SFSAS to be featured in national EL film on Arts Integration in Education
SFSAS was chosen as one of three EL schools in the country to be featured in a film on Arts Integration in Education and its connection to deeper learning. Here is a message from Rayna Dineen, SFSAS Founder and EL School Designer, Mountain Region.
Dear SFSAS Community,
I recently had the opportunity to spend three full days observing, filming and interviewing students and teachers at SFSAS alongside David Grant, a master EL teacher (18 years at the first EL mentor school, King Middle School) and videographer for Expeditionary Learning. SFSAS was chosen as one of three EL schools in the country to be featured in a film on Arts Integration in Education and its connection to deeper learning.
We also had the opportunity to interview two of our alumni for a project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A student in the graduate program chose to make a film about a Physics expedition and project Chintan did with her students in 2007. The alumni we interviewed shared with us that the investigative thinking they practiced in Chintan, Todd and Matt's classes, and later on in the middle school, led them to want to continue to pursue scientific investigations on their own in high school.
One of the alums we interviewed surprised us by sharing that she is now on the Super Computing team in high school and the other student is delving into black holes and the mysteries of the universe completely on his own. Both shared that the way they learned at SFSAS supported them to continue to be curious about the scientific world and gave them the tools they needed to explore their interests outside of school. We will share the footage from those interviews when the film is completed. They were quite inspiring!
It was such a powerful experience to see our school through David's eyes and hear his feedback as we spent time in every classroom. It was also such a joy for me to see the strong positive culture and deep integration of science and the arts that was happening everywhere we looked.
Now that I have spent a year and half working in schools around the country, I have come to truly believe that our school is a real sanctuary of learning and inclusivity. It is extremely rare to walk into any school and find 100% engagement on the part of every student, and yet that is what we saw at SFSAS. It is also very rare to see the arts integrated with deep critical thinking and cross-curricular learning, and yet, that is what we saw!
I was deeply moved by the level of respect the teachers show towards their students and the mutual respect and kindness the students demonstrated to each other. It was also great to see all of our wonderful teachers persevering to reach every student through engaging instructional practices. It was wonderful to hear how everyone feels supported by the wise guidance of Geetha and the ongoing support from Perli and the board.
I strongly encourage everyone to tour our school and see what is happening in each classroom - and then, possibly, tour some other schools. The contrast is quite striking! SFSAS really is a unique place and I feel so lucky that I still get to work with these wonderful people.
Here is a letter that Dave wrote to the staff following our visit to SFSAS.
I wanted to follow up on my visit to SFSAS with some reflections on why I believe the art integration practices we captured at your school are so powerful and will be incredibly helpful to the vast majority of schools in our network and beyond. As you know, your school will be featured among 2 other schools — Capital City Pubic Charter School in Washington D.C. and Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston. Due largely to their locations and donor base - both of these schools work with a large population of students and have unusually deep financial resources. They have each chosen to resource the arts in ways that are out of reach for all but the smallest number of schools in the country.
SFSAS, on the other hand, is a school with extremely limited resources that has prioritized the arts in a way that reaches every student, highlights the power and role of arts in community, and gives every student multiple opportunities to develop mindsets that will serve them in everything they do — arts and otherwise. While I was at the school recently, I watched your Preschool/Pre-K teachers using the Reggio model with students to explore how different media invite discovery, expression, and documentation of the creative process.
I saw kindergarten students using the arts to make sense of their understanding of the life cycle of chickens and singing, dancing and dramatizing a story in their movement class.
I watched 1st and 2nd graders practice peer critique on their expedition panels, strengthening their attention to design and their appreciation of revision in the design process. I filmed a 3rd-4th gradelesson where students worked in pairs to provide kind, specific and helpful feedback to one another on their architectural models. I witnessed 5th and 6th graders illustrating their knowledge of Roman history and mythology in an art project that integrated tessellations and math learning.
I watchedthe 7th and 8th graders sharing their video projects that - from my perspective as a videographer - incorporated aesthetic conventions about color, composition and sound that I try to bring to my work everyday. And after school, I had to plan my student interview schedule around students’ music lesson schedules.
While not focused on art for arts sake, the arts touch every aspect of academic and community life at SFSAS. Students learn the joy and challenges of the creative process — that beautiful work is created through inspired ideas, thorough practice and attention to craft through the study of models, and through feedback and revision. This is something that every school can and should strive for. Thank you for being willing to share your story with Expeditionary Learning and with all of our schools.
Wishing you well in all that you do!
Director of Video