In the Classroom with Arts For All

Here on the Arts For All blog, we’ve featured artist interviews, event highlights, heartwarming personal reflections, and more. But we have yet to share what happens on the front lines of Arts For All.  Our mission is clear: we provide artistic opportunities to in-need children all over the greater NYC area– in schools, shelters, in hospitals, and more. But how does it happen? That’s where teaching artists come in! Our devoted teaching artists work tirelessly to share their creative talents directly with the community, and I recently had the privilege of observing three of Arts For All’s amazing professionals doing what they do best.

On March 21st, I went to PS15 elementary school in Manhattan’s East Village to sit in on Literacy Through the Arts lessons taught by Lena Moy-Borgen, Shawn Shafner, and Robin Cannon. Literacy Through the Arts- one of Arts For All’s leading programs- focuses on increasing kindergarten, first, and second grade children’s phonemic awareness and letter recognition through a multi-arts curriculum in order to improve their reading, writing and verbal expression. Lena, Shawn, and Robin all have backgrounds primarily in theatre; but, as I witnessed firsthand, are uniquely adept in all things creative.  Kids in PS15’s kindergarten, first, and second grade classes had a blast dancing, singing, painting, and learning to their hearts’ content.

I started the day in Lena’s class where she started a first grade lesson with some movement and voice warm-ups. The kids were clearly excited at the opportunity to get a little loud and rambunctious in the classroom- they stood in a circle stretching their arms, legs, and vocal cords as Lena led them through a phonetics exercise. She ended the class with an expressive interactive reading of Mo Willems’s Knuffle Bunny, Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity (remember our interview with Arts For All playwright-in-residence Alan Ostroff? Mo Willems is one of his favorite children’s authors!). The kids loved it!

Next, I went to Shawn’s class where second grade students watched the classic tale of Cinderella as told through ballet. The kids engaged in animated conversation with Shawn and each other about how, even without any words, the familiar story was easily recognizable. The lesson highlighted the different ways symbolism, an important literary device, could be used to express the same idea. Emotion was a hot topic as Shawn explained how changes in music, movement, and scenery are used in different ways to convey happiness, sadness, fear, and excitement.

To end the day, I observed Robin as she taught a kindergarten class about the creatures of the sea through song and a watercolor exercise. As the kids colored pictures of different oceanic animals, Robin called on different students to identify and spell the name of each one. (Some enthusiastic students got further involved by making animals noises and movements. The dolphin impression was my favorite!)

A big Thank You goes out to Lena, Shawn, and Robin for letting me watch them in action! There is no greater indicator of Arts For All’s success than seeing firsthand the difference we make to these kids**. For many of them, the lessons brought to them by Arts For All are the only opportunities they will get to explore the arts. Knowing that they are smiling because of the work we’re doing is the very best reward!

– The Arts For All Team

“Art is the imagination expressed through the senses.”

~ Unknown


**Would you like an opportunity to see firsthand what a difference your contribution can make?? RSVP to our benefit and donate at the Executive Producer level for an opportunity to observe an Arts For All workshop!

Check out what others are saying about this post.
  1. […] to the New York City community I have chosen.  And after checking out the Blog to learn about the amazing work Arts For All does in the classroom, I was hooked.  So here I […]

  2. […] Melissa Smith is leading summer AFA workshops at New Alternatives for Children, a center for children living with disabilities.  At New Alternatives she is leading a theatre program preparing the kids for final presentation for family and staff.  This week, she spoke with the AFA staff to tell us more about her experience in the workshop rooms this summer (if you’re wondering about AFA’s workshops during the school year, look here)! […]

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