Posts Tagged ‘arts integration’


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


Arts Education and Malawi

July 26, 2016

Learning in an African country


11 of the 12 terrific teachers who participated

I just returned from an 18-day trip to Malawi. I traveled to Africa with the Go! Malawi program where I collaborated with Maine educator Lindsay Pinchbeck to work with 12 teachers from  Mpamilia, Pondani and, Katete Primary Schools incorporating arts education into their curriculum. Lindsay is the founder and director of Sweetland School in Hope – an arts integration school for learners, grades K-5. The founder of Go! Malawi, Janet Littlefield, is a former student of mine who went to Malawi in the 1980’s while in the Peace Corps. My experience was amazing and we learned much more than the teachers we were working with did. As many said to me before I left – this experience could change your life. Not only do I return a slightly difference person but with a new perspective on the day to day life that I live here in America.


Making hand prints while exploring ‘hopes and dreams’ – day 1 with the teachers

In a series of blog posts I will do my best to tell the story of those we met – teachers, children, Go! Malawi staff, and about the environment. We were in a location that felt like the top of the world. I watched the sunrise  each morning from the front porch of the building we slept in called “the castle”. It was an amazing site and several times I could see the curvature of the globe.

Along with Lindsay there were three other volunteers and Janet’s husband Bill. One volunteer was a 15-year old Hebron Academy student from China named Jasmine. She is an incredible photographer and is documenting some stories and photos of the Ntchisi HIV committee members. Laurie, a therapist from western Maine found joy in reading to young children and hopes to help establish a library. Meredith, a history teacher from Hebron Academy connected with teenagers while doing a photography project with them. They all made an important difference!


End of year ceremony at the Mpamilia Primary School

Between Lindsay and I we took over 3000 photos. I will include some in the blog posts since the images alone tell a story. The landscape (including the sky at all times of the day) and people are beautiful to capture – I hope you will be able to gather that from the images. It is winter in Malawi and we were there during the last two weeks of school.

The work that Lindsay and I started in the workshop with teachers will continue from a distance by sending packages every other month and in other ways. If you’d like to contribute arts supplies, books or other items please email me at Their classrooms have virtually no supplies or materials so anything you can send would be appreciated. As you unwrap your new materials when back at school or studio please consider contributing older ones. Thank you!

If you are interested in traveling to Malawi to work with teachers, perhaps next summer, please email me. It is a wonderful opportunity!


Amazing sunset!


In Today’s News

April 16, 2016

Clay mural artist in residency

photo 5Randy Fein just completed a clay mural with 187 fifth graders at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School entitled “Exploration”. The mural was unveiled as part of the school’s Science Discovery Night.

photo 3Each student created a 6 inch tile that became part of the mural which has become a permanent artwork in the school. Fein is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster located at THIS LINK. She said she is a life long amateur astronomer inspired by her Dad.

Read the entire article describing the work in the Times Record at THIS LINK.

photo 2

photo 1

photo 4


Brains on Fire Course

March 11, 2016

New England Institute for Teacher Education

EDAR 528 Brains on Fire: Rekindling Imagination in the Classroom, K-8. This course has been approved as one of four courses toward Gifted Talented endorsement 690 K-12 by the Maine Department of Education.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.49.52 AM

Catherine Ring, course instructor

This exciting arts integration course will explore the significant role the arts can play in learning. Educating gifted and talented learners will be included as a component of this study and we will also explore the latest research on the brain and creativity.

You will get to see examples of student learning through visual art, dance, music and drama; learn about the critical evidence of improved achievement in all subject areas by students who are regularly exposed to the arts; and participate in practical, hands-on arts integration lessons which can be used immediately in the classroom. Helpful resources, including books, videos, websites and lesson plans will be shared. Collaborative work between arts teachers and classroom teachers are encouraged. You will take away a renewed sense of confidence that you CAN make a difference in your classroom by making room for the arts, promoting engaged students through a rich learning culture.

The New England Institute honors the individual needs of teachers taking our classes, and you will create a self-designed course study with guidance from the instructor, using the wealth of materials provided to you, making the course relevant and immediately applicable to your classroom.

So join instructor, Catherine Ring,  in this wonderful opportunity to learn, create, network and grow in your ability to make your teaching and learning for your students even more dynamic and engaging.

CLICK HERE to learn more and to register.


Creativity of the Blue Dog

November 15, 2014

Jacques Rodrigue

IMG_1302While in New Orleans these past few days for the State Arts Agencies professional development institute participants had the opportunity to visit with Jacques Rodrigue in the George Rodrigue gallery. Jacques is the son of famed Blue Dog artist George Rodrigue whose foundation is making an incredible impact on Louisiana arts education. In this TEDx Jacques tells his story about how he has bypassed a career in law to work to help Louisiana education through arts-integration. Jacques traces his father’s artistic history in order to draw parallels between his own career path and how we have to prepare our students for a life full of unknown opportunities.

In the hotel where I was staying there are several large paintings by George in the lobby. What a treat!


Integrating Teaching Through the Arts

August 10, 2014

Lesley University2d3d1be6-2b92-48d7-827f-1d7fefa351c7Lindsay Pinchbeck is teaching this course at her center in Hope, Sweet Tree Arts. Lindsay collaborated with Barb Vinal at the Summit on Arts Education, July 29-August 1, to present a session on integration. You can read about it by clicking here.


Arts Integration Session: Summit

August 8, 2014
 An Introduction to Arts Integration
The session “An Introduction to Arts Integration” was provided for the participants at the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative Summit on Arts Education held July 29-August 1 at USM, Portland by Lindsay Pinchbeck and Barbara (Packeles) Vinal. Today’s post is information that they shared along with a plethora of resources  during the session. Both can be reached if you have questions by emailing them: Lindsay Barbara
It was GREAT to have both Barb and Lindsay participate in the Summit. They have areas of expertise that the Summit participants benefited greatly from! Thank you Lindsay and Barbara for joining the MAAI community and sharing your richness!

Lindsay Pinchbeck and Barbara (Packeles) Vinal Photo taken by Catherine Ring

About Lindsay Pinchbeck

Originally from Scotland Lindsay Pinchbeck came to Maine for her undergraduate degree. Lindsay has been teaching with and through the arts in a variety of settings for the past 15 years. Lindsay is now the director and founder of Sweet Tree Arts L3C, a community arts organization in Hope, ME. Pinchbeck gained her Masters in Education through Lesley University’s Creative Arts and Learning program. Creatively Lindsay works as a print maker and photographer. Lindsay believes the creative arts should be accessible to all. She encourages us to be active participants and keen observers with the hope of enriching our communities through the arts.

Collected ideas by Lindsay Pinchbeck

Arts integration brings the driving forces of the arts; story, drama, movement, poetry, visual thinking and music into our lives allowing us to deepen our knowledge as educators and to bring the feeling and emotion inherent in the arts into the curriculum. Further the creative process of Imagining, Creating, Critiquing, Exhibiting/ Performing allows students to retain their knowledge for life rather than just holding information for a test. We can also confidently say we are engaging in ‘21st century skills’ of communicating, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.

“It is ironic, but the enlargement of life through the arts is a powerful way to see what is lifelike. By making things larger than life or by recontextualizing them, reality, whichever it is, seems to be made more vivid…..The arts provide a platform for seeing things in ways other than they are normally seen. In so doing they help us wonder, ‘Why not?”. – Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

When you engage in the arts you cannot escape the emotive qualities and questions which arise. The question which continues to come to the forefront when deeply engaged in the arts is ‘Why Not?’ This questioning allows us to take risks, and engage in innovative ideas and practices which propel us to higher level thinking and allows us to move forward as a society as well as in our own personal growth.

“If no one changes the world it will stay as it is, if no one changes the play it will come to the same end as before.” Augusto Boal.

Integrating the arts in an arts curriculum is just as important as integrating the arts into a math or science curriculum, as we are better able to meet the needs of variable learners in our classroom. The perception that art is a special talent attainable by just a few limits the potential for rich experiences in our classrooms and daily lives. Just as every child can learn to read and understand mathematical concepts so every learner should be expected to ascertain the skills to draw, sing or move with confidence and proficiency. These are measurable and attainable skills as the MAAI has proven and encouraged, and we can better meet the standards and needs of our students when we have more ways to engage many learning styles present in our classroom. With all the research now available on the success of Arts integration the question should be why are we not making this a standard in our approach to classroom teaching?

Process and Product are equally important in art making, as Elliot Eisner states –

“ The phrase ‘work of art’ can have two meanings. It can refer to work of art, or it can refer to the work of art. The former refers to the product created, the latter to the process of creating it. Aesthetic experience can be secured at each location.”

The value of process and product reminds us we gain from action as well as from observation and experience. For example standing in a museum and experiencing a pulsating Mark Rothko painting or listening to live music allows us to have both personal and shared experiences allowing for new thinking.

Arts Integration nurtures the teacher – Arts integration is enriching and engaging for the teacher. When you apply the creative process to your classroom you too are communicating, collaborating and applying critical thinking skills.

Empathy and Human Connection is also an important element to consider when engaging in the arts. When we connect with others through non-verbal experiences we are likely to experience an emotive response which encourages our empathic awareness. The arts offers us new perspectives; The child you are struggling to reach through your own teaching/learning style may let you in when given an opportunity to express herself through poetry or drama, allowing you another avenue to support.

Thus Arts Integration uses the power of the arts to learn more about the people we work with, ourselves included. It is truly about the human connection and having many ways in which to engage and deepen our understanding. Seeing with fresh eyes, listening to stories, moving through space together, are the elements of the arts we as arts educators know in our core. The ability to risk, play, make mistakes and create, allows us to engage deeply with students and inspires creative classrooms and schools.

Recommended resources:


Jensen, E. (2001), Arts with the brain in Mind,

Robinson,K.(2011), Out of our Minds, UK, Capstone Publishers

Elliot Eisner, E (2002) The Arts and the Creation of Mind. New Haven, CT.

McLaren, K. (2013) The Art of Empathy, Boulder, CO: Sounds True

Powell,M.C. & Speiser V.M. (2005), The Arts, Education, and Social Change, Little signs of Hope, New York; Peter Lang Publishing.


Way, Brian. (1967) Development through Drama, London: Longman Group.

Gilbert, M. (1997) Creative dance for all ages. VA: National Dance Association.

Collins, B. (2005) The trouble with Poetry. New York, Random House.

Boal, A. (2002) Games for Actors and Non Actors, London, Routledge.

Hamilton and Weiss(2005) Children Tell Stories, New York: Owen Publishers

London, P. (1989) No More Second Hand Art, Boston, MA: Shambala.


About Barbara (Packales) Vinal

Barbara (Packales) Vinal – Hello! This year marks the end of my 23 years in the music classroom. I have taught music predominantly at the elementary level, a few years teaching high school and continue to teach piano privately. I spent 12 years in Maine teaching Elementary music in MSAD #11 – Gardiner; as a member of the DOE Learning Results Review Committee; and part of the Maine Music Educators Executive Board. In 2010 I moved to Raleigh, NC to continue to teach elementary music and also coach teachers in Technology Integration for the Wake County Public School System. I now am a Technology Integration Specialist full time. I also develop and teach online Fine Arts courses for LearnNC a division of the University of North Carolina.

Visual Art Assessment project by Barbara (Packales) Vinal

This project was done with Grade 5 but is adaptable to any grade level.

Driving Question: “How can I use technology to assess my artwork?”

Tools needed:

  • Any device that takes digital pictures.
  • PicCollage (available on any Smartphone, iOS device or Android device)
  • Digital voice recorder – (built in to a Smartphone or stand alone)
  • Web space for uploading finished product
  • Optional: QR code generator and reader

Similar ways to use this type of assessment by modifying the media (video with voice over)

  • Portfolio of various works/performances
  • Music Composition


Black History Performance Project

This project was done with Grade 5 but is adaptable to any grade level.

Driving Question: “How can I create content for a performance about Black


Tools needed:

  • Research medium (Discovery Education or guided Internet searches)
  • Word processing program; Google docs or DE Board Builder
  • Video camera
  • Optional: Google forms for assessment

All links and tools will be found at:

Twitter: @BarbVinal

Text or call: 919-607-6541


%d bloggers like this: