Stories of Resilience Through the Arts from YA National Arts Partner Organizations - Part 1

May 22, 2020 |

Spotlighting our national thought partners at EdTA, NDEO, NAEA, and SEADAE 

As part of our ongoing Resilience Through the Arts series, we are pleased to spotlight the efforts of these peers and partners in the field to uplift and sustain student learning in and through the arts amid challenging times.

Hands on a laptop keyboard, surrounding by school supplies

Educational Theatre Association (EdTA)

Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), the professional association for theatre educators, is working hard to support its community of 139,000 students and 5,500 educators, taking innovative steps along the way to ensure that it continues shaping lives through theatre education. When school closures went into effect in March, the organization sprung into action immediately to build up its already robust capacity for online and self-supported learning. EdTA met its teachers’ needs with a rapid response, offering educator toolkits for transitioning online and a specialized curriculum for online teaching. As a service to the field, it opened up large portions of members-only content to the public.

EdTA’s dedication and expertise are evident in its exemplary Theatre Educator Pro, a rich and ever-evolving suite of professional development resources offering teachers and students standards-based curricula, interactive lesson plans, live and on-demand webinars, informal learning assignments, and more. Meanwhile, EdTA’s ongoing efforts to engage its constituents through virtual platforms include Weekly Green Room sessions, which offer open mic style forums for participants to discuss what’s on their minds. The first session will focus on the question, “What is working for you right now and what are you planning for the fall?” The organization has also been ramping up its efforts to support virtual student graduation and other Thespian ceremonies.

Now entering its 57th summer, the International Thespian Festival (ITF) remains an eminent hallmark of EdTA’s programming and commitment to celebrating student achievement in the arts. Demonstrating dexterity, resilience, and a true ‘the-show-must-go-on’ spirit, EdTA reimagined 2020’s ITF as a fully realized virtual event. Virtual ITF, set to take place June 22-26, will feature adjudications, auditions, the inaugural International Thespian Excellence Awards Showcase (a.k.a. the ThespysTM), performances, workshops, and master classes. While participants will miss coming together in person, the new platform gives EdTA opportunities to connect with industry professionals who otherwise might not be able to get involved. In addition to spotlighting Thespians online from across the nation and around the world, Virtual ITF will feature celebrity guests including Tina FeyDolly Parton, and Stephen Schwartz.

“As theatre people, we are noted for our flexibility and creativity – traits that are certainly called for in these trying times,” said Education Manager Cory Wilkerson, applauding the resilience of the community as they work to support their students while rapidly building the new way of learning required to meet this current crisis. With school closed indefinitely, productions cancelled or postponed, and teachers left to quickly find ways to shift to online instruction, EdTA exemplifies the power of the arts to inspire collective strength.


Colorful abstract mural on cement wall

National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)

The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) is dedicated to advancing arts-centered dance education for people of all backgrounds. As the national service organization for its field, NDEO is here to support the dance education community through these challenging times, working diligently to provide high-quality resources relevant to the needs of the community, and responding in every way possible to support these changing needs. In recent months, NDEO’s primary focus has been on connecting the dance education community around the landscape of distance learning, all while highlighting the enduring importance of dance in the human experience.

On March 24, NDEO launched its Teaching Dance Online series of live webinars, free for members and non-members alike, with replays and related resources available on-demand. These interactive webinars give dance educators an opportunity to learn from leading experts in areas related to teaching dance during COVID-19. Webinar topics address diverse student populations and learning environments, as well as strategies for supporting students emotionally through dance in times of crisis. Recordings and support materials are available on NDEO’s website.

In addition to its webinar series, the organization has been offering recurring Virtual Special Interest Group (SIG) Meetings, which give participants an opportunity to connect with fellow dance educators in group settings. The meetings provide a receptive space for participants to express their concerns, learn from others in the field, and support one another through uncertain and trying times. NDEO has been encouraging use of its online forums as a safe, productive place for discussion of all things related to the current teaching environment. On the organization’s Behind the Curtain blog, for example, members are invited as guest bloggers to share their experiences, strategies, and insights around online dance instruction.

“It is our fervent hope that the world will emerge from this crisis stronger, kinder, and more connected than ever before,” says NDEO Executive Director Susan McGreevy-Nichols. “The reality is, of course, that we don't know what will happen in the next few months. One thing we do know is that the dance community has been setting an example of persistence, generosity, and care for one another that should serve as a model for the rest of the world.” Looking toward the future, NDEO is working closely with its Board of Directors and members in different sectors to outline guidelines and ideas for safely returning to classes, whenever individual states or institutions allow for the transition back.


An assortment of colorful art supplies seen up close

National Art Education Association (NAEA)

As the leading professional membership organization exclusively for visual arts educators, the National Art Education Association (NAEA) is dedicated to advancing visual arts education to fulfill human potential and promote global understanding. Representing all 50 states and internationally, NAEA members include elementary, middle, and high school visual arts educators; college and university professors; university students preparing to become art educators; researchers and scholars; teaching artists; administrators and supervisors; and art museum educators—as well as more than 54,000 students who are members of the National Art Honor Society (NAHS). While the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged this broad and extensive membership base in many different ways, the NAEA community is united around the belief that an arts-rich learning environment remains more vital than ever in helping students thrive. 

Supporting educators as they adjust to functioning within a new teaching environment while maintaining social distancing, the NAEA Collaborate community forum—providing a space for members to exchange ideas, share experiences, and offer kindred support—is being utilized now more than ever. To spark conversation around ideas in the field, NAEA also produces monthly Need to Know Webcasts, highlighting timely topics of interest for art educators. This series is free and open to the public, and past webcasts are available for download, including Fostering Resilience During Turbulent Times and other compelling presentations.

NAEA’s comprehensive Remote Learning Toolkit, curated for the field at large, offers educational strategies, lessons, and resources to guide diverse arts educators through the challenges and opportunities that come with distance learning. As the pandemic’s implications for arts teaching and learning continue to evolve by the day, the Toolkit is growing in tandem. Most recently, NAEA has added resources to help educators navigate fall’s new academic landscape, whatever that may shape up to look like.  

In a recent open letter to superintendents, principals, and school board members, NAEA President Thom Knab outlined and underscored the important role of the arts in building academic, social-emotional, and community connections. “During this pandemic, students of all ages have found much needed solace and support through the visual arts, as their teachers provide valuable remote learning opportunities. Students learn to create, respond to, and make connections to the visual world around them and rely upon the arts for social emotional learning, expression, and support,” wrote Mr. Knab. “To provide the support all students require, NAEA respectfully requests that the visual arts, and all arts disciplines, be fully funded.” Through educational tools, community building, and advocacy resources, NAEA is working to uplift arts education throughout, and beyond, this crisis.


Abstract paper collage in jewel tones

State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE)

State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) sits at the forefront of national arts education. Its members, who represent state education agencies, are responsible for overseeing and shaping educational policy including required student learning standards spanning all grade levels for dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts. While SEADAE has long been accustomed to virtual meetings and online professional development, digital communications have taken on new importance in recent months, as members seek to connect with their professional counterparts for guidance and support, and to brainstorm creative modalities that promise to have a lasting national impact for students across the country.

In mid-March, SEADAE was one of the first national service organizations to publish an online repository of Arts Instructional Resources for teachers to use for the purpose of facilitating distance learning in arts disciplines. As a signature initiative, members of SEADAE have also been contributing their departments' online learning materials to develop a state-by-state arts instructional resource map.

SEADAE continues working to support districts in their endeavors to provide robust instructional opportunities in the arts for all students, and to explore ways in which distance learning can be used to its greatest effect. “We sought to gain insight into the ‘conditions on the ground’ in individual states, to better understand what attempts are being made at local levels to support virtual arts learning in cloistered environments,” said SEADAE President Dale Schmid, who represents New Jersey. “Likewise, we’re mining for input on new ways for SEADAE to support the individual and collective effectiveness of our members, as well as serve in the best interest of our children.” 

To this end, SEADAE has taken a leading role in advocating for the arts with a unified national voice representative of all arts forms. Looking ahead, a focus of SEADAE's will be on championing the indispensable importance of the arts within the COVID-19 learning environment, ensuring that arts education remains a funding priority for districts.

SEADAE continues to be a principal player in fostering a national dialogue around the arts and social-emotional learning (SEL), the focus of its 2020-2021 initiatives and professional development activities. Moreover, SEADAE is excited to be hosting its first-ever virtual summit, The Arts & SEL: A Synergistic Pairing, taking place September 25, 2020. It is SEADAE's ardent belief that the arts education community is extraordinarily well positioned to help students cultivate manifold strengths associated with social-emotional learning: self-awareness, self-efficacy, self-management and perseverance, social awareness, communication, and relationship skills – in addition to creativity. As an organization, SEADAE demonstrates how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.