September 15, 2020

Addressing Teacher Social Emotional Learning through Arts-Integrated Workshops

Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation has partnered with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts since 2001. The Partners in Education program is designed to strengthen arts organization partnerships with local school districts through arts-integrated professional development for teachers. (What is arts integration?) This local partnership includes both Scottsdale Unified School District and Paradise Valley Unified School District.  

Arts integration uses an art form to express understanding of another concept. In this image, teachers are using tableaus to express understanding of environmental sustainability. Photo: Betty Hum Photography.

Each year, Learning & Innovation staff work with district administration to design teacher professional learning opportunities that meet shared outcomes. These outcomes are both curriculum and arts-focused and may achieve broad goals, such as increasing literacy or enhancing understanding of math concepts. These experiences take place over the course of the school year through ongoing workshops, in-classroom presentations, and lesson observations with students.  

SUSD’s Laguna Elementary School is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) school, so using movement to express math concepts is an everyday occurrence. Photo: Betty Hum Photography.

Facing challenges due to the COVID-19 health crisis and school closures, this program quickly shifted to an online format and launched last week with a blended self-guided lesson and virtual workshop for Scottsdale teachers.  

After participating in self-directed lessons, SUSD teachers convene on Zoom to work with national Kennedy Center teaching artist Jessica DiLorenzo. Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

More importantly, this program also shifted its focus to social emotional learning. Recognizing that the stresses of online teaching and navigating personal and professional challenges due to COVID-19, this program kicked off in early September and used the arts as an outlet to express emotions through meditation and movement workshops by Kennedy Center teaching artist Jessica DiLorenzo. 

As our emotions shift as we move through events in our day, we offered strategies to help students become aware of feelings and the events that shape them.  Movement is a tool to manage and express emotions. — Jessica DiLorenzo, Kennedy Center teaching artist.

Numerous studies indicate the positive student impacts of learning through the arts, including higher test scores, increased motivation to learn, and enhanced social skills, but for teachers these experiences are just as crucial. Ninety-nine percent of local teachers that participate in the Kennedy Center through workshops indicate they feel more confident in their teaching and more engaged in their profession, which results in stronger classroom culture across the district. 

These workshops are specifically designed to provide teachers with concepts to immediately apply to any online or in-person classroom. Screen capture: Scottsdale Arts.

It’s great to be able to provide teachers professional growth opportunities that support their social emotional health through the arts, as well as giving them ideas of how to incorporate these ideas into lessons with students. The arts are a pathway for deeper learning and support and social and emotional health of all learners, from children to adults. 

Michelle Irvin, fine arts and PE coordinator, Scottsdale Unified School District 

While these workshops are only open to SUSD and PVUSD, Kennedy Center has a number of teacher resources available for free. The arts not only build creativity, communication, and problem solving skills, but they also provide a necessary outlet to express emotions, which is most important during challenging times such as these.

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