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July 28, 2016

Professional Development for BC Artists Working in Schools: Arts Integration Learning Labs

Arts Integration Learning Lab at ArtStarts in Schools

The Arts Integration Learning Lab is a series of workshops designed for artists interested in taking their art practice into classrooms, while working with Kindergarten to Grade 12 educators to create learning experiences in the arts for young people. Since 2014, ArtStarts has been offering this free professional development opportunity to artists across the province of BC, thanks to funding support from the BC Arts Council and the Government of British Columbia's Creative Futures program.

Recently, ArtStarts hosted two cohorts of Learning Labs in Vancouver: an extended monthly series that started in November 2015 and ended in March 2016 and a week-long intensive in March 2016. Each of the Learning Labs explored core components of the education system through five hands-on, experiential and collaborative workshops. Using a variety of creative facilitation methods, these workshops explored inquiry- and process-based learning through a visceral and phenomenal approach to allow participants to have a better understanding of arts integration.

Day 1: Creativity 101

This workshop explored how the language of education and creativity can be brought together to create learning experiences for students. Through a design challenge, participants considered the four stages of creativity, divergent and convergent ways of thinking, Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and the various ways the arts can be brought into classrooms with a goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the creative process and a heightened sense of creative confidence.

Day 2: Pedagogy: Art Practice as Teaching Practice

During the next this next workshop, Learning Lab participants worked with teaching artist Ewa Sniatycka to investigate how an art practice can unfold in a classroom and how, by exposing the creative process, it can be used as an agent of pedagogy. With artists collaborating with their peers in groups, this workshop simulated how an art- and inquiry-based approach to learning can create an engaging learning environment to produce answers, as well as stimulate new pathways for further curiosity.

Day 3: School Culture

It is often difficult to pinpoint what "school culture" is as it can be different for every school and even every classroom. What's important is to understand how it influences the learning environment. During the third Learning Lab workshop, participants joined an interactive panel discussion, designed to investigate the concept of "school culture" through the lived experiences of teachers and artists who have previously worked together on projects supported by Artists in the Classroom grants. Participants learn about a specific project and are walked through how it began—from initial meetings prior to the grant writing process all the way to the final days of the project—with a focus on the dynamics of the artists, teachers and administrations involved.

Day 4: Navigating Resources

Focused primarily on the BC Ministry of Education's new curriculum, the fourth workshop took the participants on a guided tour through each of the specific components that make up the new BC curriculum. This very information-dense workshop, facilitated by educator Nassim Elbardouh and musician Rup Sidhu, gave each participant the ability to create specific and tangible links between their art practice and the prescribed content from the curriculum. Working in groups, participants learned how to navigate through the curriculum with ease as they work towards planning an art activity that addresses chosen parts of the curriculum and the mastery of art mediums.

Day 5: Ecosystems of Teaching Methods

The final workshop doubled as a summary for the entire series. We reflected on the different types of teaching methods that were used throughout the Learning Lab while also providing an opportunity for artists to ideate individual potential projects and distill them into refined and concise pitches ready to be presented to educators. Educators Tyler Horner and Heather Beckett from the Abbottsford School of Integrated Arts also presented and reflected on their particular teaching styles, exploring deeper into inquiry-based, holistic and imaginative models of learning.

The Arts Integration Learning Lab is a program for artists to gain foundational knowledge before entering schools—and also connect and collaborate with peers and the teaching artist community. ArtStarts endeavors to make these experiences available for artists in all regions of BC. Please sign up for our Newsletter for Artists to keep up to date for upcoming sessions.

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