Tag Archives: arts in education

STEM to STEAM

At this point in our history, educational priorities are focused on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. This is a lopsided view of values in education. We need to encourage our school districts and educators to prioritize STEAM: science, technology, engineering, ART and math.

Artwork is the application of many of these other areas of education. Artists deal with physics and chemistry because they work with materials that have specific properties and limits. They deal with mathematics as they confront geometry, measurements and mechanics. Technology and engineering are utilized as they are in every other arena of production – the thing produced must work! It must be stable and function.

Artwork has been devalued as impractical. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, at the same time, artwork is creative.  It can be fanciful. This should not be used to denigrate art, but rather to reveal what it has to offer to other disciplines. Engineers and scientists must be creative. They must be inventive. Like artists, they must explore the boundaries of what has already been done to see what might be done.

Education must encourage creativity in all its forms. This will help our children build a world that can address unforeseen challenges including repercussions from climate change, population pressures and changing social, political, and environmental situations. Now, more than ever, we need our artists to give us the vision – a practical vision – for the future.

The students involved in the Garden of Fire are not worried about any of this. They are simply learning and having fun. It is our job to think about this on their behalf.

Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes

 

 

It Takes a Village

The culminating festival for the Garden of Fire was a tremendous success from every aspect.

It takes a village,” as they say, and the program and festival could not have happened without all the amazing educators, artists, and community volunteers. We were delighted to have parents join us in celebrating their children’s accomplishments. The youths are the heart and joy of the program with their enthusiasm and eagerness to try new things.

The Garden of Fire: Summer of Water ironically took place during weeks of severe drought and heat in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Each week of programs centered on topics including nature, growing cycles, healthy food, and art – highlighting the connection to water, importance of potable (drinkable) water, sounds & rhythms of water through music, reliance on water for life on Earth, and water pollution and conservation.

Suddenly, three days before the festival we were surprised with a series of thunderstorms and downpours. The much-needed water finally came! Naturally, we were a bit worried for the festival, BUT the morning of the celebration the dark clouds cleared and the sun shone bright and hot!

Kids reveled in all the water-themed activities, live music, art displays and games which opened and closed with a special ceremony.

In closing, we thank everyone who contributed and we look forward to 2017!

Amy Ruza
Education Programs Coordinator
The Rockwell Museum

Creating Fertile Ground for Healing, Growth, and Endless Possibilities

When a child is able to connect an experience in their life to the broader world around them, something magical happens!

There is a moment. An expression. A pause. A light bulb turns on, and a child who is struggling no longer feels alone. They feel safe. They feel understood. That is the moment in which we as counselors and educators can truly make a difference. When that moment combines with laughter, play, and creativity, then the possibilities for healing are endless.

Don’t get me wrong, these experiences are rare. Those of us who work with at-risk youth focus all efforts on creating those kinds of moments, but the truth is that you can’t force them – all you can do is create the space for them to happen. This work is what CareFirst and all of the other Garden of Fire partners are trying to accomplish in our summer programming. In the recent Rain Stick Making workshop led by CareFirst’s Tara Chapman, these moments were abundant.

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Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

You can see the look in their eye as they were able to connect their emotional experiences to the world around them, and specifically, to this year’s theme of water. The children were able to talk about their life, times when they had difficult things happen, and how they cope with the intense emotions of life we all feel.  They used the symbol of water and created rain sticks that allowed them to create music and express themselves in a new and unique way.

These kinds of activities are what help young minds grow.

When we as humans combine nature and creativity with a chance to process our emotions and focus on our own well-being, it creates fertile ground for healing, growth, and endless possibilities.

There is no greater blessing than to see this in our youth and to know that the future of tomorrow is being left in the hands of children who have not only expanded their minds, but healed their hearts.

Chelsea E. Ambrose
Counseling Services Manager, CareFirst

The Power of Water

This year’s theme is Water, and what a fantastic, flexible, flowing theme for the summer! Water is one of the most attractive of the elements – who doesn’t want to dip their toes in a stream, splash around in a stream, put their hands under a waterfall?

Water is powerful in two ways – it is a dynamic force with unique physical and chemical properties, and it is a constant reminder of our connection to the rest of the life on our planet.

Now, “unique physical and chemical properties” sounds cool to me, but it doesn’t necessarily fall that way on a kid’s ears. The trick to get them turned on to the awesomeness of water is to bring in our animal ambassadors, and encourage the kids to imagine how our animals use, adapt to, or even defy the powers of water in their daily life. The kids know how frigid winter can be here in New York, and how dry a summer drought can be. How do our amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals survive in a constantly changing environment?

The states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas – may not seem that exciting in a textbook. But when kids can see a grey tree frog up close and learn how this tiny creature changes his whole body chemistry to prevent the water in his cells from turning to ice and bursting his cell walls – that adds wonder and awe to what the youth know about two hydrogens and one oxygen molecule.

Talking about and meeting our animals also encourages the kids to reflect on their own bodies, and how important water is to their survival. The water in our cells connects us to the grey tree frog, and to the lettuces and tomatoes growing in the gardens. In each living being on the planet, H20 is circulating. Humans are breathing it out as water vapor; trees are transporting it through xylem and phloem. The Garden of Fire program provides room for kids to appreciate the strength of water in its different physical states, and the inspiration of water as a bond between all living things.

Water unifies, strengthens, and nourishes the children in the program – not just quenching their physical thirst or plumping the peppers they will harvest later, but also provoking questions and inspiring reflection on our responsibilities to each other and to the rest of the life on our planet.

Bridget Sharry
Community Relations Manager
Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum

 

Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

Summer Changes Everything: Garden of Fire to Present at Baltimore Conference

2015 Conf badge-presenterI am very pleased to be presenting at the 12th Annual National Summer Learning Association Conference. This year’s conference theme, Renewing the Promise and Purpose of Learning, celebrates the joy of learning, the perfect tie-in with our own Garden of Fire Summer Program.

I, Gigi Alvaré , Director of Education at The Rockwell Museum, will travel to Baltimore to present with my colleagues Emily Hofelich-Bowler and Alli Lidie; we’ll present on how networking and collaboration can spark innovation in summer programming.

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Gigi Alvaré, Director of Education at The Rockwell Museum, reads the Garden of Fire story during the first summer session

Our presentation, entitled Garden of Fire: Reaping the Rewards of Community Networking Through a Joint Summer Program, will highlight how several organizations and programs came together in a rural community to create a rich summer program for youth. The Garden of Fire was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America Grant after the first summer of programming.

The session will give context to the Garden of Fire collaboration with an opening discussion, led by Alli Lidie, Deputy Director and White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellow of AfterSchool Works! NY: the New York State Afterschool Network (ASW:NYSAN). Alli will speak about the structure for regional after-school networks in New York State that bring together both after-school and summer providers in their communities. The Garden of Fire program grew out of the relationships formed through network participation, and through work with The Triangle Fund, a funder and member of the network. The session will also touch on work done by other regional networks in New York.

Emily Hofelich-Bowler, Executive Director of the Addison Youth Center
Emily Hofelich-Bowler, Executive Director of the Addison Youth Center, presents her owl friend to students

The Garden of Fire is a project conceived collaboratively by local organizations whose purpose is to build capacity, depth and the integration of art and science for programs serving at-risk youth in Steuben County, New York. Emily Hofelich-Bowler, Executive Director of the Addison Youth Center, will speak about networking with the local school districts to optimize resources, and how incorporating state-wide learning initiatives (STEM) as part of the program gave the summer program more leverage and legitimacy in asking for school support.

By providing programming led by professional artists and educators held in museums, gardens, and fields, the local community and region opens up to students who otherwise might have very limited opportunities. It is our hope that the model program we have collectively created will spark the imagination and action of other communities to build their own Gardens of Fire.

Together we can care for our most precious gifts: the earth itself and the children who live on it. 

Gigi1Gigi Alvaré
Director of Education
The Rockwell Museum

The Life Cycle of the Chicken

This week’s Garden of Fire adventures were held at the CareFirst facility and centered around symbology, and how kids can connect to a symbol to represent themselves.

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At first the kids sat silent, not sure what symbology meant, but  as the discussion went on, on students found ways to connect.  Across the board, the favorite symbols were spirals and trees.

One of the students chose the spiral to represent the life cycle during the decorating of the flags.  He asked me as he drew:  “Can I do the lifecycle of the chicken?”  He then explains the egg, the chick, the chicken and a blank section… fried chicken.  I pause, and of course giggle a little, not sure how to respond.

It may offend some, as we all make choices in what we eat and many choose not to eat meat.  We talk a bit more and he tells of the chickens his family raises for eggs and meat.  This is how he and his family choose to live and it’s wonderful to be grateful for the meat and truly understand the sacrifices and not just go to the store to pick up a package. leespearyphoto300care1st-35

I tell this story because Garden of Fire is a place where these students can be themselves.  They are not being judged or having to fit into the preverbial box.  These symbols represent him and his family.

One of the goals on the program is to teach gardening and science.  If more children had the experience of really knowing where all their food came from, and the work that is put into a simple slice of bread, our world would be a better place.

Emily Hofelich
Executive Director
Friends of the Addison Youth Center, Inc.