog. In the dark the dozens of cars pulled up to the beach to load their boats and the quietness continued. I couldn’t help but think how fortunate I am to live in a state that provides unique musical opportunities in such stunning places. I’m hoping that Bay Chambers or another organization will consider providing more concerts on the water!

Megunticook ConcertThank you Bay Chamber who said: You are at the heart of everything we present here at Bay Chamber– our aim is to enrich your days and weeks through thrilling musical moments. And what a difference music can make in one week… a performance that inspires you … transports your imagination to heights unknown… or triggers a memory of meaningful moments gone by.

For those of you not familiar with Bay Chamber Concert programs I included their story in the Who Are They?: Bay Chamber blog series just over a year ago. Check them out and if you like what you see they are having a fund drive this week at THIS SITE.


Summer MALI Institute Day 3

August 13, 2016

What a learning opportunity!

IMG_3191The 6th Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) summer institute wrapped up yesterday with the 3rd and final day jam packed full.

Incredible educators contributing their knowledge and developing ideas with the MALI community and on top of that good food!


Art teachers Iva Damon, Amy Cousins (top). Mandi Mitchell, Lisa Ingraham (bottom).

The day started with participants looking at the preliminary reports from the statewide arts education census. MALI teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders had conversations by region to discuss the findings and what action steps might take place to utilize the data collected. Everyone agreed that it is great to have data on Maine arts education. The information will be made available with a full report in the next 2 months.


Samantha Armstrong presenting her Maine Arts Education Resource Project – Integration.

Beth Lambert and a team of Maine educators have created resources this past school year as part of the  Maine Arts Education Resource Project – Integration. The teachers provided an overview of the work and resources they created. Access those resources by CLICKING HERE.

Participants completed their individual action or logic model plans and during the afternoon participated in a gallery walk. A clear picture of their ideas were evident and it was great to have the opportunity to provide feedback to each other. Next steps? Teacher leaders will tweak their plan based on the feedback and create a formal presentation. In September teacher leaders will participate in Critical Friend where they will provide their presentation. Others are invited to participate so if you are interested please email me at and let me know.

IMG_3255Each presentation will be provided during the school year at least once at the local level and once at the mega-regional level. More information on these learning opportunities will be provided in the future. Please let me know if you have any questions.


IMG_3248To the TEACHER LEADERS who devoted their time to attend the institute and dig into the work. To the TEACHING ARTISTS who attended for one day and the four TEACHING ARTIST LEADERS who are creating new work for MALI. All agreed that the Teaching Artist Leaders are a great addition to the community. And, a HUGE THANK YOU to the LEADERSHIP TEAM who spent hours and hours of time planning and facilitating the summer institute so all of us could learn.

Participants left USM tired and excited about returning to their classrooms for great school year! If you’d like to learn more about MALI please go to or to



Summer MALI Institute Day 2

August 12, 2016

Teacher Leader Mandi Mitchell and why she teaches!

Developing ideas and learning from each other

The second day of the initiative was filled with more ideas, questions, and thoughtful research on many topics including proficiency based, student centered, standards, assessment, teacher effectiveness, arts integration, advocacy, and leadership. Each teacher leader and teaching artist leader worked on their plans they will continue develop and put into place during the 2016-17 school year.

Teachers worked in their content groups – theatre, music, and visual arts. Participants did an amazing job of creating and refining an ‘elevator speech’ on one of MALIs ‘This We Believe’ statements. In the end they passionately stated their message in 7 seconds. Teachers created brief statements completing “I teacher because…”.

Veteran MALI teacher leaders Amy Cousins, Jake Sturtevant, and Theresa Cerceo shared stories in their roles as teacher leaders.

Practicing elevator speeches

Practicing elevator speeches

Beth Lambert, Maine Department of Education Visual and Performing Arts Specialist, provided an udpate on the work going on at the Department at the state and federal level.

Everyone’s work generated throughout the day was thoughtful and exciting and will contribute to the high quality teaching that goes on throughout Maine!

The summer institute is in its final day today with an agenda filled with learning opportunities. During the afternoon will be filled with a gallery walk viewing and providing feedback on the teacher leader plans.


Jake Sturtevant, Theresa Cerceo, and Amy Cousins sharing their MALI stories

Jake Sturtevant, Theresa Cerceo, and Amy Cousins sharing their MALI stories



Summer MALI Institute – Day 1

August 11, 2016

Arts Teachers and Teaching Artists come together

IMG_3160Yesterday was the first day of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Summer Institute. Over 50 educators including PK-12 arts teachers and teaching artists participated in the professional development opportunity. Theater artist Jeri Pitcher started the institute with warm up and ice breaker techniques, Maine Arts Commission Executive Director welcomed participants, and Jeff Beaudry provided an overview on assessment.

IMG_3123Quickly following participants jumped into the their respective strands. The topic for the new MALI teacher leaders and teaching artists (including teaching artists leaders) was proficiency and assessment literacy while returning teacher leaders reflected and shared on their past years work.

The three days are designed to meet the particular needs of the groups so what proceeded was the chance to go deeper on these topics with creativity at the heart of the teaching artists conversation. Maine Arts Commission Senior Grants Manager Kathy Shaw provided information on the funding available from the Commission. The other two groups began work considering a topic to research that will impact their teaching and student learning.

IMG_3146Participants shared lunch with their like content areas before an afternoon of advocacy, messaging, and conversations about what the benefits of teaching artists in PK-12 schools. Ideas and lists were generated, questions asked and answered.

In between the group work participants have been asked to write a statement on why they teach and to reflect on their day to day work as leaders. The MALI summer institute continues for two more days. Participants will continue their work around the topics in arts education that are most important to them and their students.

To learn more about MALI CLICK HERE.


MALI Summer Institute

August 10, 2016

Phase 6

Today almost 50 Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) participants will gather at the USM Portland campus. They will collaborate by sharing their knowledge and stretching their ideas. At they end of 3 days of professional development they will have a skeleton of a workshop that they will present in the next school year. During the 2016-17 school year each Teacher Leader will present their workshop multiple times. I invite you to attend a workshop this year. Watch for the information posted in the near future on the blog.

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Arts Education and Malawi-2

August 3, 2016

The Malawian teachers

This is the second in a series of stories about my recent trip to Malawi in Africa. You can read the first post by CLICKING HERE.


The teachers at the ceremony with their cyanotype banner.

As part of the Go! Malawi program I traveled to the Ntchisi District of Malawi to provide teacher workshops on arts integration. I collaborated with Sweetland School (in Hope) founder and director Lindsay Pinchbeck to work with 12 teachers from Mpamila, Pondani and Katete Primary Schools. The  teachers that we had the privilege to work with were AMAZING in more ways than one.


Jane with standard 1 students

Teachers are paid $85.00 per month and are assigned schools when they finish their teacher training program. They can be moved to another school at any time without warning. The school has no power or running water, some classrooms have no chairs or desks.

The grades are called standards and the primary schools each have standards 1 through 8. At the Mpamila School in Jane’s class she had 116 students. On paper the class sizes ranged from 17 to 131. (Did I mention that the teachers we met were amazing?). The lower standards have the largest numbers. As the students grow many drop out for a variety of reasons. It was the last two weeks of the school year (and winter) while we were there and the students were taking their exams. How well they do on exams determines whether they move on to the next standard.


Thom sharing his quilt/banner.

Each morning we had the opportunity to visit the Mpamila School and classrooms. As the students arrived they were outside playing – we saw some jumping rope with vines and others playing Chinese jump rope. The teachers were meeting to do the kinds of things we might find happening across America – collecting papers and preparing for their teaching day. They shared some of the exams with us and we were able to view the test questions that we used later on as part of the instruction in the teacher workshops. The school day officially starts at 8:30 but we found the classes didn’t necessarily start on time and students wandered in after the lesson started. Many children were looking in the windows or outside playing while lessons occurred.

The teacher training is based on the British educational system. We watched while the teachers instructed the learners to repeat after them in speaking voices and/or singing voices. They used their bodies to emphasize or demonstrate an idea and the students repeated. Clapping was frequently used to engage and celebrate the learners successes.

Two of the teachers had young babies that they carried on their backs or fronts. They taught with them, brought them to the workshops and periodically during the workshops would have a young girl watch after the child.


In the teachers room preparing for the exams.

DAILY THEMES – learning through an art form

We found that using a theme each day launched the ideas and combined feelings with art making, thinking with creativity. And, it helped launch the environment to a place of trusting one another. I was surprised by the teachers willingness to take risks with us so quickly – strangers from America.

  • Day 1 – Hopes and Dreams: Journal making, planing seeds, paint explorations
  • Day 2 – Traditions: Sharing stories of customs and traditions
  • Day 3 – Patterns and Rhythms: Song, box making and poetry
  • Day 4 – Trust: Cyanotypes, Trust walk, Introduce Individual Action Plans
  • Day 5 – Stories: Felting. Telling, sharing, applying stories to action plans and lessons
  • Day 6 – Making mistakes and letting go: Drawing and printmaking
  • Day 7 – Walls – What holds us back?: Talking Walls Book by Margy Burns Knight – Accordian books with Malawian sayings. Watercolor techniques
  • Day 8 – Another way: Patterns and colors, kaleidocycles, folding books
  • Day 9 – Support and reflection: Completing action plans, letter writing, pendulum
  • Day 10 – Celebration and sharing

Head teacher Mirium with her baby.

We tried to scaffold their learning from day to day and the daily themes assisted in that. Their willingness and desire to learn was powerful. More importantly, the arts were the vehicle for each of them no matter what their past experiences were with the arts.


  • Opening Circle – sharing inspiration, checking in and sharing new ideas and questions through books and stories. Introducing the theme for the day.
  • Experiential Learning – sharing new skills and materials. Drawing, painting, poetry bookmaking, drama and storytelling activities, printmaking, felting, photography, and more.
  • Journaling/Share – Daily time for reflection to consider how activities can be applied to the classroom. Individual and group work.
  • Projects – Quilt focus and individual action plans.
  • Closing circle – Traditions of song, take aways, 3 happy moments and a question.

Olipa working on her book cover. Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck

During the project time the teachers were learning different techniques that they made onto a 6″ X 6″ piece of fabric. The pieces were sewn together in banner or quilt-like form. For example, the day the teachers learned how to felt they actually felted a fabric square that became part of their quilts/banners. On the day they made cyanotypes they did an individual square with their hands and collaborated with secondary students to make a full size sheet one. What a great way to integrate science and visual art.

The teachers arrived at noon each day for lunch and at 1:00 we started the workshop. We were amazed at how quickly the teachers jumped in without hesitation. The art making was the vehicle to their comfort level. Some of the teachers didn’t know each other beforehand yet that was not evident as they sat side by side and created.


Depicting what a wall means to the teachers or their students.

Five o’clock came quickly each day and before we knew it the end was near and each teacher was hanging their quilt for the critique. On the last day they set up a display of all of the artwork they created. We had a community celebration with the local chiefs, Go! Malawi community committee, students, and the teachers. Afterwards the participants were invited to visit the gazebo to see the art. It was a goose bump experience as I watched the teachers faces filled with pride as they shared their work with the community.


Creating tableaus with sentences from their exams.

A couple days into the workshops one of the teachers pulled me aside and gently informed me of a Malawian custom and suggested that I adopt it. He said: “When someone is leaving you are to walk and talk with them.” At first I thought he was joking but I quickly learned that it was an important custom. Each day following, we made sure that we walked and talked with them and before we knew it the 10 day workshop was over and we were waving so long to our new friends!

How fortunate I was to have this unique opportunity. The Malawian people often use sayings. One of them is: Ulendo ungatalike bwanji umayamba ndi phawzi limodzi – Every journey starts with a step. I am so glad to have taken the step. I learned much more from the people with huge hearts than I was able to share. Each of them provides the hope for all children in their country.

We’re hoping that the work Lindsay and I started this summer will continue from a distance by sending packages of materials and supplies. If you’d like to contribute arts supplies, pencils, pens, books or other items please email me at And, Lindsay and I hope that some of you reading this blog post, who are teachers or teaching artists, will consider a trip next summer to continue the work. If not an educator there is other volunteer work you can engage in. Please email me if you might be interested.

Laying out the quilts, getting ready to sew on the treadle machine.

Laying out the quilts, getting ready to sew on the treadle machine. Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck



Gallery walk to provide feedback on each others artwork.



Mr. Zima teaching patterns



Vivian working on a book cover. Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck



Kagwa printmaking Photo by Lindsay Pinchbeck


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