From Binford to Brazil: University of Richmond program puts integrated learning to the test internationally

University of Richmond’s Partners in the Arts (PIA) program is expanding to an international audience this month.

Rob McAdams, interim director of PIA, will take the same arts integration model and teacher-training methods that twenty teachers from Binford Middle School in Richmond received during the summer to sixth and ninth-grade educators and students in Braco do Norte, Brazil.

“How we learn is universal and timeless,” said McAdams, who will travel to Brazil Oct. 11-25. “I believe the differences in language and cultures will actually enhance an integrated learning process.”

“Arts integration allows educators to discover how their students are curious and develop ways to differentiate their instruction to reach each student where and how they are as a learner,” he added.

This opportunity to work with teachers, artists and students in Brazil is funded by a travel grant provided by the U.S. State Department through Partners for the Americas Virginia-Santa Catarina chapter.

The PIA program is offered through Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies and provides arts integration training and project support to local teachers. Arts integration involves working with PreK-12 educators to engage and empower them with the tools to reach students by utilizing creativity in the classroom.


Storytelling in RVA

A guest post by Jane Crouse of the National Storytelling Network

We live in story like a fish lives in water. We swim through the words and images siphoning story through our minds the way fish siphons water through its gills. We cannot think without language, we cannot process experience without story. Christina Baldwin, StoryCatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story

The National Storytelling Network (NSN), based in Jonesborough, TN, brings together and supports individuals and organizations that use the power of story in all its forms. We advocate for the preservation and growth of the art of storytelling. With the theme of Story: Seed of Creativity, the 2013 National Storytelling Conference will be held in Richmond this year on August 1-4. The conference will examine and celebrate “the power of story in all its forms,” honoring our collective and diverse creativity through story. Plant a story seed, grow a dance, a film, a symphony, a video game…the possibilities are endless! Story is the foundation of all the arts, the seed of creativity. Storytelling is the root of film and theatre, dance and music, visual arts, and, of course, literature and the spoken-word tradition.

The annual conference provides opportunities for story practitioners to share and learn a myriad of ways in which the use of story can strengthen and transform communities and lives in the diverse fields of education, health care, historic and cultural preservation and business, to name a few. The Youth, Educators and Storytellers Alliance (YES!) pre-conference will be of particular interest to educators. The Alliance advocates for and offers support and resources in storytelling to mentors, educators and storytellers who work with young voices from early childhood through adolescence. Educators can integrate storytelling into reading, language arts, math, science and social studies while teaching the Virginia Standards of Learning.

Do you have a workshop or panel idea that explores the conference theme of Story: Seed of Creativity? If so, please consider submitting a proposal. The guidelines are available on the conference website, given above. The deadline for workshop proposal submission is November 15, 2012. Perhaps your interest leans more toward performance. Then you might consider applying for the NSN Conference Fringe, where you can present your most compelling, riskiest, experimental or work-in-progress storytelling.

Be part of the National Storytelling Conference this summer. Come discover that the shortest distance between two people is a story. Muriel Rukeyser said that ‘the universe is made of stories, not atoms.” A universe awaits you at the National Storytelling Conference. Come grow with us. We Grow Storyellers!

Plant the seed! Use Sandy time to submit a PIA Award LOI

Do you have any ideas for an arts integration project that you’ve always wanted to do in your classroom? Maybe there’s a little nugget or seed of a thought about bringing in your favorite artist to work with your students and colleagues in the back of your mind? The PIA Awards Letter of Intent(LOI) is a great opportunity to get that seed in the ground, and with 4-5″ of rain being dumped on us by Sandy over the next 24 hours or so, germination chances are high. The LOI deadline is December 7, 2012 and the New & Improved online application form makes it easier than ever to submit your proposal. PIA Awards range from $1500-$10,000 and support professional development, visiting artists, supplies and field trips. You can also schedule a FREE workshop for your school or interested team of teachers, and Liz or I will come out and help you turn that seed into a big ol’ tree of a transformative cross-curricular integrated project. So before you lose power and have to go back to school, check out the link above, get that seed in the ground and watch that tree grow.

Little nut coffee cup

One of my favorite coffee cups

59 Ninjas or Crouching Teacher, Hidden Art Forms

As a parent, I have never been a fan of hiding vegetables in other food to get my kids to eat healthy stuff. Yes it takes lots of work, patience and modeling, but the development of these beneficial lifelong habits is imperative and my job as a parent. The same is true of using the arts to teach core content. Dance, drawing, tableau, music, sculpture, etc., should not be pureed, diluted and sneaked into the curriculum in miniscule portions.

So here’s to the teachers that spent the first week of their summer vacation developing innovative, creative, and not-pureed curricula involving math, science, history and of course, the arts.

Congrats to the Joan Oates Institute class of 2012!
On the last day everyone struck an action pose for the group photo. Look for the movie, “59 Ninjas or Crouching Teacher, Hidden Art Forms,” soon to be posted to a online video site near you.

JOI Class of 2012 + Gerald

It was a great week of hard work, learning and fun. Our mascot became the paper giraffe made by Richmond Montessori School teachers in Noah Scalin’s Creativity workshop. The assignment: fill/use/draw/create something with the 100 circles you were given on ten sheets of 11×17 paper.

Gerald the Circle Giraffe

Wondering what to do with the integrated curriculum you have developed at the institute or on your own? Apply for a PIA Award to implement your ideas and bring in teaching artists to work with students and teachers in collaborative and transformational ways.


New to RVA!

  A guest post by Briana Blanchard

It’s dusk on West Broad Street and the sidewalks are packed. People are buzzing through crowded spaces laughing, chatting, musing. The enthusiasm in the air is unmistakable as Richmond’s cultural community gathers for its monthly ritual: First Fridays.

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, a place known more for its natural aesthetics than anything else. I then spent the last four years studying art history and public relations in sweet little Blacksburg, Virginia. Although I deeply love both my hometowns, I was ready for a change. I needed a place that was vibrant, exciting and full of energy. So I moved to Richmond. I was beginning to doubt my decision until I stepped out on Friday, September 7th. Despite spending years in every art gallery, art museum, and art lecture I could find, I had never experienced anything quite as engrossing as an entire street full of art and people who genuinely enjoyed experiencing it.

I began my exploration of the Richmond art world at 1708 Gallery. Everyone was chuckling over the refreshing wit of Naoko Wowsugi’s None of Your Business. The before and after photos sparked conversations among both friends and strangers, something I have always deeply admired and respected in contemporary art. From there I crossed the street to ADA Gallery, a venue with a distinctly younger vibe. The deviant, faceless figures of Yann Leto’s work left me wanting to know more about the local artist and his Circus Dancers. I then stepped into the substantial Gallery 5 and was greeted with the alternative sounds of Brother Wolf and their large group of followers swaying in unison. The former fire station has been expertly converted into a home for all forms of creativity with a fully functioning performance stage downstairs and a sophisticated loft-like gallery upstairs. I spotted everyone from young artists to mature visionaries discussing the comic art. The largest crowd formed around Mark Luetke’s Experimental Sequence 2, hundreds of prints mounted on square tiles to form a complex storyboard that seemed to play out in every direction. It perfectly balanced a sense of monumentality while remaining light, an accomplishment I never imagined was possible in comic art.

There isn’t a single gallery that can contain the energy of First Fridays. The enthusiasm spills out into the streets in the form of musicians, protesters, and performers. I even saw a man twirling balls of fire. There is something about fire that simultaneously enthralls and terrifies, so of course I stopped to stare. Standing there on Marshall Street in downtown Richmond thousands of miles from home, shoulder to shoulder with a diverse crowd of my peers and all I could think was ‘I’m definitely going to like it here.’

If you would like to write a guest post for the PIA blog, please contact us at

Phoetry and what PIA can do for you!

April is poetry month.  Can poetry survive in the 21st century?

I have pasted a paragraph, and provided the link below from a post by a former humanities teacher turned technology integration specialist.  There are many great resources in the link, but I wanted to point out the collaborative project she highlights and how it aligns with what we do at PIA.

Our mission is to integrate the arts across the curriculum.  Simply stated we do two things, provide teacher training and fund projects.

On the teacher training side, we’ll be holding our 17th annual week long, 3-credit summer institute, now the Joan Oates Institute,  June 27-July 1.  This institute is designed to give all educators the skills to use the arts in their classrooms through experiential workshops, field trips and great food.  Our Awards letter of intent deadline for the 2012-2013 school year will be in December.

The model is: Attend the Joan Oates Institute (JOI [joy]) with a team from your school, then take the knowledge you’ve gained and design a project like the one below.  Successful proposals incorporate teacher training, visiting artists and collaboration among a variety of your school’s classroom, art/music, or technology teachers.

This project stems from the vision of middle school teacher Natalie Bernasconi, who explains the steps: "Start with the support of the Central California Writing Project, then mix together a group of middle and high school teachers and students, add one very cool journalist / slam poet guest speaker and the Salinas Public Library to meet in, and you've got Teen Salinas Speaks."

Check out the whole post chock full of great resources at:

We’ll be covering most of the cool stuff she discusses at this year’s JOI in our Art and New Media workshops.  Using Voicethread, Phoetry projects and many more.


Alum of Mighty VCU

Go Rams!

Tomahawk Creek Middle School-thanks and congrats!

Thanks to the team at TCMS for letting me sit in on a Bluescreen in MovieMaker training session for their teachers.  Autumn Nabors, Coordinator for Instructional Leadership, gave me a great tour and Principal Jeff Ellick also was very generous with his time.

I was able to check out the Digital Book Jam prizes which Ms. Parson had just received.  One of her students’ digital book reports, “Yellow Star”, was a finalist.  Congrats on the great use of integrating arts with literature and technology.


Cleveland Arts Integration Partnerships

I recently traveled to sunny (briefly), warm (for them at 42), downtown Cleveland to help train teachers to use the Arts for Learning Graphic Story Adventures unit.  There is an excellent collaborative effort going on there called Art is Education which is a great model of full curricular integration of the arts.  Check out the “Our Model” tab and you’ll see an overview of their arts integration plan that trains teachers, brings in artists, involves the parents and represents how education should be.  Young Audiences of North East Ohio also has an “Arts integration lesson plan contest”, which we here at Partners are just flat-out going to copy.  Here are some of the previous winners.  It was a great trip and my hosts David and Kristan were generous, patient and kind as we navigated our way to dinner through Lakers vs Cavs traffic.  By the way the Cavaliers actually won that night, even without he-who-must-not-be named.


PIA Awards: Greenwood ES Learning Garden Progress

Update on Greenwood Elementary School’s Learning Garden: The clay (which is not mud) mural has colored underglaze on most of it and will be cut and fired soon.

I had a great time with the third grade class that was working with artist David Camden and art teacher Mrs. Slinkman.  As you can see by the music choice in the video it was a high speed YEEEE-HA type of day.

I was also struck by how little time students get to be creative and innovative.  Art teacher Anne-Marie Slinkman could have had those kids in there for a couple of hours and I know they would have learned not only a lot about art but biology as well.  Her side project for students not working on the mural was to create a bug, making sure that no matter how far-out and wild it was it had “what three components?”.  If you put a science teacher in with the art teacher and the visiting artist for more than a 45-minute block I guarantee they would not only reach, but surpass, any SOL goals.  Learning, learning creativity and 21st century skills are all…I’m going to stop here.

There is a lot of buzz about changing educational paradigms as seen in an animated version of Ken Robinson’s talk from February 2010, and maybe this multi-teacher, longer scheduling block is the beginning of the answer.  I will continue my learning diatribe in some other form and align it with gobs of research.

Until then enjoy the video update, notice the engagement of the students, the artist engaging both the group and individuals and see if you can spot the “bug” assignment instructions.