Posts Tagged ‘Thornton Academy’

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Dance Grant Series 3

February 11, 2017

Dance education funding – “Hopes for the Future”

This is the third of three blog posts included, February 9 – 11, describing the dance education residency that took place in December 2016 from a special grant called the “Hopes for the Future” funding. Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader and dance educator from Thornton Academy Emma Campbell collaborated and planted a seed and it grew into a dance education opportunity for Maine students. Thank you to John Morris, teaching artist and dancer for contributing this post. He describes the work that he did in MSAD #33 with the grant funding. Please note: funding will be available again during 2017. Please watch the blog and the Maine Arts Commission arts education list-serv for information.

A Teaching Artist’s Perspective

John Morris

John Morris

Thanks to a dance grant created by the Thornton Academy Dance Program and the Maine Arts Commission, in December of 2016 I conducted a week-long arts residency for MSAD #33, in Northern Aroostook County. My approach in working with students in dance is creative, student-centered and standards-based. I give students foundational movement tools to invent and explore their own movement, and I guide them through the process of making their own dances.

In collaboration with visual arts teacher Theresa Cerceo, I worked with a group of middle and high school students, and with S.L.A.M.!, the high school arts advocacy group directed by Ms. Cerceo, to create dances based on a theme of identity and community. The dances were shared during an end of week holiday performance put on at Wisdom Middle/High School.

img_4561During the week, I also worked with music classes at the elementary school in the district. Along with music teacher Charles Michaud, we explored connections between the elements of music and dance. In addition, I worked with Ms. Cerceo’s visual arts classes to explore the same theme of identity and community.

It was a full week working with every grade level, from Pre-K through grade six, to explore their class content in movement. The students created dances based on poems and visual art works they had made individually and as a group in the weeks before the residency. Their dances incorporated the elements of dance movement, including use of different shapes, change of speeds, and variation of high, middle and low levels. We worked together to structure their dances with clear beginnings, middles and endings. We also addressed the crucial life skills of collaborating with others, building confidence, and evaluating work – all in one class session.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-1-51-58-pmI encountered students in the elementary school at every age and developmental level who were eager to move, explore, and make connections to other content areas, including music, visual art and language arts. They were curious, inventive, and open to exploring the arts in a structured way to express their thoughts and feelings.

The middle and high school students, having more time together, were able to more deeply explore the dynamics of working collaboratively, the process of making artistic choices, and polishing artistic work for performance.

The week went by in a blur, and before I knew it, the performance (a full house!) was over, and I was making the long drive toward southern Maine. I felt both satisfied and inspired by the students’ work. What made this residency so successful? Three factors, which I believe are important for the success of any arts residency in the schools, stood out.

Planning and prep work in collaboration with the teacher

img_4610 Ms. Cerceo and I were in contact long before the residency began, brainstorming ideas together using a shared Google Doc that allowed us to work around our busy schedules. We arrived at a theme (identity and community) that would be timely for her students to explore in visual art and writing, and that I could work with easily in dance.

As the residency drew closer, we continued to share documents, trade emails, and supplement with a few timely online conference calls. Ms. Cerceo articulated her plan for exploring the theme with her students before my arrival. I shared an outline of how I would approach the theme in movement based on her work and the student samples she posted online. This step was critical, helping me to be ready with a flexible plan for each class, and know what to expect when I walked into each classroom.

Full support of the school administration

img_4641Ms. Cerceo maintained regular contact with her administrators about our plans. As a visiting teaching artist, it was both reassuring and freeing for me to know that I had their support. I felt free to fully engage with the students in the creative process of dance-making.

The administrators introduced themselves and welcomed me to their schools. The superintendent of schools in the district sat down with me early one morning before classes began to talk about the residency. The teachers I met expressed their support for the project, and turned out in force for the performance on Friday night.

 

Classroom culture

img_4570I could tell that the students were used to focusing on the process of structured creative exploration in their classes. Also, because their teachers had prepared them for my visit, they were excited and positive about our working together. One fourth grade student even sent me a video in advance, inviting me to create a dance with her!

This expectant, growth-oriented mindset set the tone for our time together, and was supported by the collaborative planning Ms. Cerceo and I did beforehand. The connections she and I found between our ways of working helped her to guide the students with confidence that my work with them would integrate with their classwork, and deepen their connections to the arts.

Thank you John Morris for providing this blog post and the work that you did before and during the dance education residency in MSAD #33. I am sure that the learning that you provided will be felt for the lifetime of those involved.

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Dance Grant Series 1

February 9, 2017

Dance education funding – “Hopes for the Future”

This is the first of three blog posts that will be included, February 9 – 11, describing the dance education residency that took place in December 2016 from a special grant called the “Hopes for the Future” funding. Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leader and dance educator from Thornton Academy Emma Campbell collaborated and planted a seed and it grew into a dance education opportunity for Maine students. Learn more from this series of posts. Please note: funding will be available again during 2017. Watch the blog and the Maine Arts Commission arts education list-serv for information.

img_4605In November of 2015 a collaborative performance was held at Thornton Academy in Saco. Two schools and five dance studios work together as part of the Community Dance Project to create the performance and raise funds to help establish a dance education grant. The “Hopes for the Future,” funding was available to schools/districts who have no dance education program in place during the school day. Applications were accepted with a handful of guidelines. Two of them being that the funding was to be used during the 2016-17 school year and a dance educator from the Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artist roster had to be selected to provide the artist residency.  The roster presently has 15 dance artists.

The funding was to be used as seed money so schools/districts would actually have a complete opportunity to experience the benefits of dance education for learners. In April 2016 the funding was awarded to MSAD #33, comprised of Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville and Wisdom Middle/High School in St. Agatha located in the northern most part of Aroostook County.  The district’s 240 students and teachers had the unique opportunity in December 2016 for dance educator/teaching artist John Morris to spend a week in their schools.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-2-00-25-pmI was thrilled to be able to travel to the County and visit the classrooms and see the students in action working with John Morris. Along with John worked closely with art teacher Theresa Cerceo and music teacher Charles Michaud to be sure that the learning opportunity was at an extremely high level. The preparation work that both teachers did before John arrived was evident. The 5 days were documented very well with photos, video footage, quotes from students and staff. It was obvious at the culminating performance on a chilly Friday night in St. Agatha that the opportunity exceeded the expectations.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-9-49-40-amDr. Fern Desjardins, Superintendent of Schools, MSAD #33 said the following:

“MSAD #33 had a unique opportunity to have a dance artist come to the District for a weeklong residency to introduce K-12 students to dance education as an art form.  I gratefully acknowledge Thornton Academy for their generous donation to the Maine Arts Commission to make the competitive grant, “Hopes for the Future” possible.  To bring dance to our rural area opened our students to a different way of expressing themselves by using a talent they may not have recognized or even considered.  This could have opened career options for some of our students who were not destined to seek a post-secondary college degree.  As I watched the closing performance of students at Wisdom Middle/High School’s Night of the Arts, I saw how dance artist John Morris had reached students of all academic abilities.  I was convinced I needed to make an effort to bring Mr. Morris back next spring for a follow-up residency.  He made it possible for a segment of our student population to really express their creative talents that are not otherwise discovered and displayed for our community to observe and truly appreciate – as they did on the evening of December 9, 2016.  The smiles, applause, and comments from the audience brought much pride to our little school.”

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-2-19-39-pmLisa Bernier Principal at the Dr. Levesque Elementary School, Frenchville said the following:

“Having Mr. Morris in MSAD# 33 was phenomenal for students.  Not all students will excel in sports.  The students who participated and benefited in the Dance Residency are students who have talents that would have remained hidden otherwise, especially at the high school level. Administrators and the community of MSAD# 33 believe in the arts and it’s ability to shape and mold the lives of all students. The residency solidified our belief.  We are also very lucky to have exceptional educators who care enough to go above and beyond to bring such activities to the district.”

Over the next 3 days you will have the chance to read more posts that explain the details of the dance education residency. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me at argy.nestor@maine.gov.

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MSAD #33 Dance Residency

December 12, 2016

Wisdom Middle/High School and Dr. Levesque Elementary School

Students practicing their dance

Students practicing their dance

A week long dance education opportunity last week culminated on Friday evening with a performance at the Wisdom Middle/High School. The Winter Arts Evening included dance, music and visual art and was absolutely wonderful. With standing room only the school was filled with excited and proud parents, siblings, school staff members and other community members! The students outstanding performance brought smiles and some tears to their faces.

It was an amazing week for the students in MSAD #33 at the Wisdom Middle/High School and the Dr. Levesque Elementary Schools. All students had the opportunity to work with dance teaching artist John Morris thanks to funding provided by a benefit performance that took place in November 2015 at the Thornton Academy in Saco. Dance educator Emma Campbell coordinated the effort along with 9 other dance programs.

John working with kindergarten class

John working with kindergarten class

The grant was written by Theresa Cerceo, art teacher from MSAD #33 and John Morris. The dance unit connected with visual art, music, and dance and took place as part of the art and music curriculum. Charles Michaud is the district music teacher who participated as well. Students learned about the similarities and differences of the 3 arts disciplines. Students made art, music, and writings and responded to it through dance.

I was fortunate to be able to be in the County for part of the week and was thrilled to have the chance to see the work up close. The impact on students was enormous.

Theresa and Charles

Theresa and Charles

There will be a series of blog posts in the near future so you can learn more about the success in MSAD #33. Thanks to another generous donation from a dance performance at Thornton Academy in November 2016, the Maine Arts Commission will be offering another dance education grant for Maine schools/districts to apply for. Watch the blog this Winter for the posts and the announcement about the grant coming in early Spring.

One of the dances created and performed was depicting senior Jasmine M. DeMoranville’s poem.

Art

Pencil to paer
Brush to board
Glare at the table
Find the word

Something’s wrong
The paper’s off
The board is breaking
In your head there’s a gong
What is it that’s wrong?
Think again

A thought is forming
Words are swarming
Something’s off
The paper’s warning

Eyes are straining
Brain is whirring
Thoughts are becoming broken
Fingers twitch to find a token
What is wrong?

Disavow
Break through
Broken voice
Say thank you

Tone is flat
Face is hard to look at
Once distracted
Fall to the wrong format

The alley is dark
Nothing is visible
Plain as bark
See it flicker
Was that a spark?

The world is screaming
Ears are bleeding
Something wrong
Think through the noise.

The thought is sudden
Stunned and broken
But it’s there

The screaming is louder
Distracting
Attention pulling
Words are clear and blurry
Think harder
Think deeper

Answers drip from mind to tongue
Still unclear
Find the words

It drifts away
Grab it!
Color
Emotion
Shadow

Noise stops
Clarity settles
Words settle on fingertips
Art

A whisper on the breeze
I need it

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Big Fun Friday

November 21, 2016

What a day!

I had the pleasure of participating in three very different events last Friday. The STEM Summit, the 3-day reading of Moby Dick, and an amazing dance performance at Thornton Academy.

STEM SUMMIT

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-04-05-pmMy morning started at Colby College at the STEM Summit “Building Bridges: Developing Partnerships to Build Capacity for STEM Education in Maine”. I was a member of a panel including Lindsey Pinchbeck, SweetTree Arts; Brett Elwell, EverFi; Hannah Walden, Maine Central Institute; Kate Cook Whitt, Thomas College; and Eva Szillery, Maine Mathematics Science and Engineering Talent Search. The session was called “Addressing STEM From Differing Perspectives for Students” and below is the description. I had the chance to share some of the amazing Maine arts educators work happening in STEAM in Maine!!

Designing engaging STEM learning experiences cannot be done through one-size-fits all approaches. This panel showcases the wide variety of ways learners can access STEM, through the arts, sports, coding, and others. Learn about the opportunities that are available to Maine’s teachers and how you can participate in these innovative approaches to STEM learning and teaching.

Irwin Gratz

Irwin Gratz

PORTLAND MUSEUM OF ART

From there I headed south to the Portland Museum of Art to participate in the three-day non-stop reading of the classic Moby Dick. It was fun and a fairly intense experience. We had to read from the book that they provided. For those of you who have read the book the language can be challenging and the sentences a mile long. It has been some time since I read to my own sons or my middle school students so reading out loud felt like a new experience. By the end my eyes were bouncing!

Interestingly enough, from PBS radio, Irwin Gratz read not to long before my scheduled 10 minutes. And, not long after me Julie Richard read. What I loved most but wasn’t able to appreciate it (since I was looking down to follow along in the book) was behind the reader on the large screen were rotating images of a graphic novel of Moby Dick.

FALL INTO DANCE

img_4394My last stop of the day was at Thornton Academy in Saco for the Fall Into Dance concert. Participating schools: Thornton Academy, Berwick Academy, Studio for the Living Arts, Collective Motion, Community Dance Project, New England Dance Project. Last years performance raised $2,650 and the funding was awarded to MSAD #33 for a dance education residency which will take place in two weeks. I was stunned when I read on the giant check the amount of $3575.00. Look for the information in the future and begin conversations with your colleagues about possibilities of having a teaching artist at your school next school year.

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Announcing the amount of $3575.00 being given to the Maine Arts Commission to disperse as a dance education grant.

 

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Dance Education Grant Opportunity

January 19, 2016

Does Your School Have Rhythm but No Dance?

Photo taken by David Hanright

Photo taken by David Hanright

Through the combined efforts of eight dance schools and studios, and the Maine Arts Commission, a unique grant offering has been created. Any PK-12 school without a dance education program is eligible to apply for this one-time grant of $2,650. The award will help fund a dance program taught by an artist from the Maine Arts Commission’s TEACHING ARTIST ROSTER. The deadline for applications is March 4 and guidelines for the grant can be found on the Arts Commission WEBSITE.

Photo taken by Benjamin Nasse

Photo taken by Benjamin Nasse

Only a small number of dance educations programs are offered in Maine and a group of teachers saw an opportunity to help a school in need. Thornton Academy dance instructor and Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader Emma Arenstam Campbell said: “I strongly believe in the value that dance can bring to a students educational experience and I want to help support students who may not otherwise receive any formal dance instruction.  As a 9-12 dance educator I see the positive impact dance has on both student achievement and school culture.  It was a joyful undertaking to produce this event knowing that the funds will be directly supporting dance education in Maine.” The collaboration worked to fund and create this grant, which will bring high-quality dance instruction to a school without dance instruction in place. This opportunity is open to all grade levels to fund a program which would be taught between April 15 and December 30, 2016.

Photo taken by Benjamin Nasse

Photo taken by Benjamin Nasse

The Maine Artc Commission sees this as a potential model for funding similar programs in other arts disciplines. “The collaboration between Thornton and its partner dance schools reached out to the Commission when they realized they could benefit a school from across the state,” state Julie Richard, Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission, “Their generosity is exemplary and we are thrilled to be offering this grant.”

To learn more about the agency’s PK-12 Teaching Artist program or how to develop a grant like this one, contact Argy Nestor at argy.nestor@maine.gov or 207-287-2713.

Photo by David Hanright

Photo by David Hanright

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Thornton Academy Dance Performance

November 18, 2015

Fall Into Dance

fallposterFriday, November 20 Thornton Academy in Saco is hosting the ‘Fall Into Dance’ showcase. The showcase will represent work from 11 different dance studios and schools from around Southern and Central Maine. Proceeds from the event will directly support the offering of a grant by the Maine Arts Commission for dance education in Maine. Please join us for a night celebrating dance education and performance in Maine! Bates Dance Festival Associate Director Meredith Lyons will also be in attendance promoting the festival and encouraging Maine students to apply!

Tickets are 10.00 for all seats and can be purchased at: https://squareup.com/market/community-dance-project/fall-showcase-tickets

Doors open at 6:15 with a 7PM start time-duration approximately 2 hours. I hope you will support the students in providing this opportunity for other Maine students.

A great big thank you to dance educator and Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leader, Emma Arenstam Campbell for approaching the Maine Arts Commission and making this opportunity available. Stay tuned dance educators for information in the near future about this opportunity.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Emma Arenstam Campbell

March 17, 2015

MAAI Teacher Leader series

This is the fifth blog post for 2015 on the Phase 4 Maine Arts Assessment Initiative’s (MAAI) Teacher Leaders sharing their stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others. You can learn more about MAAI at http://mainearts.maine.gov/Pages/Education/MAAI# and learn more about all 61 of the MAAI Teacher Leaders at http://www.maineartsassessment.com/#!teacher-leaders/c1qxk.

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Emma Arenstam-Campbell

Emma Arenstam-Campbell teaches dance to students in grades 9-12 at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. This is Emma’s 4th year working at the school. She has 200 students in 6 classes. She also co-directs the spring musical and is the junior class advisor. She attended Bates College where she studied Dance and Anthropology and is currently a masters degree student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Arts Administration.

What do you like best about being a dance educator?

My favorite part about teaching is the lessons that I am able to share with my students. My main role is to guide students towards a lifelong appreciation for the arts. If they become a talented dancer along the way that’s great but that isn’t my first priority, especially having 200 students from all different backgrounds.

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

  1. Share what you love, what you like, and what you hate. Help students develop their own aesthetic.
  2. Art is not a competition- make sure that your students know that the only person who they should be competing against is themselves.
  3. Be patient! The lesson might not go as planned and that is OK.  Exploration is the lesson as much as the content.

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

Assessment has allowed me to validate and advocate for what happens in my classroom.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

The Maine Arts Assessment Initiative has transformed the way in which I think about my personal assessment as well as the assessment for dance classrooms in general. I have always been a lone star in professional development opportunities as the classroom dance teacher is an uncommon profession in Maine. Becoming a part of this group of amazing teachers has allowed me to connect with educators in a similar capacity and share teaching excellence.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The thing that really invokes a sense of accomplishment is when I see a student have an ‘a-ha’ moment- finally understanding something as a result of THEIR hard work. This can happen in many different ways, but these are the moments when I know that I am in the right profession.

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

My number one barrier is time. I am trying to reach a huge group of students as the sole dance teacher in my school. I try my best and often times work with students outside of school in order to try to connect with them on an individual level.

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

Growing my program from 75 dancers to over 200. I recruited students who never thought they could dance but were very interested in exploring their creativity through movement. I really try to make dance accessible and not exclusive.

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

Patience and flexibility are the two most important things that I attribute to those days when I feel like I am really ‘on’ as a teacher. As we know the ways in which students learn vary from student to student and day to day to the ability to roll with the punches has saved me from flopping in some more challenging lessons.

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

Open a dance school that offers subsidized tuition to students who could not otherwise afford it. This is a dream of mine.

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

I hope nothing! My hope is that I will have a fruitful career advocating for dance in any capacity that I am able.

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