Building pARTnerships Through Community Connections: The Right Brain Initiative and the Art of Collaboration

The Right Brain Initiative is a public-private partnership of schools, local government, private donors, and the cultural community, working together to make arts education accessible to every K-8 student in the Portland, Oregon tri-county region. Since launching in 2008, the Regional Arts & Culture Council has served as the Initiative’s Managing Partner with Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington as Implementation Partner.  The Initiative’s vision is to transform learning for all children through the arts, creativity, innovation and whole brain thinking. To achieve this vision, Right Brain ignites students’ curiosities and promotes whole-brain thinking by integrating the arts into more traditional subjects; history, reading, writing, science and math come alive with music, theater, dance, visual art and other art forms. Through Right Brain, “students develop the skills of 21st century learners that can help them become the imaginative thinkers and innovators of the next generation” (Palmer Wolf, 2014). Integrating the arts into daily classroom experience accommodates multiple learning styles, facilitates cross-cultural understanding, and has shown to increase motivation, perseverance, and engagement among at-risk youth.

As an example of this work in practice, 3-5 grade students at King Elementary worked with Young Audiences teaching artist Sarah Ferguson, creating assemblage sculptures that creatively expressed different parts of themselves.  As part of the Right Brain model, their teacher played an active, collaborative role throughout the residency and acquired arts-based instructional strategies that she continues to use in her classroom.
 
Photo by Allie Maki Maya, courtesy of The Right Brain Initiative.
 
Inspired by collage, assemblage, and mask-making artists, King students built experimentally with 3D materials to create a sculpture that includes an outer mask and a box that opens to reveal another layer of meaning inside, including an I AM poem. 
 
One student described the process, saying that the mask represented how “people see us and the face we show the world” while the inside of the box was about how a person perseveres, builds themselves up and becomes their authentic self.  
 
At the Young Audiences National Conference, Building pARTnerships Through Community Connections, Marna Stalcup, Director of Arts Education for the Regional Arts & Culture Council, Cary Clarke, Executive Director of Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington, Joel Stuart, Executive Director of Elementary Programs for North Clackamas School District, and Briana Linden, Program Implementation Manager, will  introduce session attendees to The Right Brain Initiative, the partnerships that have been developed, and the impact on students that this program has had.  Through hands-on experience with a Right Brain instructional strategy and examination of student work, participants will learn that the success of this shared delivery model relies upon systems among partners to support classroom teachers, teaching artists and arts specialists including professional development, a reflective practice, and whole-school focused efforts. Recently released data substantiating the program’s impact on students, including above average increases on Oregon standardized tests, will also be shared.
 
To learn more about The Right Brain Initiative and the work they do, visit their website, http://therightbraininitiative.org/
 
Click here to learn more about the "Building pARTnerships through Community Connections Conference" in Kansas City, April 23-25, 2015.
 
 

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