Where can students spend time after school honing career skills and building a portfolio?
Miami-Dade County (Fla.) Public Schools’ career-oriented program Digital Art Afterschool Studio offers students exactly that.
Last year, one of the biggest themes in the projects we funded was real world relevance. Students are often bored with classes that they can’t see themselves using in the real world. Tactile skill based courses such as Art and Music have limited career prospects when compared to STEM courses. The Digital Art After School Studio is a prime example of how to synthesize real world skills and arts education in a way that profits both the school and the students. Over the past three years they have turned from a tiny operation that struggled to find funding to a nearly self-sufficient model that will continue for years to come.
To recap, what is the Digital Art After School Studio?
The Digital Art After School Studio program was created with the idea of giving students with an interest in graphic design a place to learn the procedures and expectations of actual client-based projects. The initial goals were to give students exposure to a workplace environment and ideally an increased level of workplace etiquette and knowledge of practices. The other, more long-term goal for the program was to get students more in touch with the community in order to build a client base that will continue to support the program long after the grant funding ends.
According to their project report
“Once establishing these relationships, the students were expected to maintain contact with the client. This follow-up was intended to build community ties that would emphasize the relationship the school had within the community, as well as introduce the students as individuals of worth to the adults in the community who were involved in running small businesses.”
Where are they now?
First and foremost, the most unexpected and fantastic occurrence has been the increased student involvement and ownership of the program. Word of mouth has gotten so strong that they no longer need to recruit to replace graduating members. They have students lining up to put their name on the list. The students this past year even took their ownership of the program so far as to elect to rebrand it the “Painttank,” a think tank for artists. During the past year they’ve had numerous visitations from other schools that are interested in emulating their model. They see students voluntarily giving up their afternoon freedom to work on their own projects and wonder how they can reproduce this in their own schools. The answer is simple. By cultivating an atmosphere of independence and freedom to explore their individual styles, the students become personally invested in their own work and growth as artists. Not only that, it’s completely student driven in the hours after school, acting autonomously and driving its own progress forward.
One of the biggest victories the school has achieved is the founding of the Overton Foundation, a non-profit entity that allows for donations to be made without getting caught up in the bureaucracy of the school district. In previous years, it was difficult to distribute funds from those wanting to pay for the studio’s services.
“With this new entity we will now be able to create a cash flow that revolves around the work produced and reward those students involved with direct, over-the-board, payments. This will provide the opportunity for students to learn to keep a job budget and understand pricing. It also allows for our studio to bid on jobs, and provide invoices for those we complete.”
The Overton Foundation is key to the future self-sustainability of this project.
In terms of improvement, the program is always on the hunt for new clients. Most of the initial client base came from sources directly related to the student and school, but now with multiple accolades under their belts and a sizable portfolio, the Studio is looking to expand further into the community. With the hurdles of creating the Overton Foundation and the initial cost of computers and software suites out of the way, it’s really up to the students and their mentors to guide this program into the future.
And it’s looking like a bright one.
Gallery of Afterschool Studio Artwork
Further reading on Real World Enrichment
- Co-op Programs Becoming Popular for Real World
- The Great Debate – Education vs. Experience
- Real World Experiences
Learn More about Career-Oriented Curriculum
Members of Tucson’s Mariachi Casabel Youth Organization take pride in new costumes and higher grades
Last year the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation funded the Mariachi Cascabel Youth Organization (MCYO), an innovative program attempting to combine academics with community engagement using music, specifically Mariachi music, as the binding agent. With Tucson’s Sunnyside Unified School District’s diminished music budgets there didn’t seem to be much hope for the group, especially since they needed new costumes. For mariachi, image is just as important as musical ability. Their costumes, called Trajes de Charro, don’t come cheap, especially if you want quality and authenticity. Organizer Daniel Dong proposed a unique project for improving not only the image of the musicians but also their success in math and science. Funded in 2013 by the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, this unique and special music education program has already made an exceptional impact.
… students in arts-integrated classrooms are more creative,
and effective at problem solving
than their counterparts who are not in arts-integrated classrooms.”
– Arts in Education Research Study, Kennedy Center ArtsEdge
Setting the tone for academic success
Research has indicated that students that who receive music education tend to do better, across the board, academically. This program takes it a step further by including a cultural component that has true community value. Daniel Dong’s idea was to help the Mariachi Cascabal Youth Organization Program, serving a primarily Hispanic district, be available to play in the community for all the most important celebrations. Even before funding they were able to play at a number of events including the Annual Latina Breast Cancer Conference and Mexican Mother’s Day festivals. He also coordinated within the school district to help MCYO get regular gigs at school carnivals and other related events.
Because within the district there is no other program like this, demand to get in is high. Here’s where the alignment with academics found a harmonious fit. The program instituted a requirement where students must retain passing grades or seek tutoring for those subjects. Now, not only were the students getting the benefits of a musical education, they were also more motivated to perform well in their other courses.
Costumes and instruments build pride, Tutors nurture brains
Because looking authentic was important for their success as legitimate mariachis within the community, the Foundation’s investment also went toward new costumes for the organization. They have currently received sixteen out of seventeen Trajes and are just waiting for the final jacket to come in to make their ensemble complete. The funding also provided new instruments for the group including two Prelude Violins, two Michoacána Vihuelas and four Yamaha Guitars from a local music company. Furthermore, students received three digital video cameras from Walmart to help document their experiments with the MCYO.
While a couple of students have fallen behind in their other academic courses, the tutors in math and science that have been provided are helping them reach their academic goals. In September, they held a large parent meeting to inform students and parents of all the benefits students receive by being involved in the MCYO. The prospects laid out got many parents excited which in turn helps the students realize the value of such a program.
There were, as always, some unexpected but not insurmountable costs. Trajes wear out quickly and they found they needed to bring their tailor up from Mexico City to do the measurements to make sure they got the highest quality Trajes. The Trajes were completed and shipped back to America in late April.
Culturally relevant music education and tutoring add up to better grades
From the beginning, the educators responsible for this project saw the value of a tutor. While the students were less than happy, initially, about being required to attend tutoring and a few stopped coming due to the requirements, many of those students returned and participated in the tutoring and watched their grades improve – a win for everyone involved.
Project educators also reported on how they could improve on this project for the next school year. Though they noted how enthusiastic parents were about tutoring, they couldn’t help but acknowledge how adverse the students were to it. They discussed ways to better sell that idea to students, so that this program and others patterned after it would find a lot more success. There were also important considerations that could be fine tuned in the future, such as streamlining the auditions, assessment of initial abilities and tutoring placement procedures.
Anecdotally, Daniel Dong reported, one of the biggest challenges was procuring the Trajes, which took about six months to obtain. Because they were authentically handmade in Mexico, however, the time was worth the wait.
All in all, the MCYO has been successful with their approach to using music education and tutoring to improve student success and creativity. They are on track to meet and exceed their proposed goal “to acquire mariachi outfits and musical instruments to help motivate students to be more engaged in their academics and to be positive role models in their community.”
What did the students have to say about their work?
MCYO members wrote about their experiences in the program and about attending the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.
Similar programs could be proposed in your other schools; take advantage of your local musical genres that impact your community the way that Mariachi music does in Tucson, Arizona, will be your real challenge.
For more information on the magic of music in academic enrichment, read on:
- Playing a musical instrument could boost brain function in kids (Digital Journal, 2014)
- Using Music in the Classroom to Inspire Creative Expression (Edutopia, 2014)
- New Evidence Links Music Education, Higher Test Scores (Pacific Standard, 2013)
iPad Based Business Project Benefits Children in Africa
It is far too often that education simply consists of students taking in and regurgitating information, which does little but display retention skills. What is oft overlooked is how each student is developing as a person. So what if you could tie school work and kindness together in a way that teaches 21st century skills? That’s what the educators at St. Vincent’s Catholic School in Salt Lake City are doing. Their Pay it Forward project aims to both educate students about venture capitalism while also tuning up their social conscience by letting needy students in Africa be the beneficiaries of their profits.
How does Pay it Forward work?
The idea is exceedingly simple. At the start of Spring 2010, educator Rhea Hristou, project creator, gave each of her second graders five dollars.
“The children were asked to use that $5.00 as “seed” money to begin [their own startup] – some type of business venture that will turn the $5 into at least $15.00. Over one month, they could use the money for ingredients for cookies or lemonade for a food stand, posters for a garage sale, beads for jewelry to make and sell, or whatever they choose. At the end of that month, students do a presentation displaying their venture.”
Hristou then assisted the students in taking the profits and using them to gain entry for three children in Africa to a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame Mission in Uganda. Pretty cool, right? The project doesn’t stop there.
Hristou also requested ten iPads for technology center in her classroom to allow her students greater access to information about the children they were benefitting. Describing the benefit of these devices, she noted how many learning opportunities arose: “…apps to learn about the geography, cultures of Africa, a newspaper app to look up African current events, Math apps to help with funding and money collection, tools like Skype or email to communicate with the children in Uganda, and use presentation apps to help students present their ideas to the class.” The class based set of iPads were made available not only to the second grade, but also after school for other projects.
How can you replicate this program?
While ten iPads may seem like an expensive purchase for a school, they were lucky to find an independent donor to match five iPads if they were able to come up with the remainder. Remember, iPads aren’t necessary to begin teaching your students about business while also filling them with a social conscience. Using resources like those available through Pay it Forward Day, the charity chosen could be anywhere in the world.
When students know that they are making a tangible difference in their world, it fills students with a sense of pride while also bolstering their motivation to succeed at their task. If real lives are being affected, then the effort must be greater. An important lesson for any student.
This project started in 2010, so where are they now?
Student created startups were varied and ran the gamut from dog walking to making and selling pot holders to bake sales but the results were astounding! While only aiming to make a ten dollar profit on each student, Hristou was filled with pride to receive back an average of sixty five dollars a student. The iPads also were a hit, both for the teachers and the students. It allowed them unprecedented access to their African counterparts, while also providing tools and resources that expanded and shaped their world view.
The “Pay It Forward” model is an obvious success. Educating students while also giving them a more worldly view of their planet and filling them with a social conscience. In an increasingly globalized world these skills cannot be emphasized enough. For more information on the ideas in this project, please visit the websites below.
- Teaching Kindness: More than a Random Act (Edutopia, 2013)
- Pay It Forward Kindness Project (Random Act of Kindness Foundation)
- “Pay It Forward” Service Learning Project Gathers Momentum (Beaver Creek City Schools)
- Pay It Forward Day Kit for Schools (Pay it Forward Day)
Professor Sarah J. McCarthey, President of the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, announced that the Foundation is now accepting applications for 2014/2015 academic year grants and scholarships. Deadline for applications is April 15, 2014.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the Foundation disbursed over $141,000 to efforts supporting minority and economically disadvantaged students. Funding was disseminated through grants and scholarships to innovative enrichment programs. McCarthey noted that successful projects are “outstanding in their conceptual sophistication, their real-world significance and their collaborative focus… help[ing] students achieve Common Core Standards, but also go[ing] beyond the standards to develop innovative contributions to their communities” (PRWEB, 2013). Examples of successful projects can be found on the Foundation’s blog including the service learning program for teens at the Center for Family and Community Outreach (CFCO) in Evansville, Indiana and Microfinance in Action, a global citizenship project designed to build leadership skills and teach economics in Memphis, Tennesee.
Student Teaching/Mentoring Scholarships are funded in the amount of $6,000 each Full-time student specializing in elementary or secondary education who are in their final year of teacher education programs at New Mexico State University, University of California at Santa Cruz, University of Texas at Austin and Stephen F. Austin State University are eligible to apply for the one-year Student Teaching Scholarships.
Teacher Development Grants and Academic Enrichment Grants are funded in an amount up to $10,000 each per year for a maximum of three years provided the eligibility requirements continue to be met.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to review frequently asked questions before applying.
The Foundation receives hundreds of applications each academic year funding from public, private and charter schools in both urban and rural areas. Including the projects mentioned above, the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation funded 22 enrichment efforts for the 2013-2014 school year. Recipients include the New York Urban Debate League and The Water Quality Project. The application deadline is April 15 of each year for proposals with significant potential to enrich the educational experiences for youth.
Connecting lessons learned in classrooms to real world applications is one of the great challenges in teaching. Teachers and administrators at Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana have come up with an innovative new classroom model to address that challenge.
What is the CFCO?
They have created the Center for Family and Community Outreach (CFCO), which aims to use student skills (built around academic content) to create documents, multimedia, events, presentations, and more for over twenty non-profit organizations in their community.
Educators are able to connect students with members of the non-profit community, creating a symbiotic relationship wherein the student gains valuable real-life skills and the non-profits get a free service. Not only is it easier to engage teenage minds directly if they feel a sense of involvement and contribution towards the betterment of their community, it also helps teens build invaluable skills for the transition into their adult lives.
How can service learning support non-profits and drive engagement for learners?
There are many service learning projects around the country, but few, if any, that drives content in the classroom around producing products for non-profits. The CFCO model has elements of numerous trends in education, such as:
- project-based learning
- student-centered learning
- and new technology,
but is truly innovative for the level of engagement it produces for students.
This program has seven distinct goals.
- Research the non-profit groups and social issues in students’ communities.
- Hold ‘Round Table’ discussions with local experts on special topic issues using the latest online literature and information.
- Tour the non-profit facilities and volunteer with local organizations and events.
- Collaborate with leaders on project ideas and write formal proposals
- Use project based learning and technology to design and create materials
- “Pitch” their ideas through benchmarks and final presentations
- Openly communicate with the community through blogging and video reflections.
Importance of Community Support
Students are immersed in the tangible application of skills from the classroom, and since students know what they are doing will have a real impact on their community, it is readily apparent how seriously they take it. The program has relied on a tremendous amount of community support and is currently in it’s third year of operation. Fortunately they continue to draw in new non-profit partners based on the satisfaction of their initial partners and publicity the projects have generated for the mission of non-profits in Evansville.
What is the impact?
So where are the teachers and students of Harrison High School now, a year into the program? Reports have come back with very positive results, including:
- Students have a sense of ownership and engagement in their work as well as their community.
- Non-profit data shows that the community’s organizations have much higher perception of the schools and teens’ abilities after working with the CFCO.
Moving forward they plan on moving the program to a half day model, to increase student exposure, as well as continuing to nurture community involvement and contribution.
With such an easily adaptable model, educators around the country should be looking to Evansville, and Harrison High School in particular. How they proceed could very well dictate how dozens of similar programs pop up in the future. Community involvement and concrete links between lessons learned in the classroom and real world applications are key in both advancing education as well as building a student body that is invested in the present and future of their community. While the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” has been politicized as of late, I think we can all agree that fostering a child’s investment and involvement in his or her village can only lead to positive results.
For more information
- What is Service Learning?
- NSSE Results 2013 (teachingresearcher.wordpress.com)
- Creating Space for Marginalized Voices: Re-focusing Service Learning on Community Change and Social Justice (knrajlibrary.wordpress.com)
- Online Student is Set on ReStore-ing Ethics (blogs.msbcollege.edu)