Category Archives: Profesional Development

Learning From Failure: A Conversation

Artist-Educator Ben Horvat working on a circuit with a student at Hannah Gibbons STEM School during a recent residency project.

Artist-Educator Ben Horvat working on a circuit with a student at Hannah Gibbons STEM School during a recent residency project.

At the close of this fall semester, PAA Artist-Educators Ainsley Buckner, Ben Horvat, and Lauren Sammon gathered to discuss how learning from failure plays a part in their work as artist-educators and as practicing artists outside of PAA. They also reflected on how they observed students learning from failure during their work this semester in our partner schools.

One theme the group immediately came to when discussing failure is the idea of adaptability.  “I’ve learned to adjust my instruction to meet students where they are at.  Even if I’m teaching the same lesson, I know each class is going to be different,” explained Sammon. Horvat also agreed, “As an artist-educator, you have to be adaptable.  You can’t show you’re frustrated when students aren’t grasping a concept.” He added that by making lessons modular this semester, he was able to allow students to experience success when everything came together at the end.  Modular lessons (lessons that are contained to one session rather than over several weeks) also helped him manage classes where attendance from week to week was inconsistent. Horvat avoided having students feel like they were behind and failing by having a different lesson or project each session.

The group also agreed that balance in the classroom is an important part of enabling students to learn from failure. Buckner described balancing activities that allow students to experience accomplishment quickly with challenging tasks that might result in failure the first few times.  “There has to be a series of peaks and valleys in the classroom lab,” she explained.  Sammon agreed.  She described her methods of balancing time on design challenges with other activities students are comfortable with.  She also added, “One way I help to create balance in the classroom is empowering students who are succeeding to help others work through their challenges.” Buckner also mentioned that it’s important to understand how students communicate.  “I’ve learned to balance students’ frustration. If someone is acting out, it might be because they are experience difficulties and do not know how to communicate their frustration.”

In reflecting on their work over the course of this semester, each member of the group has learned a lesson that they are going to be taking with them in their personal studio practice as artists. “I’ve learned that there are different approaches to confronting failure.  As an artist, you have to decide, is this something I can fix or do I need to start over,” explained Buckner. Horvat agreed and also added that he plans to explore collaboration in his practice.  “I’ve learned that it’s important to collaborate to help clarify expectations of your work.  I’m looking forward to dividing labor to help projects succeed.  I learned that this semester.”

 

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Guest Blog Post: Learning from PAA to Build our Capacity

Librarians from the Cuyahoga County Library system worked with PAA to learn how to use tools to fabricate Rube Goldberg machines.

Librarians from the Cuyahoga County Library system worked with PAA to learn how to use tools to fabricate Rube Goldberg machines.

By: Heidi Andres,  Teen Services Librarian
Cuyahoga County Public Library,  Middleburg Heights Branch

As a librarian with over 15 years of experience working with teens in a suburban library setting, I know the types of programs parents want for their children, as well as the kinds of programs teens will most likely be interested in attending. My library system, Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL), is fortunate to have Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) in our community to assist us in providing young library customers with innovative and engaging programs. From Scratch animation and wearable technology workshops to a variety of multi-day camps (music production, stop-motion animation, and kinetic sculpture building, to name just a few), PAA’s artist-educators have helped local youth develop an array of skills and techniques necessary to succeed in an ever-changing academic environment and job market. PAA’s programs are built on the concept of project-based learning (fostering young people’s learning processes through problem-solving and creation) as well as the importance of the arts in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programming – all concepts which dovetail perfectly with Cuyahoga County Public Library’s youth programming philosophy.

This past September, several Progressive Arts Alliance artist-educators presented two professional workshops for CCPL’s youth services staff. The topic of the first workshop was exploring circuits through creativity. Much like the sessions PAA conducts for youth, the artist-educators asked library staff to share what we already knew about the topic (conductivity), provided us with some circuitry basics, and then gave us a challenge: create a circuit which would illuminate a small LED bulb. With limited assistance from our instructors, library staff worked in pairs to incorporate what we’d learned into (usually) working circuits. Being students, as opposed to our customary roles of program facilitators, allowed library staff to experience first-hand how teens in our programs approach challenges and use problem solving skills and teamwork to create a finished project. Click below to see a video from the workshop that includes the work we completed using Chibitronics circuit stickers:

Building and designing kinetic sculptures (i.e. Rube Goldberg contraptions) was the focus of the second day’s workshop. The artist-educators provided an overview of kinetic sculptures, followed by instruction on safe ways to use tools in programs (should library staff opt to do so). CCPL staff then worked in teams to plan, draft, and build our own miniature kinetic machines – working teeter-totters. Just like the teens in library programs, final results varied, but library staff left with a better understanding of the benefits of and requirements needed to lead such a program.

Although there are more exceptions than not, library staff can sometimes seem hesitant to plan or lead STEAM programs, often due to a perceived lack of confidence in their science, engineering, and/or math abilities – there’s a reason most of us became librarians and not rocket scientists! Throughout the two workshops, PAA’s artist-educators readily shared their best practices on how library staff can conduct hands-on STEAM-related programs which allow teens to develop their presentation skills, critical thinking abilities, and self-confidence. The knowledge and guidance provided by Progressive Arts Alliance’s artist-educators during the two workshops helped library staff become more comfortable with our own abilities to continue providing these vital and necessary programs for the young people we serve.

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Kicking off 2nd Semester

design challenge

During a recent professional development session led by PAA, educators from Mound STEM School participated in a design challenge that fosters team building skills.

This month we’re kicking off second semester in our partner schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School’s PreK-8 STEM Network with a series of planning meetings and professional development sessions with our partner classroom teachers.  Among the work we are engaging in during this process is a rigorous evaluation of our residencies from the first semester.  Each faculty team at our partner schools has been working with PAA to use the Buck Institute for Education‘s eight essential elements of project-based learning to critique our work. This school year, we’re making sure each and every one of our residency experiences in our partner schools is crafted to nurture students’ voice and choice as they work in the classroom labs our artist-educators create. We’re excited that the collaborative work of our partner teachers and artist-educators puts equal weight on content standards in both the arts and  STEM subjects.  To learn more about the experience in our partner classrooms, click here.

soldering

Soldering irons are among the tools our students, artist-educators, and classroom teachers will be using during residency projects this semester. Recent professional development sessions allowed our partner classroom teachers to learn about the proper way to use a soldering iron.

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Preparing Teachers for Arts Integration

photo 2Yesterday at Mound STEM School, we worked with faculty members to assist them in preparing for our arts-integration residencies that will begin at the end of this month.  As part of our professional development offerings, we created a lab for each grade’s faculty to engage in hands-on arts activities.  These activities were designed to enable the teachers to be better prepared as they work side-by-side with our artist-educators.  Among the activities that the teachers participated in were green screen photography, clay and ceramics work, soldering circuits, building sculptures, creating mixed media animals, and stop motion animation.  We’re pleased that the administration at Mound made dedicated professional development time available for our artists and parters teachers to use as an important part of our planning process for this semester’s activities.  To keep up with the latest developments on the planning and implementation of our residency activities, be sure to visit our artist-educators’ blog here.

photo 1

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