Art programs for 3,500 in-need New York children

Jul 8, 2013

Literacy Through the Arts Extended Day

School is at an end for the 2012-2013 year, but we were lucky to be able to extend our Literacy Through the Arts program an extra day at PS 15.  Shawn Shafner, the Program Manager and Grade 2 Teaching Artist, updates us all on how:

Second graders at PS 15 enjoyed an extra day of Literacy Through the Arts this year, on June 19. I was incredibly humbled when their teacher, Ms. Sarah, suggested the idea and offered a generous donation to make it possible. In the past we've taken second graders to Central Park; this year we decided to give them a taste if their own community.

We started at a community garden across from their school called Orchard Alley. Ayo Harrington of LUNGS agreed to show us around and talk to us about how the Lower East Side community organized to turn empty lots into gardens like that one. Then we headed to the Kenkeleba sculpture gallery, and their indoor gallery across the street. Back to the school for lunch, and then off to the Metropolitan Playhouse where artistic director Alex Roe showed us the inner workings of his theater. From there, we headed to Cafe Odessa for pierogi (a follow-up from their trip to the Ukrainian museum), and playtime at Tompkins Square Park. It was quite a day!

I could say more, but Ms. Sarah said it all better in an email to me, as below:

"Of course they asked "Where is Mr. Shawn?" the moment you left.  You would have loved seeing Edwin and others counting on their fingers at the end of the day all the places they had gone and saying, "I can't believe we went on SIX TRIPS in one day!  This is the best day EVER!"  I think it was my favorite day ever, too.  The glow remained today.

During the morning share they said what they enjoyed most, and why, giving specifics.  They all chose different parts of the trip, so it was extra worthwhile to have gone to so many spots.  Ayani said she loved the gallery most, because she saw the artwork of so many different artists, and how they had made their art with different materials and feelings.  Bianca and others spoke about the theater and the lighting, and some enjoyed the sculpture garden because a specific piece of art was so exciting.  It was gratifying to hear that you reached so many learners by offering a variety of experiences.  Of course the restaurant and playground figured in there, but the vast majority mentioned the art experiences over sour cream and applesauce (but there was some discussion about how sour cream also tastes good with hot sauce).

It was a day of superlatives. I loved that you were teaching about negative space and they were acting it out, that you analyzed the artwork in the gallery in such a deep way, and you were acting off the cuff in the theater... your instruction continued as always in these new settings for them. The whole day made art ever more real for them."

Check out Arts For All's interview with Sarah Strong for more information! Sarah Strong is a Grade 2 teacher at PS 15, and generously supported the extra day of LTA programming this spring.

AFA: What made you want to be a classroom teacher?

SS: I became a classroom teacher so I could give back and be on the front line of education, where the good stuff happens.  Much time, talent, money, and sacrifice went into my education.  I have been lucky and privileged.  We do not get here alone, and I wanted to pass on what had been given to me.  I also have satisfaction knowing my overtime profits children, my taxes pay my salary, my dollar earned is 100% gender equitable, my organization has a transparent payroll structure, and my union has a history of protecting women from age discrimination.

I am a Cohort 6 Teaching Fellow, and volunteered to meet the needs of the city’s most vulnerable students.  I started my career at a special education middle school in Brownsville, and have served needy children since.  At the end of the day, I know I earned my keep and it has been a good excuse for a life.

That's beautiful.  What have you learned in your work as a Grade 2 teacher at PS 15?

Second graders are capable of deep and meaningful discussions and social interactions.  Keep your expectations high and prepare to be amazed.

Wow.  Thank you for sharing that.  What made you decide to support Arts For All financially?  In your opinion, what does Arts For All add to the classroom?

After paying off my capitalized-interest student loans this May, I didn’t want to get too used to having  pocket change, and AFA was my first priority.  Shawn and I did not get to our trips this year because the children needed more time to practice our Skyrella performance, a Cinderella story they wrote that took place in the Empire State Building.  I wanted them to see the sculptures and tableaux they had studied

Contributing to AFA helped extend Shawn’s stay, and he put together the most wonderful tours of community and sculpture gardens, a gallery, and a theater, all with the founders or directors.  Shawn’s lessons included acting out negative space with hands and bodies (imagine a 40-person ensemble in a sculpture garden really looking like we belonged there), and facilitating a gallery talk with the children about how they related Jackson Pollack’s techniques to the lines, style, and colors of other prints and paintings.

I wanted to support Shawn and AFA.  How do artists and actors afford NYC?  Let’s keep art in NYC for everyone, and long live AFA for helping.  You do such good work, AFA.  We are far from a rich school, yet we have AFA.  We are a small school, and the arts education from your talented artists makes a big impact.  AFA provides us weekly art support and accessibility, and all for free!  You also have generosity of spirit.  It is a true pleasure to support you.

Read more of Sarah Strong's interview.

Thank you all for your geneorus support of Arts For All's ongoing programs!



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