Posts Tagged ‘MALI’


MALI Teacher Leader Story: Kris Bisson

March 20, 2018

Music educator: Kris Bisson

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series of blog posts includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Kris for sharing your story!

Kristine (Kris) Bisson, Music Teacher and Chorus Director for Marshwood Middle School, grades 6, 7, and 8, in Eliot, Maine. She has been teaching a total of 16 years, all of them at Marshwood Middle School. Kris teaches 350 students throughout the school year in six classes: guitar/ukulele, piano, Composing Music, and three grade level Chorus classes (Grade Eight Chorus, Grade Seven Chorus, Grade Six Chorus)In addition, Kris offers several music classes as extra-curricular groups after school. These are always offered as multi-age ensembles open to all students and we have had students participate from grades four through twelve join us for Select Chorus Ensemble, Rock Band, Guitar/Ukulele Ensemble, Piano Class, and Songwriters Workshop.

A unique fact is that I taught here ten years, then had my maternity leave and decided to stay at home to raise my children. After nine years I returned to my position at Marshwood Middle and have been here since. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to return to the teaching position I have always loved. She also is very fortunate to teach my own two children in my music classes.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I absolutely love my profession. I love music and am reminded every day of why I love it. I have the amazing opportunity to share what I love with young people and help them embrace what they love about music, too. We do a lot of reflection in class: “Why did the composer choose this note? this rhythm? how would you sing this if you were really feeling these lyrics? how would you sing this differently?”

I love to personalize music making and music creating. Everyone can respond and it can be different to each and every person, and that is acceptable. This is personalization.

Every day we laugh, learn, make music, and work together to discover new things about ourselves. My favorite phrase in the classroom is, “Who else is having this much fun?”

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Personal expression is unique to the performing arts. Every day and every item of study should carry an aspect of how there is a human response. I try to establish an environment of trust and respect between teacher and students and foster this every day. We work together as a team and support each other. I remind my choruses that this is what an ensemble does: we work together.
  2. Passion is an important element in the classroom. Being able to explore music as an art means being able to share first-hand experiences and giving students that opportunity as well. When you create music you have a story to tell. Tell it!
  3. Taking time to process what we are learning has been a key part of reflection in learning. Taking time to listen and hear my students respond to what they are learning is important learning. Why are we learning this? How does this moment in our learning affect other areas of our lives? I strive to help students continue to think about music beyond our classroom walls.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Teaching performance-based classes (Choruses, creating compositions in Guitar, Piano, and Composing Music classes) can sometimes create some confusion around the subjective and objective qualities present. Authentic assessment has created a more objective and transparent method of demonstrating learning. Students can compare the rubrics we use with those similar in every class at our school. It validates the arts. It also provides measurement that can be effectively reached by various means. There are multiple pathways to learning, thus creating a broader spectrum of learning. This has been extremely rewarding to me as an educator and likewise, to my students.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

MALI has provided a generous amount of support and enrichment to my teaching career. Being able to collaborate and learn from highly motivated and skilled teaching artists and teacher leaders has awakened a new area of growth for me. It has reminded me of the risk I ask my students to make daily to try something new and take a leap of faith into the unknown. MALI has brought that desire to succeed closer to me and I carry this with me in my classroom.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Kate Smith and Kris at the summer institute, summer 2017

With the help of my extremely supportive husband and two amazingly awesome children I earned my Masters in Music Education at the University of Southern Maine last year. It was an incredibly busy four years, but everything I studied and researched and learned I have used directly in my teaching classroom. The best lesson from this has to be that while I was working on my Masters, my husband was working on his MBA and our children witnessed first-hand how dedicated we both were to our goals in our careers, in our studies, and with our family. From our example both of our children have expressed how valuable education is and I know they will always remember this.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?


  • I always make time for a student who wants to keep improving or delving deeper during lunch breaks or after school.
  • Researching new material or reading up about improving learning or my own teaching takes time.
  • Getting the word out to the newspapers or parents about the goings on of our trips, activities, and concerts takes time.
  • Sending out “I got caught being awesome!” emails to students and their families takes time.
  • Needing the sleep for the energy my job demands sometimes gets in the way, but is absolutely necessary time! 🙂

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

When I returned to classroom teaching after a nine year hiatus I hadn’t touched my resume, my certification had expired, and I hadn’t interviewed in nineteen years. I put my full effort into the entire process and committed myself fully. This took a great amount of work and I knew it was the absolute thing to do.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Love what you do. Love giving that thirst for knowledge to others. Love being with the age group you work with. There is no greater satisfaction than loving what you do and sharing and seeing that grow in others.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would love to start a music school that extends our learning for Marshwood students – and our surrounding community – giving scholarships to children and adults who want to learn beyond their classroom music experience and grow more music in their lives. Choruses, rock bands, jazz bands, and private lessons on instruments they love or haven’t even explored yet would be definite possibilities to so many people. Having intergenerational ensembles where the people you sit beside are sharing the same love of learning is an amazing experience for any human being. I attended small schools that did not have any band experiences and now I conduct four choruses and a Rock Band. The experience one learns in an ensemble is unique. Every person should experience being a member of a music ensemble.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

Kaitlin Young and Kris at the MALI summer institute, August 2017

I really hope I do not have any regrets. One of my favorite rewards of teaching is the surprise meeting with former students and their family members. I sincerely love finding out who they have become, where they are, and what they are doing. It means so much to know that they look back fondly on their learning in my classroom and have taken some of our learning with them in their pursuits. I can honestly say that I have made music, laughed, and learned every day and hope my students do, too. For this, I have no regrets.


Dance Education Funding

March 19, 2018

Grant deadline: Wednesday, May 2

AUGUSTA-April 12, 2017—Dance education changes lives, yet only 5 percent of all schools in Maine offer it. The Maine Arts Commission is offering a grant program for schools and teaching artists that seek to bridge this gap and bring the power of dance to more schools. Applicants may apply for awards up to $2,250. The deadline for this new program is Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

John Morris leading a session at the MALI Mega conference, spring 2017

This program was launched in 2016 and has successfully funded 4 dance education residency’s. Each will have a story included on this blog during this school year.

The first teaching artist to provide the residency with the assistance of these funds was veteran dance educator John Morris. “Creative movement is meant to allow students the ownership of their own uniqueness,” Morris said. “I give students the foundational movement to invent and explore their own movement, and I guide them through the process of making their own dances.”

John is also a member of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Design Team and works with the teaching artist leaders.

Funding for the dance education grant was made possible this year by several dance studios and two high schools who came together for a benefit performance in November, 2017.

Karen Montanaro leading a session at Hampden Academy, December 2017

The Maine Arts Commission is pairing eligible PK-12 school districts with teaching artists from the Arts Commission roster. The roster includes 16 dancers.

“We are extremely appreciative of these contributions and the impact they will have on dance education in Maine,” said Julie Richard the Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. “There are so few dance education programs in our state and this is one important way we can make a difference to the students that we serve.”

If you’re a PK-12 educator or teaching artist looking to introduce students to the power of dance education, the Arts Commission encourages reviewing the grant guidelines and application criteria before applying for the May 2 deadline. The top qualifying schools selected will be eligible for the next funding cycle from September 1, 2018 through March 30, 2019.

For information visit the the grants and the teaching artist roster webpages at

For questions regarding the grants or current teaching roster, contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education,



New England Institute Courses

March 18, 2018

Encountering the Arts, Music assessment, G/T 

  • Encountering the Arts: Choice, Voice and Creativity, (hybrid) taught by Lindsay Pinchbeck – April 7 to June 9, 4.5 CEUs
  • Assessment in the Music Classroom, (online) taught by music educator, Jake Sturtevant – April 2 to June 11, 4.5 CEUs
  • Educating Gifted & Talented Learners, (online) taught by Grace Jacobs – April 2 to June 18, 4.5 CEUs

Encountering the Arts: Choice, Voice and Creativity – April 7 to June 9

You can join Lindsay Pinchbeck, MALI Design Team member, in her very own school, Sweetland School in Hope, and learn some wonderful strategies to incorporate into your classroom right away. Sweetland School is s a project based elementary program inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. Drama, Movement, Music, Poetry, Storytelling, and Visual Arts will be integrated across content areas: Math, Science, Social Studies, Reading and Writing.

Work with colleagues, build relationships, and ask questions of the professor, in person, for two Saturdays and have the convenience of doing the rest of the coursework online. Encountering the Arts: Choice, Voice and Creativity is one such hybrid course.

Assessment in the Music Classroom – April 2 to June 11

This online course taught by music educator and MALI Design Team member Jake Sturtevant provides looking closely at assessment practices through a collaborative and fine-tuned lens. It can provide unique opportunities for growth. Connecting new assessment practices to instruction can bring exciting changes to how we approach our students and their learning.

Participants will discuss how best to apply recent music assessment work to their own unique situations in their own school music programs. This will lead them to create a personalized plan for implementing new strategies. Assessment in the Music Classroom will provide a great opportunity to look closely at assessment practices.

Educating Gifted & Talented Learners

This introductory course provides foundational information relating to the field of gifted and talented education (i.e. history, laws, etc.), details characteristics of gifted students from various populations, describes how such students are identified and assessed, and presents up-to-date, research-based pedagogy relating to curriculum design and instruction.

It may be applied toward the 690 (Gifted & Talented) endorsement for the State of Maine teachers. Join Grace Jacobs for this Educating Gifted & Talented Learners online course.

If you have questions contact Catherine Ring, Executive Director, New England Institute for Teacher Education.


MALI Winter Retreat

March 14, 2018

Amazing opportunity to learn and exchange

Winter Retreat participants. photo credit: Chris Pinchbeck

Thirty Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders met last Saturday for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) winter retreat. It was a great opportunity to gather with friends and colleagues from across Maine.


    • To provide an opportunity for the MALI community to come together to listen to and learn from each other
    • To review the work that has taken place during the phase underway
    • To address ideas and the latest topics in education/research and respond to timely issues relevant to Maine teachers
    • To provide information and/or context for participants 
    • To consider topics for the next phase of MALI

We accomplished the above and a whole lot more. There is nothing that compares to coming together with visual and performing arts teachers who have so much in common. So many topics to discuss and listen to what each person has to offer. “Getting off our islands” and coming together with “our community” on a winter day in March is refreshing!

The agenda was filled with art making from the Growth Mindset opening session to the finishing session that concluded with a meditative heart exercise.


  • Growth Mindset review and revisit with Lindsay Pinchbeck
  • MALI This We Believe statements review
  • MALI collaboration with art teacher Hope Lord and music teacher Dorie Tripp
  • Ukulele’s with music teacher Kate Smith
  • Update on Proficiency Based from Department of Education Diana Doiron
  • Looking ahead and considering ideas for Phase 8

If you are considering applying to be a Teacher Leader or a Teaching Artist Leader for MALI in Phase 8, please send an email to me – stating your interest. Applications will be available in May 2018.


MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Brian Evans Jones

March 13, 2018

Teaching Artist – Poet

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Brian for sharing your story! Learn more about Brian at his WEBSITE.

Brian Evans-Jones is mainly a poet these days but also does creative writing. Brian has been teaching since 2005 and doesn’t have a favorite grade or age to teach. “They all offer something different and wonderful. I like to teach by excitement and discovery. I want students to be excited about the idea of writing before they begin, and then to discover what they’re capable of while they actually do it. I want the whole experience to be fun—though also serious fun, the way that kids’ games can be serious.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

That’s a hard question! I guess first of all because I get to see a lot of different ages and types of students, and touch a lot of different lives. Lately I’ve also realized it’s because I get to partner with many wonderful great teachers and teaching artists. And on a personal level, I like the flexibility: I could never see myself being happy in a regular job! 

Brian at Hermon High School, November 2017

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful arts education?

Thinking about creativity in general, I might say:

  • To be supported to take risks
  • To feel OK about failure
  • To learn the unique habits and (wholesome) props that scaffold your own personal creative process.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

Not being a regular teacher, I don’t often think about “Assessment.” But I do constantly assess how the class is going, how students and I are bonding, how well I am generating enthusiasm, how well my instructions are being understood and used, how well balanced my activities are between support and openness, how much effort students are putting in, how much they seem to be learning, and how keen they are to keep working. I can’t imagine teaching a class without monitoring those things constantly, and many more, but I don’t formalize them. I do frequently use the SWOT framework to assess how I think a class went and plan for the next one, though.

Brian at Hermon High School facilitating a workshop to help guide students working on Poetry Out Loud

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

People! Meeting cool people who do similar things and make me feel encouraged. Also getting to work on specific projects in partnership with other MALI people, like Kris Bisson, Lindsay Pinchbeck, and Tim Christensen.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

As an artist: winning the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers.

As a teaching artist: the fact that I do this at all, having jumped into the financial and professional unknown in order to do it. Also some big residencies I have run or am running, like working with 80 second graders for 2 weeks in South Berwick, ME, and leading a team of 4 TAs on a poetry residency with the 8th grade at Wells Junior High School.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

Isolation, which makes me less likely to find more work, and makes it harder to plan great classes. Collaboration and MALI connections work against this.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Leaving my role as a high school teacher, which didn’t suit me, to piece together a patchwork career, including being a teaching artist. It happened because I sought out any opportunities I could to get experience in the right areas.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

See the previous answer! Plus also:

  • Make connections
  • Take (some) chances—trust the creative process with your career just as you do when you’re making art. 

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Brian at the summer MALI institute leading a workshop on writing

That’ll be just enough to pay for college for my two kids by the time they’re ready to go, right? I wish I was even joking…

In a world where college didn’t cost so stupidly much, I would use the money to set up and fund a nonprofit to take poetry to places and people who need it but don’t get exposed to it: prisoners, the homeless, older adults, children in poorer areas, etc.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I should have ditched other work and done more teaching artist work sooner! It makes the most difference and is the most rewarding of the several things that I do.

NOTE: Brian traveled to Hermon High School and Van Buren District Secondary School in November 2017 to work with students with the Poetry Out Loud program that the Maine Arts Commission provides in collaboration with the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Brian is on the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster and is available to travel to schools and communities to provide poetry and creative writing instruction. 


MAC Teaching Artist Roster

February 15, 2018

7 new artists

Seven Maine Artists Added to Arts Commission’s Teaching Roster

Maine Arts Commission’s roster provides additional resources for teachers and schools

AUGUSTA, ME, February 8, 2018—The Maine Arts Commission is pleased to announce the addition of seven new artists to its online Teaching Artist Roster.  Selected by the Arts Commission through an application process, teaching artists provide greater access for teachers, schools, and community groups to area artists who are trained and knowledgeable in classroom requirements throughout Maine. The following teaching artists have been recently listed on the roster:

  • Nicole Cardano

    Nicole Cardano, an actress who teaches elementary and middle school improvisational skills as well as theatre productions and show choir. She lives in Seal Cove.

  • Emilia Dahlin, a musician who teaches students to explore literary devices in songwriting to create powerful imagery and foster a strong sense of authorship. Emilia resides in Gorham.
  • Rob Duquette, a musician and songwriter whose lessons teach themes of resilience, compassion, kindness, gratitude, and a sense of purpose. Rob is from York.
  • Emilia Dahlin

    Kal Elmore, a printmaker who collaborates with teachers to develop lessons that help students experience a new media, a new technique, and/or a different way of thinking about visual art. She is from Old Town.

  • Russell Kaback, a musician and a storyteller who writes songs that tell the story of his grandfather’s life as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.  Through lyrics and song, students make a lasting connection with the experience of a concentration camp survivor from the Nazi era to the present. Russell resides in South Portland.
  • Dana Legawiec, an actress whose recent teachings involve grade 3-5 students in mask, improvisational, physical theatre, and yoga. She is from Bowdoinham.
  • Rob Duquette

    Tom Luther, a musician who teaches piano and multimedia art. Tom applies traditional composition, improvisation, generative, and interactive techniques in his teaching, drawing freely from his experiences in numerous musical forms.  Tom is from Union.

“We are really proud of the learning opportunities that each artist on the roster provides to our schools and communities in Maine,” said Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at the Arts Commission.

In addition to overseeing the teaching artist roster along with many other arts education programs and services offered by the Arts

Kal Elmore

Commission, Argy organizes the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Mega-Regional Conferences. Maine educators from PK-higher education are invited to participate in this year’s professional development opportunity at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, Friday, March 23 at 8:30 – 3:15 p.m.  The workshop facilitators are Maine arts educators who will have dynamic ideas to share.

Since 2011, MALI has provided opportunities for hundreds of educators with inspirational workshops, presentations, and webinars at the school, district, regional, state, and national level. More information and event registration for the 2018 MALI Mega Regional is available here.

Russell Kaback

The Maine Arts Commission currently administers the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative as part of one of its five priorities, fostering PK-12 lifelong arts education programs, in its five-year cultural plan, Fortifying Maine’s Creativity & Culture. To learn more about any of the Maine Arts Commission’s arts education funding opportunities or programs, please contact Argy Nestor, Director of Arts Education at or 207/287-2713.

Dana Legaweic

Tom Luther

The Maine Arts Commission supports artists, art organizations, educators, policy makers, and community developers in advancing the arts in Maine. For more than 50 years the Commission has encouraged and stimulated public interest and participation in the cultural heritage and cultural programs of our state; has worked to expand the state’s cultural resources; and encouraged and assisted freedom of artistic expression for the well-being of the arts, to meet the needs and aspirations of persons in all parts of the state. Additional information is available at



Deep Learning with Pottery and Poetry

January 23, 2018

YEEHA at Sweetland School

What happens when a collaboration takes place with an arts integrated school and two teaching artists? MAGIC! I had the amazing opportunity to be present while young learners were engaged in connecting their learning through pottery and poetry.

Lindsay Pinchbeck, founder and director of the SweetLand School in Hope invited poet Brian Evans-Jones and potter Tim Christensen to create connected curriculum and learning for the school’s students.

Both Brian and Tim are on the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artists roster and are Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teaching Artist Leaders. Lindsay is a member of the MALI Design Team and started her school three years ago.

This blog post combines the background information with the participants responses, observations, learnings, and feelings.

The Sweetland School recently had the good fortune of a residency with ceramist Tim and poet Brian. Both artists wove together a program sharing passion and skill in poetry and clay with the children. They created work that knocked all our socks off. Magic was the word tumbling off our tongues this week. For the teachers of Sweetland it was a wonderful opportunity to see the children with fresh eyes.

Brian shared a style of poetry called the Anaphora, with repeated lines. He pushed the children to apply real and imaginary content into their poems. He helped the children generate ideas and then edit and refine their poetry. His goal was to support each child to make a 5 line poem, they all generated much more work. I observed writing, reading, sharing, helping one another, public speaking, laughter and pure joy as the children created and shared their work. 

Tim worked in the studio over 4 days with the children to create 5 or so place settings – cups, plates, bowls, even forks and spoons were created.  The children took their lines of poetry and added the words from the poetry workshop along with images to each piece. Stories of travel and adventure, wove through their clay making experiences as Tim led the children forward in their pottery explorations.  

Children’s conversations:

  • “I know what you find in the magical misty woods!” “A smiling carrot.” 
  • “What do you do when you don’t know what to draw?” Tim “I make a mark and see where it takes me.” 
  • “You know what I have to say about this – It’s really hard but incredibly fun.”  

This week I observed a community of learners drive their learning forward. They advocated for what they needed, supported one another, weren’t afraid to ask questions and were giving and thoughtful hosts with our visiting artists. We saw the children at their best, staying focused for long 2 hours sessions in detailed work and generating work they were proud of. The power of visiting artists to inspire cannot be underestimated. In this safe environment where the children have learned to be themselves and own their ideas they were able to fly with the support of professionals who are passionate about sharing the magic of the process and their craft.  We as a staff learned alongside the children and were a community of learners together. 

To say thank you at the end of their visit the children encircled Brian on Tuesday and Tim on Thursday and sang to both visiting artists. This has officially been termed “Sweetlanded,” by Tim and it’s a pretty magical experience. When all the pieces have been fired we plan to have a special celebration of the work  at the Hope Library. Thank you Brian and Tim! and a note of thanks to Argy Nestor and the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative where this collaborative residency was hatched. It was a magical experience. 

At the close of my two days teaching at Sweetland Arts School, the 12 children with whom I’d been working asked me to sit in the center of a rug. Standing around me, they joined hands and began to sing. The song was new to them, so there were a few stops and starts, but they got there in the end. This is what they sang to me, twice:

In this circle deep peace

In this circle no fear

In this circle Great Happiness

In this circle safety.

This moment felt completely, beautifully appropriate for my experience on the residency. It wasn’t just that the song used anaphora (repeated phrases) to create its structure, which was the technique I had helped them learn for the poems they wrote with me. It was that, through their song and their spontaneous desire to give it to me, they were teaching me something, as they and their school had done all residency.

During the previous two days, I had sometimes felt the opposite of deep peace, great happiness, and safety: I had feared that my whole work at the school was going awry. I am not now sure why I felt this way, except that panic and a feeling of ineluctable disaster are often a part of a creative process. But by the students’ continued steady efforts, and I suppose mine too, things had turned out right in the end. Their poems collectively were funny, tender, deeply personal, wildly inventive, and above all wonderful to hear all read out one after another, as they had just done.

When I sat in the middle of their voices, I knew that they had given me this moment to teach me that I need not have feared: if you keep working, wisely and with good heart, your projects will succeed.

So what I will take away from this residency is a feeling of gratitude, not for what I taught, but for what I learned. I learned that a vision, to create a school where the arts are not peripheral but central, can be made to happen, by Lindsay and her husband Chris. I learned that children who are skillfully supported to trust their own decision-making and imaginations can invent the most marvelous things, such as the spontaneous class play involving sheep and blades of grass that was scripted and performed by the grade 1-3 group, to illustrate concepts of division and remainders, based on a poem they’d made about the number 17. I learned that there is more scope in my own teaching to allow students to make their own choices about how they grow their writing. And I learned a little, just a little, about what can be achieved if we step back, let go of control, and trust the kids, the process, and the art.

Watching the children with these visiting artists has been both inspiring and illuminating. They brought their best selves to the work each day, and churned out pieces that are jaw-drop-worthy. One word comes to mind in particular when thinking about their manner throughout this residency: absorbed. Their attention never seemed to wander, their focus remained strong, and their process was steady. The visiting artists were strong guides that brought their wealth of experience effortlessly to the children, openly sharing and encouraging progress and process along the way. The response from the children was eager and positive; the energy of creativity filled the room and excitement and pride about their work bubbled up. It was tangible.
Watching the children thank the artists at the end, was perhaps, my favorite part. They circled around each artist, holding hands and sang them a song we sing here at Sweet Tree to celebrate birthdays. A song about creating safety, deep peace and great happiness. This was both instigated and carried out by the students as an offering of gratitude, creating moments that were as beautiful as the work they made this week.
For four days, I had the great pleasure to work at Sweetland School. The students wrote poems, working for two days with Brian, an award winning poet from South Berwick. They then created 5 functional pieces of pottery, on which they etched, using the sgraffito technique. Starting with individual lines of their poems, the young artists translated verbal language into visual language, creating a place setting which could be rearranged in different settings, making mix and match pottery poems. This exercise challenged the artists to formulate imagery that was as specific as their words: no mean feat! 
For the younger artists, some in the 7 year old range, making the leap from verbal to visual was a struggle, though they were able to write their poems on the pieces, and had a ton of fun creating useful, functional pieces. For the older artists, in the 10-12 year old range, the concept came easily, and their illustrations highlighted specific points in their poetry lines, illuminating their intent, adding focus and emphasis. All of the poems, read aloud during a sharing period at the end of Brian’s time at Sweetland, were insightful and important, the young poets finding their voice easily, conveying thought and emotion beautifully.
I was struck by the powerful way that the younger students looked up to the older cohort, striving to match them in the quality of their products. I was also struck by the kindness of the students, the emphasis on community, collaboration, sharing, and creative expression at Sweetland. Real learning and growing was evident at every step!
I could see the children’s minds work as they sat molding the clay and thinking about how to visually describe the words of their poems. It was incredibly inspiring and exciting to watch how naturally art meshed with all learning.
Thanks for sharing your very open and wonderful impressions. They are feelings I feel often and hope that others can experience too. That piece about being in the creative process and not know the road ahead or how we’ll get there is something that is so much a part of creative thinking and so scary for adults. It can be explored safely with the help of the children and I believe at the very heart of deep learning.
When we don’t know where we are going I think we are on the right track because doesn’t that mean we are learning something new?
Thank you all for trusting the process, believing in the arts and being able to stand back and see the magic the children have to offer, I think standing out of the way is sometimes the hardest thing to do.
Not only did this residency exemplify why bringing outstanding teaching artists into the environment is so important but that every one processed the learning so the value of it became clear.  A great big THANK YOU to Lindsay, Brian, Nina, Tim, Olivia, and the YOUNG LEARNERS for contributing to this blog post and for the great work they do every day as educators!
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