Active participation in the arts positively transforms the child who experiences it. Throughout the decades, Young Audiences has proven its effectiveness, and its reach and influence has grown, but so has its challenges and the organization continues to optimize the effectiveness of the arts in the educational process. National Executive Director David Dik explains the dramatic shift in arts programming as an “evolution from a service delivery program, offering a catalog of programs and services for schools to buy, to a partnership with schools and teachers where we implement, document and sustain the work.’’
“Substantively and most importantly,” says David, “YA’s new arts programs place the student at the center of the arts learning paradigm, balanced by the supporting team of the classroom teacher, the teaching artist, visiting artist, the school/agency arts faculty, administrators, community leaders and parents. The ideal is to first create the arts network within the school; this model then spreads to the community and then further outward into the state and region. The beauty of this child centered approach is that it is based on individual student needs and the student’s best way of learning—whatever that may be - academic, social, kinesthetic, and thus works well for all types of children, including special needs children in the same classroom.”
“Arts education is both skills based and standards based, fully cognizant that at each grade level students are expected to perform certain tasks and acquire certain skills. At the same time, effective arts-in-education combines a strong teaching/mentoring process, that together with exposure to high quality art as the primary context, empowers children to step up to the next level as creators and innovators, rather than imitators.” Summarizing the multi-faceted impact of arts for learning, David added, “all art forms are strands of literacy with such wonderful elements as color, tone, sound, hue, and light to explore, employ and learn from.” The signature program that best exemplifies these new program traits is Arts for Learning Lessons, a program designed to help students in 3rd–5th grades achieve proficiency in reading and writing. Learning scientists from the University of Washington led by Dr. John Bransford, designed the lessons in collaboration with YA National and affiliate staff members. The ambitious program, which was started in 2005, has been sustained by funding from The Starr Foundation, the Ford Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Dana Foundation, the Sequoia Foundation and the William Randolph Hearst Foundation.
In 2010, the Beaverton, Oregon school district initiated Arts for Learning Lessons for 1,300 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students thanks in part to the U. S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) grant awarded to the Beaverton School District, YA of Oregon and SW Washington, WestEd and the University of Washington. Eleven YA affiliates also offer Arts for Learning Lesson and Residency programs to individual schools and school districts in their communities. Rigorous testing by WestEd has confirmed the positive results this innovative program has had on raising student achievement in reading and writing nationwide.