What Role Does A Teaching Artist Play In The Classroom?

By Benin Marshall, Education & Programs Intern

What role does a Teaching Artists play in the classroom?  How much do these artists impact the lives of their students?  My summer as the P.S. ARTS Education & Programs Intern has allowed me to better understand how important Teaching Artists are in the lives of the children they serve/teach.  P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists provide an outlet for creativity in the arts that many of their students would not have access to otherwise.  P.S. ARTS engages students in learning about the arts and encourages students to apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives.

I first got the chance to see a P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist in action at Harvard Elementary in MacArthur Park.  The Teaching Artist I shadowed was Matthew Orduña, a P.S. ARTS Theater Teaching Artist.  When I first stepped into Matthew’s class, I could instantly see the chemistry he had with his students.  He would engage them on different levels, asking them about their hobbies, favorite athletes, and why they liked that particular athlete.  For this particular project, Matthew had his students make a film out of one of the student’s scripts in class.  He also gave his students the opportunity to participate in every role the film had.  Students worked in casting roles, cinematography, lighting, set design, costume design, and sound.  It was amazing.  What stood out the most to me was how Matthew allowed his students to be creative problem solvers.

In one instance, Matthew asked students where a specific scene should be shot between a dialogue with the mother and her son.   One student gave the ideal location for the scene, though at that time of day the location was not accessible.  So the students brainstormed for a while more and finally came up with the solution of filming the scene in front of a window in their classroom.  They arranged the set for the scene, the actors rehearsed their lines, the director said, “Quiet on the set.”  In four takes, the students had the scene they needed.  This is exactly the kind of teaching and learning we need in the classroom–teaching that inspires students to actively participate and share their ideas and creates a learning environment that is both positive and collaborative.

Jose Castellanos Family Art Night 2014

Students at Jose Castellanos Family Art Night in 2014.

Another P.S. ARTS Theater Teaching Artists, Leo Vargas, had the same effect on students when I attended a P.S. ARTS Family Art Night at Jose Castellanos Elementary in Los Angeles.  Leo, along with Stephanie Kistner and Amy Knutson of the Education & Programs Team at P.S. ARTS, made sure every student had what was needed in order for the event to go well.  The lesson was based on the concept of painting to music. Students would look at a masterwork while Leo explained how the artist created the particular piece.  With this concept in their minds, Leo put on music and the students and their parents began to paint.  Leo had the whole audience engaged in the activity. Students were very involved in their painting and asking questions.  The Education & Programs Team supported the Teaching Artist, students, and parents by providing answers to any questions they might have had and additional art materials for them to use.  The event was a success and ended with a raffle giveaway of t-shirts, crayons, and music!

P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists play a critical part in student learning.  They go into the classrooms ready to give these students the skills to master their craft.  Since all of the P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists are also practicing artists, students get the opportunity to work with professional artists and learn useful skills that are used in the arts field. P.S. ARTS allows students to tap into their creative nature.  They provide students with the creative outlet needed for them to be successful in life and serve as positive mentors that will help them along their journey.

This summer internship at P.S. ARTS has truly taught me a great deal about what it takes to have a successful arts education nonprofit.  It takes a clear mission and a team with drive, open communication, and respect for one another.  It was very important for me to see how the staff at P.S.ARTS took time to check on their Teaching Artists and make sure everything was going well in their class.  Also, the Education & Programs Team was involved in creating lesson plans (for Teaching Artists and other nonprofits), To Go! Projects (for students to take home or access online), and Family Art Nights (which brought the community together and had parents engage with their children in making art).  This internship has given me a lot of new inspiration that I will use in the future to create positive change through the arts.

Intersections: Arts & Special Education

Stephanie Kistner, Senior Program Coordinator

By Stephanie Kistner, Senior Program Coordinator

For me, summer has always been a time to re-energize, reflect, and plan. Here at P.S. ARTS, it’s much the same. This summer the Programs Team has been busy reflecting on our accomplishments as an organization and planning our programs for the upcoming  year.

As part of the planning process, we annually research and review program models and best practices in the fields of arts and education. There are always exciting and innovative things happening in the arts and education worlds, and we’re eager to learn more about what’s happening in the field, in schools, and in classrooms.

Accessible and equitable arts programming are important values of P.S. ARTS, and with the addition of inclusive arts programs to our roster, utilizing best practices in special education and inclusion programs has been a priority.

Last month I had the opportunity to attend The Kennedy Center’s VSA Intersections: Arts and Special Education Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. VSA is a department of the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center that serves as an international organization that promotes arts accessibility for all. VSA also supports arts education opportunities for people with disabilities.

The VSA conference brought together program administrators, teaching artists, arts specialists, classroom teachers, special education teachers, and researchers from across the country to learn more about the arts and special education.

The theme of the conference was “intersections.” Intersections between arts and special education, intersections between classroom teachers and teaching artists, intersections between arts specialists and special education teachers, and intersections between practitioners and researchers. The conference brought together a professional network of individuals who all believe that the arts play an integral role in the education of ALL students.

Students in the P.S. ARTS inclusive arts education program at Grand View Boulevard Elementary.

Students in the P.S. ARTS inclusive music education program at Grand View Boulevard Elementary.

I went to the conference with a mission: to find best practices and exemplar models that we could apply to our classrooms. What I quickly realized, and what I know very well working in education, is that there is not a one-size-fits-all model when it comes to classrooms, special education, and inclusion programs. To me, that is the exciting challenge of teaching, designing, and implementing lessons that fit a wide range of learning styles and that meet the needs of every student in the room.

Some approaches that I enjoyed learning more about and will continue to help P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists implement include:

  • UDL: Universal Design for Learning: UDL is a framework that helps educators design lessons for learners of varying abilities and learning goals. The framework can be applied to virtually any sort of educational setting and lends itself well to arts programming and inclusive, self-directed learning. UDL is central to P.S. ARTS programming and can be seen in all of our classrooms.
  • Social Emotional Learning: This approach is particularly helpful in inclusive classrooms that include students with Emotional Behavior Disorders (EBD) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can be difficult for these students to feel safe and comfortable enough to engage and participate in classroom activities. Social Emotional Learning through ensemble building in theater is one approach to reach and include all students as everyone learns together how to recognize, share, and control emotional responses.
  • Inclusion Based Arts Programs: One major take away from this approach was the community effort that it takes to manage and implement successful programs. Community is central to what P.S. ARTS does and this objective directly aligns with our programming. Built-in planning time, information sharing, goal setting, benchmarking plans, and clear methodology and approaches all contribute to student success in areas of increased communication and socialization skills, arts proficiency, and academic learning.

The conference opened with a quote by President John F. Kennedy that largely informs VSA’s work, and which closely resonates with the work of P.S. ARTS:

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but…for our contribution to the human spirit.” – President John F. Kennedy

Everything I learned at the VSA conference reinforced our values as an organization, primarily that providing universal access to an education that includes the arts is a matter of social justice, equity, and responsible public policy. I’m constantly inspired by the work that P.S. ARTS does and the change that it seeks to make in the world – in education, in classrooms, and in each and every student that we serve.

Spotlight On Our Tastemakers for Taste for Venice

Chelsea Martell, Events Coordinator

By Chelsea Martell, Events Coordinator

Taste of Venice, which will take place on Sunday, September 14th (tickets are on sale now!) is an exciting opportunity for our organization to collaborate with our culinary neighbors and host an event in the community we call home to raise vital funds for our arts education programs.  Taste of Venice, originally a fundraiser for Inside Out Community Arts, another Venice-based organization we acquired this summer, is an afternoon where local chefs open their doors for a unique tasting experience and a great cause.

New to the event this year is the addition of a Tastemaker committee comprised of culinary experts from throughout Los Angeles.  The Tastemakers will lead the Tasting Tour portion of the event, which will consist of well-known Abbot Kinney restaurants providing our guests samples of their favorite dishes.  Our Tastemakers will provide their expert insight into the food community of Los Angeles, as well as the dishes being sampled throughout the night.

As a thank you, we wanted to include a special feature about some of the Tastemakers who are part of this year’s event, as well as share why arts education is so important to them.  We are grateful for their work and for being a part of Taste of Venice 2014!

Gary BaumGary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter

Gary Baum is a senior writer at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers the intersection of the entertainment business and Los Angeles, with a focus on cultural issues and investigative features.  His dining stories have ranged from an exploration of the industry’s enduring appetite for investments in risky restaurant ventures to an oral history of Beverly Hills’ The Grill on the Alley. He also writes The Hollywood Reporter’s Hot New Restaurant column.

Why is art important to you? As John Updike put it, “What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.”

What is currently your favorite dish? Right now, grilled stone fruit with burrata.

Challen CatesChallen Cates, Actress and Wine Producer, Challen Winery

Challen Cates is an actress of stage and screen (A Million Ways to Die in The West,   Big Time Rush) as well as a producer of award winning Pinot Noir – Look for her own personal label in wine shops and restaurants this fall, Challen Winery.  She is currently on stage in “Is There Sex After Marriage” at the Two Roads Theatre.

Why is art important to you?  Art is a life force that keeps me inspired, inquisitive and passionate.

What is your favorite food?  Chocolate pot de creme.

antonio diaz photoAntonio Diaz, Founder of Life & Thyme

Antonio Diaz is the founder and editor in chief of Life & Thyme, an online magazine documenting food culture with a storytelling sensibility.  Using the food industry as a canvas, Antonio and his band of creatives at Life & Thyme strive to create beautiful stories through the written word, films, and photography about the people that feed us.  When he’s not writing or documenting, you’ll often find him eating tacos or drinking cortados.

Why is arts important to you?  Art is important because it’s our way of putting imagination into reality.

What is your favorite food?  The taco.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of taco, as long as it’s a taco.  You can put anything onto a tortilla and make it a taco.  Everyone always seems happier while eating tacos.

Muddy LeekJulie Retzlaff and Whitney Flood, Co-Owners and Chef of Muddy Leek Restaurant

Julie and Whitney opened their catering company Bon Melange Catering in 2006, building it from the ground up for 6 years until they felt ready for the plunge of the crazy Los Angeles restaurant scene.  In 2012 they opened Muddy Leek, which was an extension of the underground dinners they had held as part of their catering business.  Their Muddy Leek restaurant abides by the same practices as their Bon Melange Catering: farm to table, delicious food, and all prepared by hand.

Why is art important to you? Art is important because it expands your mind, brings up memories, creates new experiences, and challenges perceptions.  Art can also be very healing, therapeutic, and most importantly it can spark creativity!  Art brings people together.  We use to do dinners around art before opening the restaurant – all over LA – in galleries, backyards, print shops, studios, etc.… It was amazing!

What is currently your favorite dish? Thai food hands down – we love how they take simple ingredients and create such flavorful meals with them, and how the balance and texture of every dish is well thought out.  The basis of their cuisine is how we like to approach every dish.  Not necessarily with the ingredients, but the mindset of balance.

Chef JudyJudy Han, Corporate Executive Chef of Mendocino Farms

As the Corporate Executive Chef of Mendocino Farms, Chef Judy continually pushes the limits on how to make ‘just another sandwich’, and designs innovative, soulful sandwiches, salads, and sides that use the best, seasonal ingredients from the restaurant’s local artisan farmers and ranchers. Han’s first job was at Lucques under Suzanne Goin, where she learned the virtues of working with local vendors who produced organically grown sustainable foods, after which she went on to work in some of LA’s finest kitchens, including Sona, Grace, Koi, and Literati II, before joining the Mendocino Farms team in 2007. When the passionate, energetic Han is not in the kitchen, she loves traveling and spending time with her husband and two children.

Michele GanMichele Gan, Owner of Serves You Right! Catering

Many elite Angelinos & Hollywood celebrities know Michele Gan as the go-to caterer for their private soirees and dinner parties.  A 1993 graduate of the California Culinary Institute, Michele’s background consists of 20+ years of experience in the food service industry.  Focusing on seasonal “California Cuisine”, she has become one of the most sought-after caterers in Los Angeles.

Why is art important to you? I believe arts education is crucial to a child’s development.  Every day I encourage my daughter to create, dance, explore, and express herself!  Throughout my career in catering and event planning, I am constantly reminded of the value of a creative mind and an artistic approach to food and event design.  I support P.S. ARTS because I know I’m not only enriching the lives of children today, but also contributing to a beautiful future.

What is currently your favorite dish? My philosophy is that food is best when it’s fresh, and not over handled.  Although I appreciate new trends and molecular gastronomy, I most enjoy a freshly shucked oyster or a beautiful pan-seared piece of seasonal fish.  I also believe that tradition is key.  Therefore, if it’s lunchtime you’ll find me at the Apple Pan!

Adam GertlerAdam Gertler, The Food Network

Adam Gertler is a chef and television host.  He was a finalist on The Food Network’s Next Food Network Star and host of Will Work For Food and Kid In A Candy Store.  He is the “wurstmacher” (maker of fine sausage) for Dog Haüs restaurants and the host of FX Movie Download on the FX network, a show that presents movies with behind-the-scenes features.

Why is art important to you? Growing up, the arts were what saved me.  From a young age, I knew I had no talent for athletics and I often got in trouble for being a class clown and a daydreamer.  When I discovered the arts, particularly theater, my life instantly had a purpose.  Theater and the performing arts made me feel like I had a place in the world, like I belonged to a secret club, and that helped me through all the awkward stages of my development.

Alan JacksonAlan Jackson, Chef and Founder of Lemonade Restaurant Group

Chef and Founder of Lemonade Restaurant Group, Alan Jackson has helped redefine the fast casual dining segment in Southern California.  The idea for Lemonade came from the ongoing question, “What’s for dinner?” He realized that the options for a quick bite or take-out were limited, and not particularly healthy.  So he sought to create a chef-driven, relaxed approach to contemporary California cuisine.  Lemonade offers fresh, healthy food made from seasonal ingredients and caters to people looking for a quick lunch or “grab and go” dinner.  Since the opening of its flagship location more than six years ago, Lemonade has opened thirteen additional locations throughout Southern California and most recently Dubai.

Catherine McCordCatherine McCord, Founder of Weelicious

Catherine, mom to Kenya and Chloe, created Weelicious.com in 2007 as a platform to show parents around the world how easy and beneficial it is to expose children to wholesome, delicious homemade food.  After personally struggling with how to feed Kenya, Catherine recognized a need for realistic and nutritious recipes for parents using minimal ingredients that are fully loaded with flavor.  Weelicious now houses more than 1,200 original recipes and more than 230 videos.  Catherine inspires her community with ingredients that are readily available and recipes that are fast and easy.  Once a day, Weelicious debuts a new recipe or tip as well as a how-to cooking video posted each week to provide a wealth of cooking information for families.

In addition, Catherine is on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network and has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live.  She also has a monthly column in Parents Magazine and Huffington Post.

Why is art important to you? Art has always been a way for me to channel my energy. I became passionate about cooking because I look at it as edible art. Art is such an amazing way to express yourself and feelings.

What is your favorite food? Figs.

tara-mattMatthew Poley, Chef of Heirloom LA

Originally from Clarkston, Michagan just outside Detroit, Executive Chef and Co-Owner Matt Poley began “catering” at an early age, cooking for friends and family at high school tail-gate parties before football games.  In 2004, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was classically trained by Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria and from there, sent to intern at the two-star restaurant, Vissani, near Orvieto, Italy.  Centrally based on a small farm and completely self-contained, this was where Matt learned the value of personally knowing where he sources his ingredients.  Matt continues this tradition at Heirloom LA, seeking out small farms and humanely raised livestock for the fresh ingredients in his dishes.

Why is art important to you?  Art is important to me because so often people call food art.  As Tara likes to say, “You can’t hang it on the wall,” but certainly it can be artful and I am delighted to see food plated so artfully now at some of my favorite restaurants.

What is your favorite food?  Favorite food has to be LASAGNA!

Kate RolandKate Roland, LA Brunchers

Kate Roland is a co-founder of LABrunchers.com, a website dedicated to all things brunch.  Along with fellow co-founder Leah Smith, these LA Brunchers are Los Angeles’ one and only brunch gurus. Their website features local restaurants with exceptional brunches, focusing on supporting restaurants highlighting farm fresh ingredients, locally sourced items, and of course, delicious cocktails.

Why is art important to you? Whether it is a book you cannot put down, a painting that moves you, or a meal you talk about for weeks to follow, artistic expression allows you to escape the mundane if even for a moment.  It is also something you can enjoy with a cocktail in hand – one of our favorite things about brunch.

What is currently your favorite dish? Since mimosas are not an option, our favorite food has to be eggs.  From crab cake benedict to croque-madam, you can find us eating this brunch staple at any time of day.

Dana SlatkinDana Slatkin, Beverly Hills Farmgirl, Chef and Owner of Beverly Hills Farmers Market, Inc.

Dana Slatkin is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, cookbook author, food writer, and cooking class instructor in Los Angeles.  As the Beverly Hills Farmgirl, Dana teaches a popular series of cooking classes in her home, runs a pop-up shop and online store, and writes a weekly blog, 90210farmgirl.com. She is currently at work on a food-obsessed television show.

Why is art important to you? Art informs everything I aspire to do well, from cooking to teaching to producing to parenting. Words often fall short in helping us express ourselves. That’s where art comes in. Life would be awfully drab without art.

What is your favorite food? My favorite foods are dirty chai lattes, creamed spinach, cheese with crusty bread, and fruit cobbler.

SONY DSCJennifer Sommer, Sommer Dish and West Coast Correspondent Food & Wine

Jennifer Sommer believes everyday is a fresh opportunity to discover the world through food and shares her favorite finds on her website, sommerdish.com.  With an extensive career in publishing, she currently acts as Food & Wine magazine’s West Coast Correspondent, writing and reporting for the New York-based, award-winning editorial team.  Additionally, she acts as an advisor to many lifestyle brands and start-ups, including Santa Monica-based Tastemade, while placing a priority on giving back to her community.  She currently resides in Pacific Palisades with her equally food-obsessed husband and their two sweets-obsessed daughters.

Why is art important to you? Art is important to me because it has played a large role in my family’s history, allowing family members to capture timeless moments in a way not possible with words.  My youngest daughter is a budding artist and I want her to know a world where art is valued, accessible, and can create opportunities for all.

Drew and Ben LA Foodie PictureDrew Hubbard and Ben Waters, L.A. Foodie

Drew founded L.A. Foodie in 2008 with the intention of blogging and reviewing the dives and shacks that make-up his favorite spots in Los Angeles.  Drew writes many of the reviews and posts on the blog, provides many of L.A. Foodie’s tweets, and joins Ben Waters on the #LAFoodiePodcast.

Ben was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, which means he can survive on barbecue sauce alone for up to three weeks.  Ben enjoys taking pics of his food and posting them on Instagram, reviewing new restaurants, and sunsets (alcoholic or otherwise).  He also produces & co-hosts the #LAFoodiePodcast as well as the occasional YouTube video.

Why is art important to you? The creation and enjoyment of art encourages abstract thinking.  The creative process is fun and rewarding, plus it helps foster the development of problem solving skills.  In short, art makes you better at life.

What is currently your favorite dish? Not much beats a great hamburger.

In addition to the list, we are also extremely excited to have Challen Cates, Nick Liberato, Lulu Powers, and Jon Shook on our Tastemaker committee.  We look forward to seeing you on September 14th!

TakePART Art Festival 2014 Recap

Knutson, Amy.Edited.Cropped

By Amy Knutson, Education & Programs Assistant

On June 1st, 2014 we held our 3rd Annual TakePART Art Festival at Prairie Vista Middle School in Hawthorne, and it was a huge success!  More than 2,000 people attended, 24 student groups performed, there were 18 art booths throughout, and over 500 pieces of student artwork were displayed in a student art gallery.

We’d like to give a big shout out to all of our TakePART partners, booth participants, and the 80+ volunteers who made it possible!  We couldn’t have done it without all of your help.  At this end of this article you will find a photo gallery of some of the pictures taken at the Festival by myself, Senior Program Coordinator Lauren Deck, and Amy Philips from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.  We are also thrilled to share this video created by our Getty Foundation Programs Intern, Benin Marshall!

The TakePART Initiative, facilitated by P.S. ARTS, is a collaborative partnership between arts education, philanthropic, health, and community organizations, along with five school districts in the Centinela Valley region (Centinela Valley High School, Hawthorne, Lawndale Elementary, Lennox, and Wiseburn Unified) who have come together to ensure that the over 20,000 children in this region have equal access to high-quality, sequential arts education from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

Finally, I am also excited to announce the launch of the very first TakePART Initiative website (takepartinitiative.org) created by the Teen Techies in our newly acquired Teen Media Initiative, an Extended Learning program of P.S. ARTS.  The Teen Media Initiative gives teenagers exposure to digital media education and opportunities to assist local businesses in creating websites and marketing materials.  The TakePART Initiative website created by our Teen Techies will be a great resource for all of the organizations involved in this collaborative partnership.

Once again, thank you to all our partners and supporters who have helped make the TakePART Initiative such a success! We all feel so privileged to be working with a group of such dedicated partners!

Taste of Venice: Sneak Peek!

Chelsea Martell, Events Coordinator

By Chelsea Martell, Events Coordinator

Taste of Venice LogoIf you haven’t already heard, this summer P.S. ARTS acquired the Venice-based organization Inside Out Community Arts and with it, their fabulous Taste of Venice event.  Taste of Venice is an opportunity for the chefs in our eclectic community to open their doors for a unique tasting experience in support of our award-winning arts education programs.  We have some exciting additions to this year’s event that will hopefully make the experience even more enjoyable for the generous participating restaurants and our enthusiastic guests.

This year, as in years past, the event will begin with an Opening Celebration at the Electric Lodge followed by a Tasting Tour on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. However, this year our guests will be divided into 25 self-selected tour groups, each led by a well-known member of the Los Angeles culinary community, who will help spark conversation about the great tastes at each stop along the way. We are so grateful to those confirmed thus far including Michele Gan, Chef and Owner of Serves Your Right! Catering, Chef Nick Liberato of Venice Whaler Restaurant, Jennifer Sommer of Sommer Dish, Gary Baum with the Hollywood Reporter, Kate Roland of the LA Brunchers, and Drew Hubbard and Ben Waters of LA Foodie; these culinary experts will also be at the Opening Celebration, which we are excited to announce will be hosted by Adam Gertler of The Food Network. The Opening Celebration will include a silent auction, cooking demonstrations, and music as well as sample bites from other Venice-based restaurants. Finally, this year’s Taste of Venice will include a Post Reception offering guests dessert and coffee to cap off the evening.

We would like to say a special thank you to all of the restaurants and culinary experts who help make this event so special (and delicious!), and we look forward to making this year’s Taste of Venice the best one yet.  Also, be sure to follow the Taste of Venice Facebook page to stay up to speed on participating restaurants.

We hope you will join us on September 14th!

Confirmed restaurants for the Opening Celebration:
Barnyard Venice
Café Gratitude
Chaya Venice
Groundwork Coffee
Hotel Erwin – Barlo Kitchen & Cocktails
Komodo Venice
Superba Snack Bar and Superba Food & Bread
Venice Whaler Food & Bar

Confirmed restaurants for the Tasting Tour:
Hal’s Bar & Grill
Joe’s Restaurant
Primitivo Wine Bistro
TOMS drip coffee
Willie Jane

September 14th, 2014
Opening Celebration: 3pm-4:30pm
Tasting Tour: 4pm-6:30pm
Post Reception: 6:30pm-7:30pm

The Electric Lodge
14161 Electric Avenue
Venice, CA 90291

Please note: Tasting Tours will begin promptly at 4pm. Please be sure to arrive in plenty of time to enjoy the many restaurants at the Opening Reception and find your Tasting Tour group.  Stay tuned for tickets going on sale August 6th!

The Teen Media Initiative

Emma Gerch, IOCA Summer Intern

By Emma Gerch, LACAC Intern for Inside Out Community Arts

The Teen Media Initiative (TMI) is one of the newest programs acquired by P.S. ARTS in its merger with Inside Out Community Arts.  TMI gives teenagers exposure to digital media education outside of school and will be part of P.S. ARTS’ Extended Learning programs.  As the Los Angeles County Arts Commission intern, I have had the opportunity to work closely with TMI, and I’m excited I got to see it in action!

The TMI summer session wrapped up last week at Da Vinci Design High School in Hawthorne. The vibrantly-decorated art classroom was buzzing with activity for five straight days from 8am to 12pm as five high school students – our “Teen Techies” –  worked to complete the TakePART Initiative’s very first website. The TakePART Initiative, facilitated by P.S. ARTS, is a partnership between arts organizations, philanthropic partners, and school districts to promote arts education as essential to schools and communities.

Teen Media Initiative 2014

“Teen Techie” Emmanuel hard at work on the press page of the TakePART Initiative website.

The TMI program gives the Teen Techies a toolkit to succeed professionally in an increasingly digital world. During the school year, the teens learned how to set up LinkedIn profiles, construct marketing campaigns via social media, and build websites in WordPress. This week, in addition to perfecting their WordPress skills, the teens learned Javascript and CSS coding with a volunteer instructor from the tech industry who also gave our students advice on pursuing a career in software engineering. The teens also heard from guests involved in events planning and arts education, and participated in various community building activities.

I had an opportunity to meet with the Teen Techies, and they were seriously in their element during this summer session. After learning about the TakePART Initiative, the Teen Techies worked independently as well as in teams to fill in the new website with content and appropriate pages according to feedback from the TakePART Leadership Team. With only a few hours to work each day, the teens accomplished a tremendous amount: they built photo galleries, contact pages, header images, and attention-grabbing taglines, and continued to fine-tune their pages throughout the week. They incorporated skills they learned during the academic year, including widget customization and graphic design.

Teen Media Initiative 2014

The TMI office culture agreement.

By the end of the week, the five Teen Techies built two separate entire websites for the TakePART Initiative to present to the Leadership Team. On Friday, the students, dressed in their best, completely blew away the TakePART team with a professional presentation of each website they built. They showed off their hard work, demonstrated the merits of different web design options, and answered tough questions about website structure. The TakePART leaders were thrilled to see their important work represented in a sleek, professional, and attractive way. The site will officially go live later this summer.

The TakePART Leadership Team and the Teen Techies.

At the end of the summer session, our Teen Techies were asked to provide written feedback on what they had learned during their experience. One of our newest TMI students, Teen Techie Sofia, said, “I took this experience to learn about what kind of person I want to grow up to be; I have learned that when you are bursting with positive energy, that energy touches everyone around you to make a better environment.”  It is evident from her response that these students are learning much more than simply technology skills in the Teen Media Initiative program.

One of my ongoing projects this summer is to develop curriculum materials for the TMI program going forward, including lessons in graphic design and video editing. I’m so excited to see what this talented group of students will go on to accomplish.