Arts In Your Classroom Goes COMMON CORE

On April 1st (no foolin’), the Santa Clara County Office of Education hosted the 11th Annual Arts In Your Classroom Conference.   

This year’s conference focused heavily on the integration of the arts into the new Common Core State Standards, or rather the core and how it supports the arts.

The evening began with an engaging keynote by CreaTV‘s Executive Director, Suzanne St John Crane. From there, the close to 100 participants were engaged in their chosen two-hour hands-on arts activity, ranging from theatre to digital arts and visual arts to design integration.  

Most impressive was the team from Youth Speaks that closed out the night’s event and held captive an audience who was more than impressed with their work and wanting more from their presentations. Special thanks to Arts In Your Classroom partners, San Jose State University’s Lurie College of Education and the Montalvo Arts Center.   

Traveling Arts Exhibits

The Young Artist Showcase, now in its 17th year, has a collection of more than 600 pieces of permanent artwork. And much of that artwork is housed at the Santa Clara County Office of Education…but not all of it.   

Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is the home to a special collection of animal-based drawings and paintings. But we also have many of the pieces of our collection out in businesses and legislative offices.

Assemblymember Paul Fong just moved into his new offices so it was the perfect time to jazz up his walls with art by county students, particularly those in his jurisdiction.

Many other legislators and city halls have our Young Artist Showcase artwork on display. If you know of an office that might be good to host our artwork on a temporary basis (3-12 months), please track us down.  

County Arts Network visits Stipe Elementary

The County Arts Network, a team of district and site administrators focused on arts instruction, visited Stipe Elementary School on Friday, March 22nd for its quarterly meeting. This meeting focused on low/no cost arts offerings by non-profits in the Santa Clara County whose mission is to provide arts experiences for students.   

Led by Principal Jenay Kiddoo, 4th grade students performed their recorders for us. Although not the holidays, their rendition of “Jingle Bells” was very much in tune and energized. What was most impressive with the student performers was that they could play without adult oversight….ready to go and focused on listening carefully and playing for an audience of adults who were eating up their energy!   

Great job, Stipe Elementary. The Oak Grove School District continues to be a model district for its district-wide emphasis on the arts.

Joseph George Middle and a Taste of Theatre

On March 21st, a select group of teachers at Joseph George Middle School in San Jose’s Alum Rock School District participated in a special professional development session. An arts-focused middle school, George has had many trainings in recent years to help teachers infuse more arts into core subjects and engage students in effective ways.     

Caitlin Johnston spent an hour and a half with teachers in a very practical presentation. They started with elements of stories that transcend all subjects. Collaborative story building with different segments can apply to language arts but also in steps of completing math problems or chronicling the steps of a scientific process.

For example, if each student was responsible for telling the next part of a story with these sentence starters, imagine how many subjects could be addressed:

Once upon a time…

And then…

When suddenly…


And the moral of the story was…

The nice part about this type of activity is that it also reinforces the new Common Core State Standards. It requires students to follow the process of being a speaker and listener. It requires building upon the ideas of others. It highlights active listening and review, particularly if students were working on reviewing for a test. What is the process of reducing fractions? division with remainders? the water cycle?   

Great connections in theatre to all subjects when deliberate thought is involved. Wouldn’t you agree?

Teachable Moments in the Arts

Some of the most powerful lessons are never planned. They are those unplanned moments that happen between the goals and objectives of the lesson. They are the unpredictable and often overlooked opportunities inherent in the process of creating art.     

Artists benefit from an inner dialogue in the process of creating art that gives rise to possibilities for unintended learning. The free expression of imagination where anything is possible leads to innovative thought and ingenuity. Resourcefulness and creative solutions to problems offer rehearsal for real world understanding. Something as simple as making a color choice can empower even the most reluctant learner to take initiative and ownership of learning.

Once students determine they are finished with their artwork the process is shared. Further understanding from exploring the choices and justifying decisions help the students learn about themselves and others. Comparing their process and the resulting art reinforces mutual respect and critical thinking. Subjective evaluation of art facilitates tolerance and understanding of differences.

In art there are no absolutes so it forces students to think globally. Celebrating similarities while respecting differences is practiced during the critique. Assigning competency to artists and encouraging them to learn not only from the results but also from the process is what art teaches best.  

* this article was submitted by Brande Barrett, Professional Expert in the arts for the Santa Clara County Office of Education and art teacher in the Oak Grove School District

After School Program Providers Release Their Inner Dragons – And More

So much fun!     

On Friday, March 15th afterschool program providers from organizations like the YMCA, YWCA, Catholic Charities and others organizations attended an all morning workshop at the Santa Clara County Office of Education to experience hands on art lessons from Artspiration’s on-line lesson plan resource, Artrageous. Two paint based art lessons resulted in works of art that seemingly came from trained artists. Hard to believe most had no art background at all! All they needed was the opportunity to release their inner artist, just like students need.

  Math and language arts common core standards first took the form of magical Chinese dragons. The group discussed their perceptions of dragons, from fire breathing, life threatening evil creatures to be feared to the good luck, royal, kind Chinese dragons.  

After looking at pictures and discussing patterns and characteristics of dragons, it was time to start creating. As people sketched and talked, discussions began to center around the dragon shapes that were emerging from the blank white paper. While watercolors were being applied, the dragons began taking on personalities and coming alive! Stories were being told without even being assigned. Language development in action!

Once drawing and painting the dragons was complete, their creators walked around the room and looked at each other’s work to find a dragon friend to be a presentation partner. As each dragon was presented to the group, its creator told something special about it, what they liked most about it and what they might do differently next time.  

Each dragon was absolutely beautiful and unique!

No less striking were the amazing paintings created next using only primary colors and black and white. After looking at pictures of flowers by Georgia O’Keefe and discussing how some of the tints and shades seen in her paintings could be recreated, the artists were ready to begin. Each had a palette with only red, yellow, blue, black and white. Experimenting with proportions to get desired colors came next. So much creativity followed! There were flowers, landscapes, a beautiful lighthouse scene, and – one of my favorites- an abstract painting called “magma”. Again, each painting had a unique story.   

Such a fun group to work with! Keep in mind that these were on the whole “non-artistic” adults. As people were leaving, I heard one person say she was going to give her painting to her mother and tell her to put it on the refrigerator! Another said, as he was theoretically leaving to go to work, “ I kinda just want to go home and do art!”

I am so excited for the children who will have these enthusiastic, creative people eager to have them “do art”!   

* article submitted by Sharon Dahnert, Professional Expert in the arts – Santa Clara County Office of Education



Using Poetry to Build Vocabulary

  “Like a painter uses pigments and a brush, a poet paints pictures with words. The more words the poet knows—the more colors she or he has to choose from—the more moving an artwork she or he can create.”

– Teacher to Teacher   

Featured below is the work of Erin Ito’s fourth grade class.  Their teacher was a participant in this year’s Academic Success Conference Professional Development Session Mosaic: The Poetry of Art and Language, Inspiring English  Language Learners’ Academic and Vocabulary Development through Visual Arts Skills Practices facilitated by Chernell Paige, professional expert for the SCCOE Artspiration program.    

Participants were instructed how to utilize the correlations between the key elements of poetry writing and visual arts skills practices to spark the creative process in children. Doing so can encourage the natural affinity children feel for creating rhymes and illustrating their ideas. With their 5 senses and every day life experiences children posses the necessary tools to begin this valuable process and develop academic language.   

Mrs. Ito’s class particularly enjoyed partaking in the skills practices featured in the session.  She led her class in a batik- style crayon and watercolor exercise in which the students used descriptive language to create poems about their hands.  As an additional artistic exercise, they traced their hands, embellishing their tracings with designs and patterns.

As a final step, the students overlaid their designs with a watercolor wash.  The result was outstanding and the experience, as one of her students stated, resulted in “ the best day ever”!





A Visit to Rancho Milpitas Middle School

Had the honor of touring Rancho Milpitas Middle School in the Milpitas Unified School District earlier this week in a California Distinguished School visit.    

And then I happened into the room of art teacher Jim Poulson. Yes, I could tell before walking in (from posters in the halls and the energy outside the door) that I was entering a place of greatness…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Just had to share some of the pics I took of his students’ creations. Every inch of space is used in the room, from ceiling….  

to walls….   

and elsewhere….

from designs to go on shirts and banners as the winners of the schoolwide logo competition…   

to cabinets where these pieces of engineering excellence (students had to design a functional item where the top could come off)….  

to an activity that many a teacher has used, but never like this…  

It’s teachers like Jim Poulson who give learning meaning, who make some classes on campus safe for all students to be creative and explore without needing a correct answer, and whose sense of humor keeps students on their toes every day. Congratulations Jim!

The Arts in the Common Core Era

On Monday of this week, the Santa Clara and Alameda County Offices of Education hosted a teacher and administrator training for more than 60 Bay Area educators. 

Ron Jessee, retired arts leader from the San Diego County Office of Education, started out the day with lines of communication. Attendees were lined up across from a partner and asked a series of questions, with each round of questions having each person on one side moving to his or her right so as to meet new people and engage in a different conversation.

From there, the 60 or so of us split up into 4 different groups based on our comfort levels with the new Common Core – and how much we knew.  This was a great lead into the discussion about the Common Core, presented by Carrie Roberts from the California Department of Education. Her overview of the Core and the ties with the arts was very beneficial to all attendees.  

The highlight of the day was a task completed in small groups. After briefly hearing about “autopoeitic systems,” each team was asked to used these systems to teach interdependence and interconnectedness. We started with cell drawings that morphed into other systems that could be described in the same terms as the cell. Our team chose an Academy Awards from the night before and a movie “system” superimposed on our cell, complete with a studio, director, editors, movie stars, audiences, producers, and the like. Others in the room chose a baking analogy (what parts are needed to make a carrot cake or a school system).   

I’m hoping to present this same activity this summer at our annual Common Core State Standards institute, otherwise known as our Curriculum Leadership Council. Its a great example of an interdisciplinary activity that reinforces all subject areas, based off the anchor – the arts.  

Great stuff!  

Assembly Resolution 12 – Check this out!

The California Alliance for Arts Education and the California State PTA are sponsoring ACR 12, a concurrent resolution honoring March as Arts Education Month. The resolution will be heard in the coming weeks in the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism & Internet MediaCommittee before passing on to the Assembly floor. You can read a copy of this inspired statement HERE.

Why are we sharing this information?

As an organization that helps to advocate for the arts, the Santa Clara County Office of Education likes to keep you up to date on relevant articles, bills and proposed legislation so you have information about them. We are neutral and do not endorse specific items. However, this is a resolution that acknowledges the importance of the arts, and that’s what we do….advocate with Artspiration for the arts.

Please write a letter in support of the resolution. As new legislators take office, critical decisions are being made that will impact the lives of California students. Arts Education month gives us an opportunity to communicate widespread support for arts education in our state.

HERE is a sample letter. If you believe the arts are important, please write a letter and fax that letter to:

The Honorable Ian Calderon
California State Assembly
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re:  ACR 12 (Calderon) Arts Education Month: March 2013

Letters should be faxed to Asm. Calderon at 916-319-2157.

The letters should have a cc as follows: cc:

* Ms. Jeanette Barnard, Consultant, Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports,Tourism & Internet Media Committee

* Mr. Jared Yoshiki, Consultant, Assembly Republican Caucus