One of the greatest factors in predicting a person's lifetime health and longevity is trauma. You may have heard of "ACEs" - adverse childhood experiences - and the expanding body of research that links these experiences to future health issues such as heart disease and mental health issues such as depression. This is the fourth year Story Tapestries is leading a team of partners to support the Neelsville Middle School community, working to share tools, techniques and structures that support social emotional development and strengthen the community's sense of unity, trust and understanding. Ultimately this transfer of knowledge and building of systems and structures is intended to equip the adults in the community - teachers, administrators, parents/caregivers - with the tools to better support the youth, and to build meaningful, trusting relationships so that youth feel they have an adult they can go to whenever they are experiencing any kind of struggle. These are key factors in developing resiliency and supporting recovery from trauma, as well as making strides to identify and address trauma as it happens to limit its long-term impact.
"How does it work?" you ask. Let's take a closer look at some of the activities from this school year that are bringing us closer to that goal. It's pretty cool stuff!
Teaching Artist and actress, Jennifer Ridgeway, worked with students in the "Lights, Camera, Action" program and they're now at the halfway point of the program. The students reviewed the five senses and learned about the sense of balance and proprioception. Jennifer shared that as she and the students discussed their work together, they considered why a theatre artist might need a contract and what an actor’s agreement might say. Students began working in small groups, cooperating and making quick decisions as a team, and performed their first tableau performance! Students were hesitant but willing players every step of the way and showed interest in knowing Jennifer’s career trajectory. Students immediately noticed how different one group's sentences were from other groups. Jennifer had to encourage them to follow their group’s decisions and not worry too much about what another group was doing. She reinforced the concept that there is no correct answer, but encouraged students to take a risk with their choices! As they developed each sentence, they physicalized it by staging a tableau or visual representation of the sentence.
Parent night was a great success with a wonderful turnout of approximately 100 individuals. Teaching Artist and singer/songwriter, Emma G., performed and spoke to parents about her SEL songwriting workshops with three groups of students during lunch. Students are enjoying exploring their emotions through the songwriting process and continue to use the creative outlet as a wellness break during their lunch periods. Mural artist, Danyett Tucker, displayed panels to show the work in progress on the mural that is in the process of getting finishing touches. Parents were invited to paint unfinished panels alongside their students and family members. Proud students pointed out their work and shared about the mural making process. The completed mural will be unveiled at the May 19th Parent Night connected to International Night.
Emma G., decided to incorporate some AI tech into recent SEL sessions to help guide the student's creative expression, and give them a bit more of a boost with their writing. The sessions begin with students discussing an issue on their mind, or something that happened over the weekend. AI technology then turns that conversation into a chorus. Then, using that chorus as a starting point, students were able to start formulating some verses that were more representative of their language and expression. Students were surprised with the results and continue to look forward to their time with Emma G. Furthermore, both she and Mj, another teaching artist who supported the sessions, noticed that the students are beginning to develop the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills vital for school, work, and life success. Starting out, students didn't want to be there in a classroom; what young person wants to be in a place where you have to talk or show feelings? The more they saw a safe place, the more they opened up. Emma shared: “I don't want to put names out there, even if it's first names, so I'll call him "Arlo." He was a kid that talked a lot about not liking his sibling; every time we were there, he talked about his sibling not liking him and wanting him to hurt himself. You can tell he loved his brother but didn't know how to express those feelings. The more he used writing in a way of music lyrics he felt safe to express those emotions. I believe self-awareness is important because it tells you about understanding the things that make you who you are as an individual.”
After the mural was finished Visual Art students participated in a “Mud to Music” residency presented by Melissa Foss. During the residency Ms. Foss guided 5 groups of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders through a “Mud to Music” workshop process. A total of 140 students were introduced to ancient musical instruments that have been made for hundreds or even thousands of years across Central and South America, and each student learned through a step-by-step process how to make their own working ocarina, or clay flute. During the sessions where the flutes began to sound, the classroom filled with smiles and song; even though they knew what they were making, they were still surprised when the clay started to sing! Students enthusiastically embraced the task of making each of their flutes unique by making creative decisions both in the sound and song of their instruments and in the design and decoration of the object. Melissa said, “Some students quietly really made the project their own and got into the personalization of their flutes. It was exciting when they were given their time to shine and add personal flare to their instruments. Emma made a dinosaur flute. Andre made a detailed anime cat. Kingston, who created very cool drawings, etched personal stories into his flute. I was impressed in general with how persistent they were when building the acoustic system. They stuck with it, no one gave up.”
Daniel Skibicki, Visual Art Teacher: The “Mud to Music” residency was well received by the students. Students were receptive to the more individual and hands-on process. Everyone across the board was really engaged, persevered, and didn’t give up. The principal loved that students had this experience to make connections to culture.
In addition to these arts-centered experiences, students were also supported by mediation specialists from the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgeromy County, and a Student Success Coach from 480 Cares who works in particular with male students in group and individual sessions.
These combined experiences are shifting the culture of the school community. News reporter, Lilian Mass, from the broadcasting network, Telemundo - a Spanish language news media channel that's part of NBCUniversal - came to visit the program.
Be sure to check out the video link below to see the kids' with their handmade flutes in action!
It’s been a blast connecting with community members in person this fall.
Our network of Teaching Artists has started off the year strong, with in-school and after-school programs as well as family performance series and Professional Development workshops for educators. As we grow and expand, in addition to many new Teaching Artists, Story Tapestries has welcomed a new Operations Director, Kellie Butsack, Innovation and Partnerships Director, Danyett Tucker, and two Arts Administration and Teaching Artist Fellows, Bre Seals and Michael Jones.
The featured photo highlights a visual art activity led by Innovation and Partnerships Director, Danyett Tucker, at a community event hosted by the Latin American Youth Center.
Our school partners are really enjoying how the integration of an arts-based approach to learning is transforming their classrooms and inspiring creativity for students. They’re seeing how interaction with the arts opens the doors to new possibilities for academic achievement and perhaps most importantly - for a joyful approach to life and learning. Here’s some feedback we recently received:
“Students, primarily ESOL students, really were able to share their thoughts and ideas in a creative way. Students who were anxious about writing or getting up in front of the class came in with smiles and ideas and really flourished. One student with very little English didn't completely understand the objective but was given room to just be creative and produce a piece that he felt comfortable making. During the students’ time to share their work, so many students couldn't contain their excitement to share their words and voices with others.”
“Fantastic modeling, repetition, and allowing for individuality and voice...Students were highly engaged, were activated to create, think critically and express themselves through poetry or through prose.”
“I liked the creation of math problems. The process really helped them be creative and apply their math knowledge. They then mapped out the problem with a drawing and then performed it. The students were able to understand what the problem needed them to do in order to solve. Which helped with the conceptualization of the math in the problem.”
One of our community-based partners, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, is excited to see how engagement with Story Tapestries artists has provided unique and impactful experiences for their community. In particular, we had the opportunity to work with children at their Seneca Heights supportive housing site. Youth and parents had several opportunities to experience professional performances as well as to participate in interactive workshops that helped them discover new social and emotional learning tools, key to healing from the traumas of the experience of homelessness and the pandemic. The Community Engagement Manager, Lynn Rose, shared that, “The impact of Story Tapestries on our students and families was like introducing water to a desert - growth and blooming happened in beautiful and necessary ways.”
Don’t you love living this mission and watching the vision access to the arts for all unfold before your eyes? It’s pretty incredible and we are grateful you’re on this journey with us, offering support, encouragement, and essential funds so these programs can reach the communities who need them most.
We also held our annual fundraiser, Elevate Voices - Celebrate Community on Friday, October 7th at Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, MD. Be sure to click the link below to enjoy a recap of our incredible evening of yummy food, drinks, and Hawaiian desserts prepared by celebrity chef, Kaimana Chee. 5-time Emmy award winning producer, director, and on-air sportscaster, Jumoke Davis, emceed the evening and Honorary Chair, Philanthropist and TV Personality, Charrisse Jackson, best known for her role on The Real Housewives of Potomac, helped us raise $76,709. Let’s not forget the amazing music by The Gem Fatales.
As part of the event, we presented our Community Voices Awards. Honorees included:
Philanthropists of the Year - Jamie & Jerry Truman of Truman Charities
Educator of the Year - Jessica Henwood
Community Partner of the Year - Latin American Youth Center
Business of the Year - United Therapeutics
As we enter the season of gratitude, we will be spotlighting and thanking our community-based partners and school partners throughout the months of November and December. We invite you to follow us on social media to join us in the celebration:
Are you in the DC area? Consider joining us next week -
Amplify US! Open Mic night on Friday, November 11, at 9pm at The Gantry
Amplify US! Workshop on Saturday, November 12, at 11am at MLK Library
Email us to register - firstname.lastname@example.org
See you there!
The 2021-22 academic year was an exciting time to be back in the classroom with in-person experiences. This was at times dampened by the resurgence of the pandemic as a result of new variants, and struggles with hurdles such as lack of staff, lack of continuity, and an increasing gap for students disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and its ongoing impact. Story Tapestries’ Teaching Artists remained committed to making adaptations and accommodations to support our school partners and their awesome staff and students. Slam Poet and Master Teaching Artist, Regie Cabico, shares about his experience with long-time partner, Neelsville Middle School:
“The Silk Road is an integral aspect of understanding World History, which incorporates well with poetry writing for middle school students. During the pandemic, I found creative ways for students to engage with a persona poem: inventing a character that would travel from China to Rome. There is a dramaturgical skill in seeing how a character goes through the journey of the Gobi desert, passing temples, and marauders out to pillage the goods of glass from Rome to the porcelain and silk of China. Through arts integration, students experience a richness in understanding the valuables traded. I tell my classes, ‘Before Target and Amazon.com, there was The Silk Road.’ To open students’ minds to the content, I incorporated spoken word techniques that use triggers and glimmers of what students shared, followed by prompting them with questions about what they think brought Silk Road travelers joy and misery while making their journey.
My residency started with Ms. Henwood’s class, who quickly absorbed the idea of the lune - an 11-word poem and American version of the haiku. I took three words from the Silk Road goods; horse, silk and gun, and then asked students to combine them with eight more words. The results were astounding as they explored literary tools like:
Gunshots POW! KAPOW!
Horses running out of control
Silk on road
I feel like
A horse, riding the Silk
Road, gun-battling Romans
Ms. Henwood enriched the lessons with a visual arts component so the students made visual interpretations of the specific imagery from their poems.
Working with Mr. Sanchez, the Social Studies chair, allowed me to devise a vocabulary list. The World History textbook offered chapters on Asian religions, which we added to the list of goods that were sold. With this class, we emphasized geography and I emphasized the storytelling aspect of poetry. In all my sessions we used improvised movement to unlock the text by embodying words in short poems like, ‘I used to be the Gobi desert, now I’m the Yellow River.’
With Ms. Budd, I opened up the lune by having students draw one image on the board: cyclone, chicken, Great Wall. Then I asked them to build the picture by drawing one additional object at a time. In this way, I demonstrated poetry as a tiny photograph packed with details and encouraged students who weren’t ‘writers’ but identified as ‘drawers’ to show versus tell me, and in this way they could engage in this ‘pictionary-esque’ technique.
My residency opened new strategies to engage students in poetry writing, creating a complete arts integration residency using the Silk Road content. I am grateful to Story Tapestries and the Neelsville 6th grade Social Studies teachers for the opportunity to play with metaphors and imagery. All of this, during an Omicron Covid wave, felt like its own Silk Road journey.”
This story Regie shares demonstrates what truly makes a difference - the ability to adapt and respond to what’s happening and to find avenues for every individual to engage, connect and share. This opens up the learning experience to every type of learning - audio, visual, kinesthetic or a combination of these styles. We worked with Sharp Insight’s evaluation team to assess and analyze program results, and the impact story is inspiring. Students who participated in arts integration programs at Neelsville had the opportunity to participate in surveys and discussion groups to reflect on their experiences. When asked what comes to mind when you think of the project, the words “community” “teamwork” “unite” and “together” were top words that were used. This prevailing message is significant for middle school students in particular, who in the phase of adolescence have an especially strong need to identify with others and feel a part of a community.
In fact, students shared comments like:
“The program helped me find ways to be closer to my friends.”
“I learned how to control my emotions and be a stronger person.”
“I am comfortable taking more risks and being creative.”
“I learned skills I can use in life.”
This program is funded by the Trawick Foundation and by support from individual donors like you!
Did you know that kids smile up to 400 times per day? And that when you look at a person who’s smiling, it’s nearly impossible not to smile yourself?
This update is all about giving you more reasons to smile - which gives you the same boost as 2,000 bars of chocolate - without all the calories! So what are you waiting for?!?
Since 2010, Story Tapestrieshas increased access to arts experiences, supporting over 1 million community members to discover their own possibilities, fall in love with learning, overcome barriers, and feel more connected to one another—but we wouldn’t have been able to do this alone!
On Wednesday, March 23, 2022, Story Tapestries joined GlobalGiving to celebrate the 20th anniversary. GlobalGiving as you know is a nonprofit which has been helping us use the arts as a powerful tool to create accessible, open spaces and opportunities for individuals to reach their highest potential and to work together for a more inclusive community since 2012—and supporting community-led change around the world since 2002.
From intimate portraits of local changemakers to live performances by international art groups, including Story Tapestries, this is an event by our community, for our community—and it wouldn’t be complete without you.
Watch the past Celebration Now
More reasons to smile…
If you missed our performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in January, pop some popcorn or grab your favorite sweet or savory snack and settle in to listen to some powerful and tender stories:
Warning: cuteness overload! We were honored to be in the Nonprofit Spotlight as a partner of the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s Children’s Opportunity Fund as part of the Read Across America Day celebration on March 2nd. Check out this sweet video featuring our community’s youngest learners:
I want to hear from you! As part of International Women’s Day celebrations, I’ve asked our community to share about the important women in their own lives. Join the conversation on our Facebook page:
Last but not least, I invite you to enjoy a free performance for all ages presented online by Story Tapestries. Gather 'Round: Bedtime Stories for the entire family, a performance presented by Drew Anderson on Sunday, April 24, 2022 6-6:45 pm. This interactive and engaging assembly is challenging, fun, and entertaining! Each member of the audience has an opportunity to "GET INVOLVED!"
Register for this event at: https://bit.ly/3qO8fCu
As we spring forward and move through our busiest time of the year, I’m grateful for the ability to share a smile with you. The days are hectic and full, but they are also graced with moments of connection and celebration and it is my hope that through my work at Story Tapestries, I’m able to shine a light of possibility on your day. By joining in on the fun and sharing your smile, you become a beacon of light for our community.
Thank you and sending you HUGS and smiles,
Wishing you and your loved ones
space to reflect on this past year
time to rest and refuel your body and mind
energy and support to take on new adventures in 2022!
We took a moment to reflect with some of our teaching artists and wish to share these uplifting stories with you.
Last May 2021, while co-teaching my first on-site residency since March 2020, I was reminded of the fact that every student is unique and has individual needs. I encountered a student that was very detached and uninterested, which resulted in actions of fidgeting, inappropriate shouting out, and overall disruptive behavior. I took the time to meet with one of the teachers and found out that this particular student had difficulty writing and was more engaged when he was able to type his answers. Once we discovered and implemented this accommodation the student began to thrive as well as participate and even take on more responsibility. It was a nice reminder to always take the time to search for a solution. We never really know what the problem may be until we take the time to observe, inquire, experiment, and reflect.
- Valerie Baugh-Schlossberg, Program Manager and Teaching Artist
Working with the staff and young ones at Kids Villa was quite the delight! The power of beatboxing has a surprising way to relax an apprehensive 2-5 year old who is already used to an established pattern for their day. I was very fortunate to be a new addition to their daily schedule. Each group connected in their own way with the music, movement, activities and learning. We explored the 4 seasons, steady beat, end rhyme, and much, much more. I look forward to returning. They made me feel like I was famous!
- Jamaal "Mr. Root" Collier
We worked alongside a mentorship group created by YMCA Youth and Family Services. We coordinated a series of Amplify US! workshops with the mentors, with and without their mentees, to create space for self exploration regarding why they decided to be mentors, what kind of relationship they wanted to have, and what impact they would like to have on their mentee. By partnering with this preexisting program and creating an Amplify US! space tailored to their needs, we've created an opportunity for participating members' voices to be amplified and we can better track the impact of this specific program.
- Michelle Faulkner-Forson, Innovation and Partnerships Director
This remarkable period in our lives has intensified the need for connection and conversation. Through storytelling, we can capture narrative time capsules community experiences and their resulting impact. Let this moment be a reminder not to wait. Now is the time to have conversations...to share our stories and listen to the stories of our neighbors and friends.
Think it’s a great idea in theory but maybe you aren’t sure where to begin? A great conversation often starts with a thoughtful question. What do you remember about kindergarten? Tell me about your favorite holiday tradition when you were a kid. What is/was your neighborhood like? If you could make any wish for 2022, what would it be?
Our wish is for you to know how much we appreciate all the ways you contribute to the mission of Story Tapestries and the vision of a more joyful, equitable world for all! You were the difference for 350,000+ children, educators, moms and dads, and seniors in the Greater DC region, across Maryland, and beyond. You created exciting reasons to show up and participate enthusiastically at school, at work, and at home, and you provided valuable work opportunities to artists who were afraid they wouldn’t make rent.
On behalf of the Story Tapestries staff, Board members, teaching artists, our volunteers, community partners and me: thank you!
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
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