Editor’s Note: Mary Kelly is the Executive Director of the Association of Florida Teaching Artists (AFTA) — an association of fine arts, literary arts, and performing arts professionals who also teach. She has over 30 years of experience instructing students at pre-k through college levels, consulting and facilitating for private and nonprofit organizations, providing customized instructional materials and implementing arts-integrated related programs.
The Patterson Foundation and The Johnson Singer Foundation hit a home run this summer by bringing summer learning through the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to two elementary schools and four summer camps at area Boys and Girls Clubs. The impact of these programs will be felt all school year long.
These funders supported The Association of Florida Teaching Artists(AFTA) as it brought a powerful literacy, arts-infused, process-based program to help mitigate summer learning loss in Sarasota and Manatee counties. AFTA‛s teaching artist curriculum incorporated many of the Florida State Standards. Teaching artists use their craft as a vehicle to unlock students’ imaginations, touch them in meaningful ways and convey knowledge with tangible skills.
The Patterson Foundation supported literacy enrichment camps at Emma E. Booker, Visible Men Academy and the Englewood and DeSoto Boys and Girls Clubs. The Johnson Singer Foundation supported literacy enrichment camps for Newtown Estates and the Roy McBean Boys and Girls Clubs. AFTA reached a total of 485 students in kindergarten through fifth grades as well as middle-school students.
AFTA contracted with 16 teaching artists to facilitate the summer-camp sessions. The teaching artists stated that their greatest asset was partnering with the classroom teachers.
At Emma E. Booker Elementary and Visible Men Academy, the teachers commented that student success made a difference in the summer learning outcomes. The reading themes at Emma E. Booker were “Under the Sea, Under the Big Top and Under the Rainforest.” The teachers gave positive feedback about how using the arts-infused activities and partnering with a teaching artist in the classroom developed an extensive vocabulary list and a host of arts activities that reinforced in their program.
Visible Men Academy students chose the theme “Super Heroes.” AFTA teaching artists collaborated with the two classroom teachers to read books about super heroes provided by the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Students brainstormed a list of hero attributes and selected a problem for the hero to solve — they chose sea levels rising. They designed their own logo for their super hero and attached the logo to capes donated by Goodwill. When all the pieces were in place, the artists focused on developing a film researched, scripted and performed by the students.
AFTA artist and film maker Phil Chiocchio along with Missy Mulloy taught the students what it takes to make a film, and they were all quiet on the set. The final culmination of the month‛s work was a six-minute film called “Megaman,” written and created by the students and filmed and edited by Phil.
The premier of the film was attended by many parents, supporters and artists. Here’s a preview.
The DeSoto and Englewood Boys and Girls Clubs were well-run summer camps. Counselors were a big help by participating in the lessons and staying on top of discipline.
At first, the campers were reluctant to try the creative drama games and activities. Students participated in dramatic and visual art projects that assisted in teaching, speaking and listening skills, personal creativity, classroom behavior, and appropriate social interaction. The excitement and curiosity of the children was inspiring. They were anxious to learn and experience new activities and information. Throughout the six sessions, we saw their confidence and self-esteem grow as they took risks performing for each other. It is our hope that they will take with them into the school year some of the positive things they learned.
AFTA teaching artists included: Gladys Varga, LauraCourter, Missy Mulloy, Melissa Shaw, Tanya Gergel,Kuniko Yamamoto, Yasu, Amy Webber, Scott Blum, Phil Chiocchio, Surapsari, Ellen Goldberg, Mary Kelly, Judy Levine and a big shout out to Sarasota Contemporary Dance Company. This was AFTA’s second summer collaborating with them.