Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA

by Story Tapestries Inc.
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Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Teach Literacy through the Arts in DC, MD, and VA
Supplies collected by the Fitzgerald Auto team
Supplies collected by the Fitzgerald Auto team

“I was excited to have our students exposed to this performing arts opportunity and appreciative of your organization’s provision to the school in this virtual experience…Students don’t get to see other kids…a normal part of the school day that many students took for granted. Seeing other students at a (virtual) school performance made it feel like regular school for a few moments and that was priceless.” Dorothea Fuller, Principal of Galway Elementary School

Thanks to the support from donors, sponsors, and funders, Story Tapestries has been engaging students in interactive in-school artist-in-residencies that include a kick-off performance to expose the school community to professional performing arts as well as build excitement for the residency. These performances have provided a unique opportunity for the school community to "gather" in a time when we can't safely sit in a theater together. Our artists have studied how to use the tools available to them to really make youth part of the performance experience - from rap improvisations using kids' names to asking questions and using the chat feature to capture even more voices than you might get to hear in a traditional performance setting. The performance is then followed by a customized residency experience during which our artists collaborate with school teachers to enhance their daily lessons in language arts, social studies, math, science and more by leading lessons that utilize an art form. Finally, we have supported these programs with arts and learning activity kits so that every student has access to materials including colored pencils, markers, glue sticks, paper and so on. When we first began proposing remote versions of these in-school programs, the issue of access to materials quickly rose to the forefront and we are grateful so many local businesses stepped up to help us fill this gap. Let me tell you about one of those business partners.

Fitzgerald Auto has been the backbone support of so many elements of Story Tapestries that it is hard to select what we should highlight for this brief story.  The team at Fitzgerald Auto are true gifts as they are constantly thinking about how they can support the community and consequently Story Tapestries. Their support this year grew beyond a simple donation to a genuine partnership that values the power of the arts to impact learning. The shift began with a conversation with Dottie Fitzgerald. We shared with her the urgent issue that we were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families did not have the tools they needed to support strong, passionate, committed, thoughtful learners. The youth were failing and the education gap was growing. Parents were mentally exhausted and worried about how to make ends meet while also helping their children be successful. Story Tapestries had a proven solution: Give the students equitable access to supplies and learning opportunities, as a result, they will expand their minds and discover a LOVE of learning!!

Most recently, a teacher at Charles Drew Elementary School said “Jonathan, he struggles to learn. He has not given an authentic answer all year. But this past month while working with a Story Tapestries artist, he wrote four poems. He has shined. He came out of his shell.”  Another teacher told me that her students treasure the supplies they received like they are gold because before we sent them their journals, they used to do their math on paper towels. After listening, Dottie and her team truly stepped up. They made a donation so that we could get started buying supplies and providing effective online programs. Furthermore, after speaking with their managers, they immediately set in motion a supply drive with 2 of their dealerships. In a short period of time, they collected 1,140 items that we used to put together 400 arts and literacy kits!  Dottie and her team do this work not because they have to, but because they believe in the power of the arts to change the community and develop lifelong learners.

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We are all longing for those connections that make this time of year special - holiday parties, gift exchanges, and precious time with family and friends. Attending in-person classes, the local school concert/play, annual productions of The Nutcracker and our favorite sports events are very missed.  Take just a moment to imagine how our kids feel.

For our children, COVID-19 is profoundly distressing.  Social isolation is a challenge, on top of the societal and economic unrest our children have been enduring (or witnessing the adults in their lives endure) for more than 300 days!  That’s a really long time.

The pandemic’s effects on our kids—and the ways in which art and storytelling can address some of these emotional and psychological issues—are beginning to emerge.  Scientific studies show us how art heals. Through artistic experiences, the body’s physiology changes from a state of stress to one of deep relaxation, from a state of fear to one of creativity, inspiration and hope.

3rd Grader, Gavin M,. said it best with his artwork and message: Arts Get Us Through

Story Tapestries programs and services create connections, whether in-person or online. In times of crisis, feeling a part of something and connected to others becomes more important than ever. Performances, workshops, after-school programs, summer camps and professional development programs are several ways in which we connect with youth experiencing economic hardship and the adults who interact with and support them.

Since the pandemic’s start, Story Tapestries has developed and safely delivered activity kits to over 860 families and engaged 10,930+ households in educational programming.  We are grateful to spread JOY in these difficult times, and to add some color and creativity to daily life for families who are struggling.

One of the ways we are spreading this joy with others, is by spreading the word with Swag that gives back to support Story Tapestries' vision and mission. Still looking for that perfect gift? Consider taking advantage of 15% off on everything in our Shop thru December 26. One of the featured designs is Gavin's work you see featured in this Report.

We are grateful for the Story Tapestries Family, and appreciate that YOU are a part of it!

Thank you for sharing with us so we might continue to shine light on your stories.

While this is an incredible difficult period, there is much to look forward to in 2021 and you are part of what will make it a great New Year!

Arts Activities Kits ready for delivery!
Arts Activities Kits ready for delivery!

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After 7 months of quarantine, I was excited to work with the 3rd Grade team in October. My first residency teaching the art of slam, competitive poetry - online. This year I partnered with 4 teachers; Ms. Ortiz, Ms. Lamana, Ms. Terry-Edd, Ms. Hayes & Ms. Frazee. Having taught summer school sessions virtually, I knew this would be like a chill tropical breeze; however, I encountered zoom link security blocks and multiple challenges of digital teaching.

Unlike middle and high school students, the majority of 3rd grade students had their cameras on, which was a huge relief. In order to connect over the virtual platform, I designed Google Docs where students typed their poems.

I was challenged by digital learning but I found a way to use Google Docs and improvisation games to get students thinking outside the box. "Name 3" is a game where I asked students to create names imagining new versions of existing places/things. For example, Name 3 New Smithsonian Museums: Museum of Crayons, Museum of Chalk and Museum of Bubble gum. Name the next 3 planets: Unicorn Planet, Pizza Planet &  Coronavirus Planet. These games took our poems to new frontiers.

We explored the idea of lies. I asked Ms. Hayes, “What is your name?”  She said, “Ms. Ashley” and I said, “I want you to lie even bigger - push your imagination to make it colorful and silly, if you like.” Ms. Hayes replied, “My name is Princess Cheyenne.” This inspired the students to create new poems taking bigger creative risks. With Ms. Frazee’s class we explored all the things we would like to do when we were alone, but then applied the idea of imagination, so we fought ninjas, became Princess Elsa, and ate chocolate chip cookies. With Ms. Terry-Edd’s group we opened the door and out came a lion, and when I opened the lion out came a mouse, and so forth. Christal, who I am told never speaks, freestyled a poem with me as we both went back and forth with images and sensory detail.

The poetry slam at the conclusion of our residency had almost 100 students, staff and parents watching. Our top 3 poets were poised and confident. One student improvised a poem of wishes for people who were in quarantine - a poem of hope and reunion. The winner, Alanna, got a high 5 from her dad. Alanna’s advice about poetry: “I loved reading books as a child. This was going to be fun. I added colors and shapes and animals to my ideas.”
___________

We at Story Tapestries are grateful to our team of teaching artists who have worked quickly and effectively, overcoming their own fears and concerns, to adapt their programs to be engaging and impactful in the online environment.

In addition to these in-school and out-of-school time residencies, donors and sponsors have given funds so that we are preparing to deliver 300 activities kits full of wonderful arts supplies and basic school supplies such as markers, colored pencils, paper, pens, glue and more. Over 560 were delivered in the last months and families in the area who cannot afford these supplies are incredibly grateful to have them to support both on- and off-screen learning.

Thank you for believing in and contributing towards the mission of Story Tapestries! We look forward to sharing more stories like this one to let you know how your gifts are giving back to our community.

For us, this is our Happy Thanksgiving with hearts full of gratitude. We wish the same to you and your loved ones as well as good health!

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Channeling my inner Mr. Rogers

We are in uncharted and scary times. Like so many all over the world, performers and workshop leaders like me saw our livelihood vanish overnight with festivals, conferences and live school events cancelled everywhere. It has been an emotional rollercoaster and a challenge to gather my energy or feel centered.

Story Tapestries invited me to offer my work in a virtual format. At first, I couldn’t imagine it. 

Not only was I feeling lifeless and not in the least bit creative – but how do I tell stories without a live audience? Storytelling is a communicative event in space and time! It is a relationship.  My style is highly interactive and physical, with audience participation the driving force of the story. How do I create a relationship across screens? And with everyone muted, as they need to be in order for Zoom to function well, how do I hear their reactions? How do I know if they are even listening? If they like it?

Then I remembered Mr. Rogers. He was the first television show I had ever seen in my life. It was August 1968, I was ten years old, just arrived from Israel with my family for my father’s two-year sabbatical at Sandford University in California. I didn’t know a word of English but there he was, Mr. Rogers on the screen, in color, and it felt like he was talking to me! I still remember the sense of connection I felt as he spoke with that gentle voice, his eyes looking straight into mine, inviting me into his neighborhood.

Channeling my inner Mr. Rogers, I ventured into ZoomLand. I welcomed the children and invited them to answer back by showing with thumbs up when I ask a question, to twinkle with their hands to show appreciation. Then, like him, I looked into the camera so to my viewers it would look like I’m looking directly at them. I slowed down. I slowed down a lot. I minimized and gathered my gestures. I was sensing the presence of the children rather than actually seeing them in the little boxes on the screen. I put my trust in my craft and imagination, put my faith in the story and dove into it.

It brought me more joy than I can put in words. All the chaos and hurt of the world vanished. All the worries and fears disappeared. I found myself moved to tears seeing wide eyes children, on a parent’s lap, or sprawled on the couch or bed, smiling or jumping up and down in glee. It wasn't the same as being in a live event, but we were connecting. I felt ALIVE and less alone

To my great surprise I discovered there were gifts in this strange ZoomLand: People who couldn't come to a live performance before showed up across borders and time zones: families from Singapore and India, together with my next-door neighbors and people from other places in the US. 

And perhaps the biggest gift of all: 5-year-old Kavin from Singapore was so excited about the Hebrew words he learned in our session, his mom turned on the camera so that she would capture what he wanted to share: https://youtu.be/UVKTloKZNjE

I am so grateful to Story Tapestries for this precious opportunity to allow me to continue the work I love in a format people can access at a distance so that we are all protected. It is the next best thing to a live show sharing the same space. 

Storytelling is a powerful reminder that we are all connected. Now more than ever we and our students need our stories, the family stories, the ancient folktales from every culture on this fragile planet, that hold so much wisdom and shine the light into the beauty and resilience of our human spirit.

 

***

To hear more stories, join Story Tapestries for our 10 year Anniversary Celebration - ONLINE! Click here to learn more and consider reserving your seat at our virtual table. Our donors through GlobalGiving get 10% by using this unique discount code: GlobalGivingFriend10. We look forward to celebrating with you!

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10 years ago, Arianna Ross "unzipped my mind" and unlocked my imagination as I watched her perform a custom-show teaching about the Fabergé egg exhibit at Hillwood Museum. That performance was a pivotal moment for me as it convinced me that THIS is the kind of work I want to do. It marked the beginning of my relationship with the newly incorporated nonprofit, Story Tapestries.

How appropriate that in that very same moment in history, exactly 10 years ago, Congress passed House Resolution 275, officially dedicating space to celebrate the arts in education by designating the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week.

As we head back to school, what that looks like varies greatly from one community to another. In the Greater Washington region, students continue to engage in virtual learning at least for the first semester of the year. In this time of uncertainty, Story Tapestries wishes to offer a safe haven and a creative outlet. Our artists are committed to creating spaces for every learner to express themselves in the way that is most meaningful to them. And they continue to do this work via online platforms - performing as well as engaging youth in academic curricula through the arts.

What will learning look like 10 years from now? What can we do today to make our classrooms of tomorrow more equitable and accessible? As we celebrate our 10 year annivesary, we reflect on the ways things have changed and imagine the possibilities for the future. In the midst of sad, frustrating, and even angering news, we see a ray of hope in a line of poetry written by a 2nd grader and the smile of a parent who discovered new possibilities for their child.

We invite you to join us as we share these rays of hope during our 10th Anniversary celebration on October 16th. "A Taste of Story Tapestries" is a way for us to connect over food and share with you as a community. Join Honorary Chair, Former First Lady of Montgomery County and savvy businesswoman, Catherine Leggett, who has said, "Story Tapestries is a jewel in our arts and educational community."

Follow along with Celebrity Chef, Jonathan Bardznik, as he talks us through preparing a tantalizing appetizer.

Learn more about this special milestone celebration and consider joining us. As a supporter of our work, we are eager to hear YOUR stories about where you were 10 years ago, and where you'd like to be 10 years from now. Please make your story part of our history by sharing this special time together on Friday, October 16th.

Thank you for your amazing contributions that have brought us to today as we imagine our tomorrow!

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Organization Information

Story Tapestries Inc.

Location: Germantown, MD - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @storytapestriesengage
Project Leader:
Arianna Ross
Germantown, Maryland United States
$44,379 raised of $55,000 goal
 
1,000 donations
$10,621 to go
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