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Connecting Creativity, Innovation, & the Education System

Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

Running short on money for long-term big picture projects?

Is “Community Outreach” a part of your mission statement or goal?

Is working with the school district a maze (um, maybe talk to so and so, oh he’s no longer there, leave a message, come on in – but not today…), a closed door (we can’t afford the arts or can’t afford to take chances), or a money pit (what else can you give me?)?

Many arts and cultural organizations want to work in a specific school or with a certain population but encounter the roadblocks mentioned above.

If several arts organizations collaborate and each contributes one staff member one full day a month to one school for a year, you’ve got the beginning of a funded program.

In that creative spirit, five science-based organizations recently approached a Southeast Florida local arts agency (LAA) with this idea and commitment.

Based on the partnership and concept, the LAA obtained a $10,000 grant and acted as liaison to the school district by orchestrating the meetings, materials, and schedule. As a result, in the upcoming school year, this program will reach 355 students at least once a month and offer professional development to thirty teachers.

Here’s how it’s working:

The Team
The innovative team and program, named “Full STEAM Ahead,” is comprised of the LAA, five science-based cultural organizations, two teaching artists who weave the K-5 science lessons together with photography, collage, poetry, dance, a butterfly garden, a mural, mosaic benches…and the partner school.

The School
Choosing the appropriate school and getting full support from the principal is essential. The team discussed choosing three schools and third grade only, but then discussed one school and all grades.

We looked at a specific area within the county and discussed Title 1, proficiency scores, and equity. After much talk, research, and quantitative and qualitative data in mind, we decided to focus on one Title 1 elementary school, involving students from all grade levels and all teachers.

The choice school is in a rural agricultural community, a 45-minute drive from any urban area or cultural organizations.

The Goal
The goal of the program is to bring hands-on science programs to the school, provide arts integration with each lesson, and connect the relevancy of science to students’ lives, community, environment, and workforce.

The presence of the five organizations introduces the students to bigger ideas, different locations within the county and opportunities to explore.

As each organization contributes some “in-kind” time, materials are kept at a minimum and a modest grant pays for transportation and staff.

Through collaboration, the lack of funding is less of an obstacle and the team fulfill their goals for community outreach.

The program, a much-needed educational boost and service, provides the school with outside interaction, new community partners, and relevancy for the students.

“Full STEAM Ahead” is just one example of creative minds working with the education system.

We invite you to share your success stories and best practices in the comments below or by emailing [email protected].

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