Posts Tagged ‘Sweet Tree Arts’

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Argy’s Journey Continues

June 4, 2019

Walking down memory lane

What a joy it has been during the last few weeks to reflect at the 43 years of my educational pathway. I am fortunate to have selected a career that has provided learning experiences that have expanded my thinking and understanding of how individual learners learn and how we are part of a world of learning connections. I have met and worked (and played) with amazing educators from Maine and around the world.

NEXT STEPS

So, where am I headed next? I have many ideas of what I want to do but I’m going to start by building on the natural next steps.

  • I am working towards creating a fund for Maine arts educators and teaching artists to travel and learn. I’ve had amazing opportunities to travel and every one of them has influenced my creative thinking and doing. I want to support educators who have dreams to travel and learn. I know that when a person returns from traveling that it impacts the learning environment which has the potential to plant seeds and open doors for students. I’m working on the idea with big thinkers and funders. Once I work out the details I will ask you to contribute to the fund. If everyone gives a little we can build the fund more quickly.
  • I will be serving as the director of the middle school at Sweetland School, an arts integrated school in Hope. Lindsay Pinchbeck started the Reggio Emilia inspired school five years ago at the Sweet Tree Arts Center. I have served as an advisor to the school and am excited about the possibilities for the students entering middle school. I will support the teaching team and do some arts integrated teaching as well.
  • In 2016 Lindsay and I traveled to Mpamila Village in Malawi to provide teacher workshops on arts integration. Of course, I gained more than I offered and for the last 3 years continued to support the teachers with 8 other educators providing workshops. My work will go on with Go! Malawi, an organization in Maine that was started by a former student. In July 2020 we will guide the Mpamila teachers to create their own workshops to facilitate at a country wide conference.
  • Malawi led to the innovative work of HundrED and I will continue to share innovative work of the organization. I plan to return to Helsinki this fall for the summit and am especially excited about their Youth Ambassador program.

I will continue to blog through the summer on this blog and communicate with the Maine arts education list-serv about the progress of my work. Please communicate with me at meartsed@gmail.com or through the Maine Arts Education blog below.

WHERE I’VE BEEN 

Like anyone in education we know the paychecks aren’t huge but my life has been rich with opportunities. From the ‘ah-ha’ moments of an individual student’s accomplishment to the excitement of a teacher connecting with other educators and everything in between. When I was teaching every day one thing became clear – hanging out in a middle school art classroom was a continuous learning opportunity and I loved it. My students and colleagues taught me and helped grow my skills and passions as a human being. I received so much than I gave. Being part of an interdisciplinary teaching team where visual art was valued by others as much as I valued it was amazing! When I was recognized in 1995 as the Maine Teacher of the Year I realized how fortunate I was to be honored for such humbling work.

When I left my art room after 30 years it wasn’t easy, teaching was what I knew and loved. But the challenge helped me see more clearly that my mission as an educator was taking a turn. My own son said to me: “Mom, your classroom is just going to get a little larger.” And he was ‘spot on’ (as Rob Westerberg says) about that. Once I fully committed to the work at the state I realized that my “teacher lens” was to guide me. I knew what I needed and wanted as a teacher so I honored that and moved forward collaborating with others to make that happen. Visiting hundreds of arts classrooms in schools across the state was an incredible learning opportunity. The visits led to the 1200 member list-serv and daily communication on this blog.

I AM GRATEFUL

Along the way others continued to collaborate and provide support. I am soooo grateful for the many connections, some of which I mention below.

Carol Trimble

Carol Trimble who was the executive director of Maine Alliance for Arts Education (MAAE) was supportive from day one when I arrived at DOE. Together we brought back the state wide arts education conference and I helped with the first state wide arts education census and other MAAE projects. Carol was and continues to be an incredible mentor with a clear mind who can articulate ideas like no one I know.

Many of you remember David Patterson who sadly passed away from cancer in July 2014 at the age of 50. His wisdom and encouragement taught me to believe in the power of communication to form the community. He pushed, questioned, taught and encouraged me every step of the way. This blog wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for him.

Anne Kofler was the elementary art teacher who taught ‘downstairs’ while I taught middle school ‘upstairs’. She inspired me to go the extra mile and made me a better person in so many ways. She continued to support me, after I left the classroom, to take on the ‘big challenges’ and ‘lean in’. All the while herself, taking on cancer, which eventually took her away in May 2016. Her love for using her travels to inspire her students continues to impact me.

Catherine, myself, Rob

Catherine Ring and Rob Westerberg took a chance when I invited them to travel to NH in the summer of 2010 for the New England Institute on Assessment. I am so grateful that they did – I continue to learn from both of them! Together we created the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative (MAAI) by listening to the needs of the field, reviewing the research, brainstorming and planning. The first MAAI leadership team represented PreK-higher education and helped launch the idea without funding in place. There were tears in my eyes when I heard Jeff Beaudry say “we can sleep on the floor and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if we have to, there’s no turning back now.” And, launch we did with 18 amazing teacher leaders at Maine College of Art for the 4-day summer institute. At the end of the institute the teacher leaders made it clear that we weren’t moving into Phase 2 without a place for them.

Phase I Teacher Leaders

Since that first summer, the initiative has grown into a strong leadership program, influencing and inspiring, and the shift in assessment practices around the state took hold. When we traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Teach to Lead summit in August 2015 MAAI shifted to the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI). Teachers with high expectations for themselves and a passion for learning – teaching other teachers has been the foundation of the success. Educators willing to share their ideas, use research, build on their knowledge, and support the network has worked well for Maine. Title II funds helped to support the summer institutes, critical friend days, mega conferences, winter retreats, stipends for participants, and statewide conferences over the next several years. The partnerships and associations with the Maine visual and performing arts organizations and institutions has been an enormous part – too many to name all of them. Thank you all!

In 2013 i moved to the Maine Arts Commission and the work (and play) of MALI expanded to include teaching artists and community arts organizations. They have provided a broader view of arts education. We’ve all been enriched by their participation in MALI. Linking arms with the greater community of arts and arts education is another way to support learners of all ages in their educational paths. I am especially grateful to the 108 teacher leaders and teaching artist leaders who continue to do amazing work in arts education and as artists!

There are so many more individuals and organizations to thank but this blog post could go on for pages. The people I mentioned are ‘giants’ and every day I stand on their shoulders and fortunately continue to learn from them!

BEYOND MAINE

Throughout the 13 years at the state I’ve had many opportunities to connect with and learn from others outside of Maine. Presentations and workshops at regional and national conferences about MALI, serving in leadership roles with the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education and the State Arts Agency Arts Education Directors, and serving on the educational council of the Americans for the Arts have provided me ongoing chances to learn from others.

Mpamila teachers in Malawi

My work in Malawi has been amazing. I originally emailed a former student about her work with Go! Malawi and asked if she could use my skill set. From there the idea developed into creating arts integration workshops. I am forever grateful to Lindsay Pinchbeck who agreed to travel to Malawi in 2016. The collaboration that we’ve formed has influenced all parts of my life. She has definitely made me a better teacher, artist, and person. Spending 10 days providing arts integration workshops for the teachers in Mpamila Village opened my eyes to so much about the world. For the last 3 years we continue to support the teacher workshops and have had 8 educators use their expertise in Malawi. In addition we’ve sewn hundreds of dresses and pants for the children in Mpamila School. This work has taken place with friends, family, and colleagues from all over Maine and in other states across the country. I am so grateful to the many who continue to contribute by sewing and contributing to purchase the materials needed.

Malawi led to HundrED when our Malawi project was selected and Lindsay and I were named Ambassadors for the program. We traveled to Helsinki, Finland last November for the HundrED summit and met people from all over the world doing AMAZING work. The network is expanding and I encourage all of you to check out their site and consider applying to be an Innovator, deadline June 30.

CONTINUE – STAY IN TOUCH

I hope that our paths will continue to cross since my work in arts education will continue. Please feel free to reach out using my gmail address at meartsed@gmail.com. I will be blogging throughout the summer and perhaps beyond. Your work in arts education is critical to continue to make the world a better place. Thank you!

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Sustainability Festival

May 11, 2019

Sweet Tree Arts

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Story Slam

March 18, 2019

Sweetland Arts – Hope

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Everybody Loves a Good Story

October 11, 2018

Story Slam

Sweet Tree Arts in Hope presents “How I Got Here” – Story Slam! Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. Hosted by Hope Orchards located at 434 Camden Road in the big red barn. The doors open at 6:30 with pre-slam yummy apple pie and coffee. (Also served during the break). Tickets: $15 in advance and $17 at the door. PURCHASE TICKETS!

Kaitlin Young, 2018 Maine Teacher of the Year and music educator from SeDoMoCha School in Dover-Foxcroft will be one of the story tellers.

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Art and Yoga

June 24, 2018

Sweet Tree Arts – Hope

Interested in art and yoga? If so, Sweet Tree Arts Center in Hope is offering a class Art and Yoga Summer Adventure with Nina Devenney for children ages 6-12, July and August. For more info or to register CLICK HERE.


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The Barefoot Artist

February 5, 2018

The life and work of Lily Yeh

The documentary film by Glenn Holsten and Daniel Traub, The Barefoot Artist, will be shown on Thursday, February 8, 6:30 p.m., Sweet Tree Arts, Hope.

To read details below, click on the image.

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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.

FROM THE COLLECTIVE VOICES OF THOSE WHO PARTICIPATED
LINDSAY
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. 

BRIAN
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.

NINA
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.
TIM
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!
OLIVIA
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.
LINDSAY LAST WORDS
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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