May 29, 2020

Our First Virtual Conference Engages More Than 100 Teachers

In May, Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation staff and local artists collaborated with Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) in our first virtual professional development conference. Learning & Innovation was excited to offer many sessions to over 100 fine arts and arts-loving teachers with the hope that the sessions would inspire them to incorporate the arts into both online and in-person classrooms. All sessions were delivered via Zoom, and each day presented new opportunities to target audiences.  

All sessions were delivered via Zoom with teachers signing in from living rooms, offices, and coffee shops. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

The first day of the conference (Wednesday) welcomed fine arts teachers from theatre and music classrooms. Zach Ciaburri, production manager for Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, walked us through his experience working as a lighting technician, stage manager, and lead production manager with companies from around the world, including Tango FireSoweto Gospel Choir, and the Aspen Music Festival.

Later Rob Verdi joined in from California to lead band teachers through jazz improvisational techniques. Rob is a founding member of the Side Street Strutters at Disneyland and a proud owner of over 100 saxophones. One of the most unique instruments in his collection is the contrabass sax. Weighing in at nearly 50 pounds and standing over 6 feet tall, the contrabass is the second lowest instrument in the sax family. This particular instrument debuted in 1926 at the New York City Labor Day parade. “Let’s hope that musician was riding a float,” Rob joked.

Rob Verdi jams on his contrabass sax during a virtual teacher conference.
Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Thursday and Friday offered a series of workshops open to all teachers that focused on ways to integrate the arts in the classroom. (What is Arts Integration?). From a virtual visit to Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to using movement in storytelling, teachers learned from Scottsdale Arts staff and local artists about how to connect the arts to literature, social studies, and social emotional learning outcomes. 

Diane McNeal Hunt (a.k.a “Dancing Diane”), director of Wolf Trap, demonstrated how to use props and singing to enhance books in the early childhood classroom.
Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Chris Harthun, residency and curriculum coordinator, introduced teachers to Learning & Innovation’s newest resource, Hope Chest, an arts-integrated curriculum that takes students on an immersive journey through one young man’s harrowing experiences during the Holocaust.

The conference concluded with teaching artist Lakota Mossey demonstrating how to use recycled cardboard to inspire mask making (a creative way to use up all those boxes from Amazon you’ve been getting).  

“I am very happy with our first rollout of online learning opportunities for teachers,” said Michelle Irvin, conference organizer and fine arts & PE coordinator for SUSD. “The comments from teachers have been incredibly positive and they are looking forward to applying these concepts in their teaching next year.”   

One teacher commented, “Please let me know when you are offering these in the future. I definitely want to participate, as I love finding ways to enhance my teaching through integrating the arts.”

Well, we love integrating the arts too! Recently, Governor Doug Ducey announced a return to school next year, and we are excited to return to in-person professional development with teachers. But we also can’t ignore how accessible and fun these virtual presentations were too, so stay tuned for more blended and virtual learning opportunities for the 2020–21 school year.

Until then, we wish our teachers a well-deserved and relaxing summer holiday and we will see you in August!

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