Light Bulb Moments: Impact and Expansion in Early Arts Learning

Have you ever heard an autistic, mute, 4-year old speak for the very first time? Neither have I, but our Wolf Trap Teaching Artists frequently work these miracles in Pre-K classrooms. So what’s the secret? How do these light bulb moments happen for children of diverse backgrounds? The answer is simple: arts-infused learning.

Let me first explain the wonders of Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts. The Arts & Science Council is a state affiliate that administers a program developed by the “mothership” up in Vienna, Virginia. The program places professional teaching artists in partnership with classroom teachers in Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms for 7-week arts residencies. The professional development program gives these classroom teachers performing arts skills that help to ignite creativity in their students and spark an interest in learning – the fun way.

I’ve had the great pleasure of witnessing the joy, smiles, and authentic excitement for learning that this program awakens within Pre-K students. A typical classroom in CMS can include many non-English speaking students, students with a range of learning disabilities, and students that are living at or below the poverty line. Wolf Trap uses the arts to create a more equitable learning environment for these students.

This program is not a flouncy add-on to what teachers must accomplish in a school year. No, Wolf Trap uses the arts as a vehicle to enhance the literacy, math, or science learning that’s already taking place. Take, for example, a math residency in music. Did you know that a young person’s memory span can only handle seven items of information at a time? Defying these limitations, music works to string together three or four times the amount of information by using a melody that is much more easily recalled. In the case of a Pre-K math lesson, students learn songs about shapes that are easily recalled because the information is attached to a catchy tune.

Light Bulb Moments: Impact and Expansion in Early Arts LearningNorth Carolina Wolf Trap is rapidly expanding and bringing more educational equity to students and schools across the state. What once was a one-county residency program ten years ago now has the capacity to offer over 85 residencies in five counties. The ESL (English as a Second Language) and LSES (Low Socioeconomic Status) students in classrooms with Wolf Trap now have a more equal opportunity to be successful in school due to the solid foundations Wolf Trap lessons provide. These arts residencies allow more students to read on reading level by the time they get to third grade.

Did you know that the number of newly constructed prison cells each year is based on the number of students that cannot read in third grade? Let that ruminate in your brain for a moment….

I feel exceptionally lucky to work at a place like ASC that prioritizes programs that move the dial on important issues in our education system.

A Touch of Program

A Touch of Program

2015 Cutler Fellows, Faculty and Staff gather for a group photo in the United States Institute of Peace atrium.

Over the course of my Fellowship with Salzburg Global Seminar, I have focused the majority of my time in fundraising. Juggling the many projects in support of both institutional and individual giving for Salzburg Global keeps me busy, to say the least. Solicitations, grant proposals and reports are constantly circulating among the members of our team. We are always looking ahead to what is next on our fundraising plates and rarely do we have the time to stop and reflect about the end product – yes, the actual seminars.  So, witnessing the development team’s fundraising efforts come to fruition in successful, dynamic programs has been one of the most rewarding parts of my Davidson Impact Fellowship – first through the Young Cultural Innovators Forum in Salzburg and, more recently, in the third annual Salzburg Cutler Law Fellows Program in Washington D.C.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Cutler Salzburg Fellows Program brought together 45 law students from the ten of the top American law schools; University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, University of Virginia, and Yale. This two-day session was built around a unique workshop opportunity for students writing papers on topics within international law and legal practice. Students circulated their papers among their working groups and Faculty members before arriving in Washington. The program provided a platform for every student to receive approximately 30 minutes of critique on his or her paper from a group of individuals with fresh eyes and ideas.

I served as the photographer for Cutler Fellows program, floating between the workshop groups to capture snapshots of new interactions and lively discussions. I also attended the lectures and panels dispersed throughout the program from law school Faculty and other leaders in international law, including John Bellinger III (former Legal Advisor to the US Department of State and National Security Council under the George W. Bush administration),  Jeffrey Rosen (President and CEO, National Constitution Center) and The Honorable Justice Richard Goldstone (former Chief Prosecutor to the UN International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda). The students seemed excited to network with each other and engage with the program’s special guests. Seeing the program from start to finish was not only a nice break from the typical day in the office but also a nice reminder for why I do the work I do with Salzburg Global.

A Touch of Program

International Investment & Trade Negotiations panel with law school faculty members Rachel Brewster (Duke), moderator William Burke-White (University of Pennsylvania), Mark Wu (Harvard) and Jose Alvarez (NYU).

A Touch of Program

Cutler Fellows discuss their own papers in break-out groups. Each paper received an estimated 30 minutes of critique from students and faculty of other law schools.

A Touch of Program

The Honorable Justice Richard Goldstone speaks on ‘Personal Reflections on Law and Public Service’ at NYU Washington DC.

On Route to Munich

On Route to Munich

The Greek Fellows pose with our Arts & Culture Program Director, Susi Seidl-Fox (10/22/2014).

I am on route via train to Munich after a memorable, successful trip to Salzburg, Austria. My time in with the Salzburg Global Seminar staff in Salzburg was truly priceless on both professional and personal levels. Since my first week with Salzburg Global, I have consistently emailed, called, and Skyped with our staff “across the pond” to gather or provide information on program content and development progress. Many of our projects require collaboration between the Salzburg and Washington D.C. offices. Spending time in-person with my Salzburg colleagues allowed me place faces with names, learn more about how the organization works as a whole and move current projects forward after four months of electronic exchanges.

Before I dive into my time at Schloss Leopoldskron, let me first provide some background information on Salzburg Global Seminar and how I fit into the organization. And, since I am trying to kill time on this train, I will use a fictional conversation I had with a fictional stranger sitting across from me to explain. SCENE.

Stranger: So, why are you traveling from Salzburg to Munich?

Me: I am traveling for business. I work for Salzburg Global Seminar. Have you ever heard of it?

Stranger: No, I actually haven’t. What is Salzburg Global Seminar?

Me: Ah! This is a question I am more equipped to answer after spending a week in Salzburg. So, here goes. Salzburg Global Seminar is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that convenes “current and future leaders from around the world to solve issues of global concern.” I work in our Washington D.C. office location. With a few exceptions, all of our programs are held at Salzburg Global’s Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg. And, since our establishment in 1947, we have brought together 25,000+ Fellows to tackle important questions and international issues. Today, we categorize these programs into three crosscutting clusters: Imagination, Sustainability and Justice. My position with Salzburg Global is titled Davidson Impact Fellow. 

Stranger: Oh, I think I might have heard about that organization once before… What does it mean to be the Davidson Impact Fellow at Salzburg Global?

Me: My position is a product of a partnership between Salzburg Global and Davidson College. As the inaugural Davidson Impact Fellow, I work primarily with our Development team. “What is development?” you might ask. In the non-profit sector, development means fundraising. My position is unlike any other role with Salzburg Global, as I get to work on projects for both institutional and individual giving. This month, my typical day in the D.C. office consists of me juggling research for funding next year’s programs, spearheading the invitation lists for our annual Cutler Lecture, and supporting the design of Salzburg Global’s end-of-year email series to our fellowship network. But, my so-called normal day seems to change month-to-month with our added programs. On top of my development work, I also support the Office for the President with occasional projects.

Stranger: So, how long were you at the Salzburg office and what were you doing there? 

Me: I was working in the Salzburg office over the past nine days. The main purpose of my trip was to work, observe, and participate in the pilot session of Salzburg Global’s Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI). The YCI Forum is a ten-year program that brings together 50+ arts and culture leaders from around the world to develop their vision, entrepreneurial skills, and global networks needed to advance their organizations, their causes and their communities. Simply put, the idea is to have small groups of Fellows from 10-15 “Hubs” convene in Salzburg with other Hub groups year after year. After each YCI Forum, the Fellows return to their respective Hubs with access to a stronger local and international network of cultural leaders and innovators. Our goal is to 1) provide Fellows 4 applicable skills-training workshops for professional development and 2) facilitate collaborative projects within and across the Hubs. I was involved with some of the development research for this program, so it was very exciting experience the session from beginning to end. I attended a few of the workshops and met Fellows from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Slovakia, The Netherlands, Argentina, Austria, and the U.S. I am eager to see what collaborations evolve from the YCI Forum. Next month, I will join our Baltimore participants for a follow up meeting to hear their feedback on the program and thoughts for next year.

SCENE.

(And, the imaginary stranger was very blunt and uninterested in learning more). Until next time!

On Route to Munich

The YCI group gather in the Robinson Gallery to talk about the Hubs and projects in their local communities (10/19/2014).

On Route to Munich

Argentine Salzburg Global Fellows, Florencia Rivieri and Moira Rubio Brennan, during their visit into town (10/19/2014).

On Route to Munich

The view of Schloss Leopoldskron at night (10/20/2014).

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