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Tag Archives: education

15 May 2020

This year looks a little different than what most people expected going into it. That is no exception for Building Futures. 

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization hosts hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) workshops for local students, however, since the spread of COVID-19, Building Futures is having to build its own future a little differently than originally blueprinted.

“It’s been a new challenge to identify ways to transform methods we’ve created in-person to a virtual platform,” said Grace Pettit, digital marketing specialist for the organization.

Like many other resident organizations, for Building Futures pivoting to digital means maintaining a connection with the community as social distancing becomes the new norm. 

“We’re focused on presenting ideas to students that haven’t been solved before … 

we are living what we teach right now,” Pettit said referring to the pandemic. “There are many barriers and landmines … but it’s refreshing to live what our organization’s mission is about — preparing young minds and individuals to solve these unknowns.”

Exploring the digital environment

In March, the organization launched its “Always Building Online Workshops,” encouraging students to engage with their peers over video to explore new concepts.

According to Pettit, the free videos accessible via YouTube or Building-Futures.org are all student-led, featuring adult teachers as guests, and geared toward students in second to seventh grade.

“In that respect, peer-to-peer learning is kind of happening,” Pettit said.

Virtual projects include designing a flying machine and building a tower out of straws. Students can also learn how to use scrap wood to create art and a handful of other activities.

However, transitioning hands-on learning to a contactless model has presented its own set of challenges. 

“The learning environment is so unique to Building Futures. You come to a workshop and you’re introduced to an idea. You’re introduced to all the tools, methods, and mechanisms that could get you to that end goal … We’re still working through how to capture all of those steps [on a virtual platform],” Pettit said. There are a lot of nuanced moments within learning, especially with what we do and how we do it, and virtual really hinders that.”

Connecting with students in new ways

Despite these obstacles, Pettit said they’ve received photos and videos of students’ projects. Messages from parents thanking them for the online workshops have also been sliding into their DMs.

“It shows that we as Building Futures understand that we need to be taking responsibility for producing and connecting and engaging with [students], even if it doesn’t look the same,” Pettit said. 

Building Futures continues to adapt and build a future for its students however it can.

“We’re really looking forward to continuing to work and come up with new ways to meet these challenges and support our students, educators, and community through whatever means possible,” Pettit said.

Image courtesy of Building Futures.

20 Apr 2020

As springtime begins to bloom outside the windows of our self-quarantine locations, it’s (mostly) business as usual for Urban Harvest STL, which maintains the rooftop garden at .ZACK.

The Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization focused on food rights has just finished its first harvest of the season from its urban farms across St. Louis. Farmers collected 50 pounds of various leafy greens, radishes, pea shoots, herbs and edible flowers. 

Like the majority of what the farms produces, Urban Harvest STL will donate these plants to their nonprofit partners. These partners serve local communities with limited access to healthy and nutritious food. In the past year, the organization grew and donated 4,740 pounds of food.

“The need is greater now than ever,” Executive Director Clare Higgins said.

Three organizations Urban Harvest STL regularly donates to include Fit and Food Connection, The Urban League, and North Newstead Association

This year, the organization anticipates making even more donations. Some partner restaurants that typically receive a portion of produce are temporarily shuttered, including The Dark Room at The Grandel

Though the crops are unaffected by COVID-19, the farmers are practicing social distancing while tending the gardens. Additionally, office staff transitioned to working from home. Higgins said everyone feels safe with the measures put in place, and the team even added five new staff members in March. 

Growing community … online

The organization’s mission not only includes providing food resources, but also educational resources. However, conducting food roof visits and workshops is now out of the question. 

“Not being able to gather together means doing it on video,” Higgins said, mentioning the resurrection of the organization’s YouTube page and website blog.

Using the platforms to share learning opportunities on topics such as seed germination and composting, Events & Marketing Coordinator Anna Lin-Schweitzer said they are excited to broaden their reach online. They hope to continue to create digital content to fit the needs of community members, especially as more people turn toward at-home gardening.

“There’s something cathartic about being out with the plants, embracing the small amount of control we have over a small plot of land,” Higgins said. She explained that peas are a good beginner plant because the seeds are large (good for tiny hands), and they sprout fairly quickly. 

Since mid-March, the organization has included 160 packets of seeds along with produce donations to “plant the seed” and encourage others to garden. 

Learn more about Urban Harvest STL at urbanharveststl.org.

01 Feb 2020
By Melissa Meinzer

At its best, theatre can provide a great deal: It entertains us, it moves us, it sustains us, it reflects us back to ourselves. But for some St. Louis school kids, it can literally save their lives.

Metro Theater Company’s “Say Something, Do Something!” program uses drama to help equip students to face difficult circumstances, from bullying to gun violence. The interactive skits encourage them to consider how to defuse tense moments or intervene when they see interactions going south.

“It’s a theatrical experience, but it’s a theatrical experience with a very specific goal,” says Metro Theater managing director Joe Gfaller. The hope is that, having walked through difficult scenarios in safe circumstances, participants might have access to the strategies later, if necessary.

Metro Theater is directed at young audiences and their families, creating access to theatre as well as the growth and development that it fosters. The company produces plays at The Grandel and takes theatre into schools. Last year, it visited  31 schools across the region.

Launched in Fall 2011, the “Say Something, Do Something!” experience involves a relatively small group of kids — usually about 60 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders — and a small troupe of Metro actors, as well as a teaching artist who serves as a facilitator. The scripts and entire experience are the result of intense preparation by Metro’s production team. Before they ever take the stage at a school, they’ve conducted interviews with teachers and social workers in the schools and learned all they can about the specific conflicts that kids might be facing. They’ve also researched language, because lingo and vocabulary are ever-changing, and the scenes need to seem feasible.

“We want the language and conflict situation to feel true to life,” says Metro Theater education director Karen Weberman. “It’s what they’re actually going through. Our education is on the ground every week, in classrooms across the city and county.”

She stresses the need for deep listening to the teachers, administrators, and other school staff who know the kids best. “We don’t want this to be, ‘Here’s this program we think you need,’” she says.

Metro’s methodology for the program is backed by serious scholarship. Saint Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice evaluated the program, and Weberman and SLU researchers presented the data last year at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.

The sessions begin with a deep dive into the study of body language. Actors will freeze into a tableau, which the students can pick apart, examining characters’ motivations and feelings in a specific moment. It’s good training for what comes next — the scripted conflict. The scene is only about five minutes long, Weberman says, and while the conflict itself may vary from season to season or, to some extent, from school to school, one thing is constant: There’s a clear and obvious imbalance of power.

“When the scene comes to the highest point of conflict, the facilitator calls a freeze,” says Weberman. “The students dig into the body language of the characters. We hold up an actual thought bubble, like you might see in a cartoon.”

The students fill the bubbles with what a character — aggressor, victim, or bystander — might be thinking. Then the actors break out of the tableau but not their character, and the students take on the role of investigative reporter.

“They’re put in the hot seat, and the students get to interview them,” Weberman says. The students aren’t shy about grilling the characters, she adds. “They really go after the actor who’s playing the bully character. They want to know, ‘Why are you the way you are? Were you bullied?’”

“They want to understand the bad guy as much as they want to help the good guy,” says Gfaller.

After the interrogations, students come up with strategies for better outcomes. The actors run the scene again, and kids can tag actors out and step into the scene themselves to try the strategies.

“We like to say, ‘It’s like rehearsal for real life,’” says Weberman. “It really is all about empathy, stepping into the shoes of another.”

Previous seasons have addressed physical violence and sexual harassment — disheartening realities, Weberman says, for sixth graders. Some of the programming for the upcoming season will continue to look at violence. 

During the forthcoming year, Metro Theater will also work with the Diversity Awareness Partnership, whose “Give Respect Get Respect” campaign pairs older students with local corporate executives in a mentorship program. Metro’s programming for that initiative will address gender identity issues.

01 Feb 2020
By Grand Center, Inc.

There’s no better time than at the start of the year to try something new. Lucky for you, there are a ton of ways to get “hands on” in Grand Center Arts District – whether it be through an experience, a workshop, or the discovery of a new musical act. s. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. 

Arts

With each exhibition, Pulitzer Arts Foundation hosts a variety of workshops and wellness activities to engage their art-savvy audience in a fresh, new way. Throughout 2020, you are invited to explore ranges of motion and mindfulness (classes include tai chi, yoga, and meditation), workshops and conversations (like paper cutting, tours conducted in Spanish , and conversations with renowned artists and curators), and even unique collaborations with fellow arts organizations like St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Contemporary Art Museum. 

The Contemporary Art Museum’s Spring exhibition series opened in January and with it comes a new event roster that includes several hands-on workshops and activities. Two upcoming events to consider are RE: Soul and Drawing from Observation. For RE: Soul, CAM’s 2020 DJ-in-Residence James Biko traces the history of soul music and contemporary sampling in an interactive spinning session inspired by the work of artist Liz Johnson Artur. For April’s Drawing from Observation, guests are invited to draw their own works inspired by the museum’s exhibitions. After a special tour, CAM provides all art supplies for you and invites you to create freely. 

Music

For those who have made a New Year’s resolution to learn a new musical skill, KDHX’s Folk School classes are now in session. Folk School offers small group classes for adults and teens of all experience levels, from complete beginner through advanced. Class options include Banjo Introduction, Classic Country Ensemble, Guitar, Music Theory, and more. 

At the Arts & Education Council, resident Open Studio Network takes jazz education seriously, year-round. Designed to connect all levels of musicianship to a network of jazz artists across the globe, Open Studio is your digital connection to courses and flexible membership options. Browse your options by instrument, sign-up, and take courses from Grammy-winning masters of their craft – all in a few clicks.

Theatre

The Fabulous Fox’s Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is committed to bringing theatre to the forefront of creativity from an early age. This year, in addition to their Master Class programs for teens, FPACF has announced a new summer program: Next Stop Broadway. The program consists of classes, workshops, and rehearsals focused on classic Broadway shows. Participants will be taught songs and choreography from two hit shows and also create presentations based on shows in the 2020-21 Fabulous Fox Theatre season. 

Design

Creative Reaction Lab focuses on equity-centered community design and provides education, resources, and opportunities for Black and Latinx youth. Each year, programs include options for both youth and institutions to ensure that means and location do not hinder anyone from receiving the opportunities they deserve. The Equity by Design Immersive Series connects the Equity-Centered Community Design to inclusive and equitable outcomes. Creative Reaction Lab facilitators guide participants through highly interactive activities, dialogue, planning, and reflection regarding power, identity, social equity, and community design.

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