A Visit to Bronx Arts
This week I visited Bronx Charter School for the Arts in Hunts Point, a Bronx, NY, neighborhood. I was there to attend their Arts Education Conference, which coincided with the school's Arts Week. During our visit, the other conference attendees and I got to see the arts in action.
In this post, read about a few of the discoveries I made at the Arts Education Conference that might interest you, whether you're an arts educator or a classroom teacher. I’ve also included links so you can find out more.
Photo: Art gallery with aboriginal-style paintings.
When I entered his Bronx Arts classroom, Christopher, a 1st grader, introduced himself and shook my hand. As a conversation starter he added, “I have many talents. I’m talented at music, dance, skateboarding, and other things.” I was amazed and impressed by Christopher and his classmates' easy confidence and maturity. What great kids!
Like other elementary students, Bronx Arts children learn to read, write, and do math. What makes Bronx Arts special is that all students learn to play musical instruments, draw, sculpt, paint, dance, sing, and act, too. Bronx Arts’ teachers accept and nurture all students’ unique artistic talents.
There’s so much I learned about what school can be from Bronx Arts’ creative, joyous environment. Bronx Arts is a fabulous school!
Photo: Expectations are clearly spelled out.
Story Pirates is an improvisational comedy troupe that visits schools and uses improvisation as a vehicle for teaching creative writing. Then, on a later visit, Pirates select several student stories from the school they’re visiting and act them out on stage. Students don’t know whose stories will be selected until they are performed. Story Pirates is based in New York City and Los Angeles and travels to schools all over the U.S.
Photo: Story Pirates singing "Why Do I Do What the Dog Does?"
Visual Thinking Strategies
Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a simple yet powerful program that teaches higher order thinking in the context of observing works of art. At Bronx Arts, Visual Thinking Strategies are taught by classroom teachers who are neutral facilitators of animated student discussions.
The three main VTS questions a teacher asks as students observe a work of art are:
1. What’s happening here? What do you see?
2. How do you know? What tells you that? (evidence)
3. Is there anything else? What else do you see?
These simple questions prompt classroom discussions that last 20+ minutes.
Photo above: Giant bug drawings displayed on beams in the lobby.
Curriculum-Based Readers Theatre
Curriculum-Based Readers Theater is much more than just reading literature to build reading fluency. Curriculum-Based Readers Theater is built around curriculum content in social studies, science, or math. Original, content-filled scripts are written by students and teachers, and everyone in a class has a speaking part.
You can find out more by reading "Dramatizing the Content With Curriculum-Based Readers Theatre, Grades 6-12."
Photo: Bronx Arts Advanced Band in rehearsal.
Studio Thinking Framework: Eight Habits of Mind
At Bronx Arts, students follow Habits of Mind for Studio Artists. These eight habits of mind transfer easily to other curricula and to life. The eight Artist's Habits of Mind are Envision, Observe, Express, Stretch and Explore, Engage and Persist, Develop Craft, Reflect, and Understand Art World.
For more on this, read Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education by Lois Hetland, Ellen Winner, Shirley Veenema, and Kimberly M. Sheridan, a book that was recommended at the conference.
More Photos From Bronx Arts
Special thanks to Ann Ledo, director of arts, and her colleague, Kevin Pease, theater teacher, co-leaders of the Arts Education Conference.
Check the Bronx Arts Web site for details about their May 17 art auction.
Photo: School secretaries' desks and welcome area in lobby.
Photo: A surprise visit by a professional band at All-School Arts Celebration.