Through December 2012, LATA served 1,972 K-8 students in 58 classes from 7 different inner-city schools (including LAUSD, as well as underserved parochial and charter schools without formal art programs), during two 7-week terms. Each LATA class was enrolled in a course of arts instruction in one of several art forms, including visual art, music, dance, animation, digital photography, ceramics or drama. Students traveled by bus to the Inner-City Arts campus twice a week during school hours and received 21 hours of instruction during their session. Within the nine studio complex, students worked and learned in art form-specific spaces. They explored their own creativity, while learning about the elements and principles of each art form. The teaching artists employed child-centered instructional approaches, varied to address learning differences among students. Teaching artists incorporated instructional techniques that have proven effective in fostering language development in English Learners. Cooperative learning methods, collaborative interaction and sheltered English instructional approaches built on the students’ varied background experiences and different cultural perspectives. Students created and learned about art, making specific and tangible connections among the art forms and across curricular areas. The specialized arts curriculum was aligned with both national and State of California standards and benchmarks.
Classroom teachers accompanied their students for the seven-week sessions and participated alongside their students in the art activities. The LATA program includes a professional development training program for the participating classroom teachers that is comprised of three interconnected activity strands: (1) Develop high quality, standards-based professional development for Art Teachers, preparing them to assist and support others toward arts integration, (2) Provide gateway experiences and coaching for non-arts classroom teachers to grow their potential as art educators, (3) Design an assessment system that enables data driven planning and professional development in the arts curriculum. The first activity strand involves enhancements to an existing workshop series centered on best practices in meeting language development and other learning needs through the arts. The second strand enables non arts teachers to develop model lessons and strategies for arts integration and establish creative learning communities in their classrooms. A coaching component allows the teaching artists to act as “coaches” and facilitate the integration process through the sharing of information concerning research-based integration practices. The third strand, assessment, encompasses both teacher and student assessment. Multidimensional assessments that support the standards-based learning process in the arts become feedback with direct linkage to instruction.
The LATA teacher trainings are specifically designed to provide teachers with professional development that is in-depth and extensive in order to ensure optimal impact on their teaching practice. The coaching element, which engages the trained Teaching Artists to assist the Classroom Teachers in their development toward becoming art educators, is expanded through those classroom teachers as they become peer coaches with other teachers at their schools. For the teachers participating in the coaching component, the development of a creative classroom community has been observed through the implementation of arts and arts-integrated lessons and strategies.
One aspect of the LATA program that warrants special mention is the newly developed Creativity Lab, which is dedicated to creative explorations that connect the Arts, Engineering, Scientific and Architectural approaches to learning. What began as the unique vision of our co-founder, Bob Bates, has steadily transformed into an innovative studio experience that actively engages students in their own creativity while preparing an entire generation of Los Angeles’ youth for challenging professions in the fields of engineering, design, architecture, science, visual and performing arts, and production. Partnering with Disney, the Creativity Lab has benefitted from the inclusion of the Imagineers form the Company as an inherent part of the curriculum. Imagineers serve as guest artists in the course of the term, partnering in the teaching and the sharing of their process as inventors and creators with the students. With an inclusive curriculum that stresses the importance of creativity, as well as research and development, the Creativity Lab has functioned as an incubator for experimentation and imagination. A general feature of the lab’s instructional design is that in creating new structures with intended purposes, the students are encouraged to use a scientific approach – described to students as: Develop hypothesis: test – refine – retest – until getting it right. Furthermore, a key element of the Creativity Lab is the focus on collaboration; students are encouraged to engage in collective problem solving, combining their individual capabilities in unique ways. This method has proven to be an excellent tool for developing our students’ rational as well as intuitive abilities.