Seeking Input on Arts Standards

The Montana Arts Council, in partnership with the Montana Office of Public Instruction, is seeking feedback from educators, artists, parents and other interested community members on the Montana Standards for Arts and the new National Core Arts Standards.  The Montana Standards for Arts are on a timeline for revision, and feedback about how the current standards are being used, and how they might be improved, is critical to the process. The Montana Arts Council has organized a series of focus groups across the state on the arts standards.  The focus groups are open to the public.  The meeting host will guide participants through a series of open-ended questions to gather feedback.

Yellowstone Art Museum Linda Ewert, YAM Education Director 9-Apr 5:00-6:30 pm
University of Montana Fine Arts Building, Room 304 Jennifer Combe, UM College of Fine Arts 16-Apr 5:30-7:30 pm
Hamilton, Westview Center 103 S. 9th, Room 9 Kathleen Dent, OPI MCCS Liaison 21-Apr 4:00-5:30 pm
Helena High School, Room 47 Maggie Connors and Abby Nyhof, HSD 28-Apr 4:00-5:30 pm
Glasgow, Wheatgrass Arts and Gallery Cathryn Sugg, OPI MCCS Liaison 30-Apr 6:00-7:30 pm
Havre-Hill Public Library Laura Brayko, North Star Schools 29-Apr 5:00-6:00 pm
Kalispell, NW Coop Office Eliza Sorte-Thomas, Northwest Coop 28-Apr 6:30-8:00 pm

For those who are not able to attend a focus group, we are also offering an online survey to gather feedback.  The survey is open to through April 30, 2015.

For dance educators: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MTStandardsDance

For theatre educators: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MTStandardsTheatre

For non-arts teachers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MTStandards4Arts

For music teachers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MTStandardsMusic

For visual arts teachers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MTStandardsVisualArts

Please contact Emily Kohring, Director of Arts Education at the Montana Arts Council if you have any questions about the Montana Standards for Arts revision process.  ekohring@mt.gov or (406) 444-6522.

Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts Application Deadline Extended

OPI AND MAC LOGO

 

The application deadline for the Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts program has been extended to 5:00 pm, Monday, March 2. 

The Montana Arts Council and the Office of Public Instruction are teaming up to offer Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts, a professional development initiative for K-12 educators across the state. Through this exciting new program, MAC and OPI seek to develop teacher leaders who can support other teachers statewide in integrating the arts into their classrooms.

Who can apply for the program?

  •  Certified arts specialists in K-12 schools in any discipline.
  •  Classroom teachers with significant background and a high comfort level in the arts.
  •  Principals and other school administrators.
  •  Retired teachers who were certified arts specialists.
  •  Professional teaching artists who demonstrate a significant level of experience in and knowledge of K-12 public education.

 

Click here for more information.  Click here for a downloadable pdf with applicant information and instructions on how to apply.

Registration Open for 2015 Montana Teaching Artist Weekend

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Registration is now open for the 2015 Montana Teaching Artist Weekend Hosted by the Montana Arts Council and the Holter Museum of Art, Helena

Friday, April 17 6:00-9:00 pm

Saturday, April 18, 8:00 am-5:00 pm

A professional development and networking opportunity for teaching artists serving schools and communities across Montana.

Teaching artists fill a critical need for arts education for learners young and old in the Big Sky. Join the Montana Arts Council and Holter Museum of Art for a professional development opportunity that will help you sharpen your skills as an artist, educator and advocate for high-quality arts education for all Montana students. This opportunity is open to professional teaching artists of all disciplines who provide hands-on learning experiences in school, after school, and in non-traditional learning environments.

The weekend will kick off with an opening reception Friday night at the Holter Museum of Art with a keynote speaker David Spear of A VOICE.  David is a teaching artist who has worked with students over the past decade at Two Eagle River School in Pablo, recording the stories of their community through photography. The reception will include opportunities for teaching artists to network, with refreshments and no-host beer and wine selections.

Saturday’s agenda includes:

8:00-8:30 a. m.     Coffee and Conversation

8:30-11:30  am      Plenary Workshop:  The Arts and Cognition with Lorrie Heagy

Lorrie is an elementary music teacher and director of Juneau, Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), an El Sistema-inspired program that provides string instruction for students.  She is the 2011 Alaska Teacher of the Year, and her program at Glacier Valley Elementary earned the Kennedy Center’s Creative Ticket National School of Distinction Award. 

Lorrie will offer a lively, interactive workshop for teaching artists of all disciplines on how learning in and through the arts impacts the brain.  Lorrie will help you better understand how what you are teaching is impacting the development of your learners, and will help make you a stronger advocate for the power of arts learning. 

11:30-12:30         Networking Box Lunch

12:45-1:45           Afternoon Breakout Sessions

The Arts and Healthcare with Youpa Stein and guests

Youpa Stein, Tracy Pohndorf and Odette Grassi of Living Art of Montana will discuss the organization’s work in the expanding field of the arts and healthcare, a growing area of opportunity for teaching artists.  Youpa, Tracy and Odette will share their experiences using artistic expression as a way of healing. 

Expanding Your Online Presence with Janaina Vieira-Marques

Want to build a website, but don’t know where to start?  Not sure how to make the best use of technology to market your skills as a teaching artist?  Teaching Artist Janaina Vieira-Marques will offer you some great resources and tricks to boost your online presence and help make more people aware of the great work you do! 

2:00-3:00 pm      Breakout Sessions Repeated

3:15-4:45 pm      Open Space Session

In Open Space, participants suggest topics or questions they are interested in exploring, and participants self-select the discussion they would like to join.  Participants are welcome to use “the law of two feet” to leave a discussion, join a different one, or start their own.  Open Space is a great way to brainstorm, problem-solve and network with your fellow teaching artists.

4:45 pm – 5:00 pm   Closing thoughts and goodbyes
Who should attend?

Professional, non-volunteer teaching artists working in school and community settings around Montana in all artistic disciplines.  Registration is limited to 40 teaching artists.  Preference will be given to teaching artists currently on the Montana Arts Council’s Arts Education Artist Registry.  Those working in Montana arts organizations in an arts education programming capacity (education directors, etc.) are also welcome.

What is the cost?

Registration is free, but limited to 40 people.  While the Montana Arts Council cannot cover travel costs for attendees, we have booked a block of rooms at the Helena Colonial Red Lion Inn, 2301 Colonial Drive, in at the discounted rate of $89/night.  Please call (406) 443-2100  to reserve a room in this block with the Montana Arts Council.

How do I register?

Registration is online by clicking here to fill out an online form.  Your registration is not confirmed until you receive a confirmation email from us on or before Friday, March 6, or an email confirming you have been placed on the wait list. 

The deadline for registration is Thursday, March 5. 

Contact Emily Kohring at ekohring@mt.gov or (406) 444-6522 with questions.

Want to learn more about the National Core Arts Standards? Join us for a free online course!

The Montana Arts Council is offering a free online course for educators on the Montana Digital Professional Learning Network:

Exploring the Arts Standards

with Emily Kohring and Barb Good

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The National Core Arts Standards were launched in June, 2014 in a continuing effort among a broad coalition of national organizations to create a sequential, standards-based approach to arts education across grades and levels.  In addition to Music, Theatre, Dance and Visual Art, the standards also include a new discipline, Media Arts.

This 3-session online course will offer an introduction to the National Core Arts Standards, and facilitate discussion among participating educators about how the discipline-specific National Core Arts Standards may or may not be useful to teaching and learning in the arts in Montana schools. The second session will be a live webinar hosted by Emily Kohring, Director of Arts Education at the Montana Arts Council, and Barb Good, member of the music writing team for the National Core Arts Standards.

Session objectives:

  • Understand the philosophy and intended outcomes that shaped the creation of the National Core Arts Standards.
  • Understand the structure and components of the new standards.
  • Identify the intersections between the National Core Arts Standards and the Montana Common Core, and how arts learning supports MCCS learning goals.
  • Identify the intersections between the National Core Arts Standards and the current Montana Standards for Arts, scheduled to be revised beginning in 2015.
  • Analyze the potential for using the new National Core Arts Standards in your classroom, and how Model Cornerstone Assessments (MCAs) are being implemented to gauge student learning related to the new standards.

Target Group: PK-12 Teachers & Administrators, especially Arts Specialists; Post-Secondary Arts Education Instructors

Delivery Method: Online via MDPLN; course opens January 16; live, 1-hr. webinar February 10 from 4:00-5:00 pm (webinar will also be archived for later viewing)

Renewal Units/Credit: 5 OPI renewal units are available for completion of this course.

Cost: No cost

Click here to register for the course or go to http://www.mdpln.org

Contact: Emily Kohring, Montana Arts Council, ekohring@mt.gov 406-444-6522

 

Artists in Schools and Communities FY16 Grant Cycle Opens

Visual arts residency with artist Jan Lord at Creston School.

Visual arts residency with artist Jan Lord at Creston School.

Happy New Year!  2016 is going to be a fantastic year to bring a professional teaching artist to your community to benefit learners of all ages through a rich and meaningful arts learning experience.

Guidelines for the FY16 Artists in Schools and Communities program are now available on the Montana Arts Council website for projects beginning July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.

The Montana Arts Council strives to provide access to quality arts learning to develop the creative potential of Montanans of all ages. Towards that end, the Artists in Schools and Communities program provides matching funds that support a wide range of arts learning experiences and artist residencies for participants of all ages with professional working artists, as well as other special projects that support arts learning in schools and community settings.

Click here to see a list of Artists in Schools and Communities grants awarded in FY15.

Circus arts residency in Hot Springs, August 2014.

Circus arts residency in Hot Springs, August 2014.

The FY16 grant cycle features a notable change over previous years. Rather than a rolling deadline for grant applicants, there will be one deadline for all grant requests $1500 and over in the Arts Learning Experience, Artist Residency, and Special Projects categories. This deadline will be April 6, 2015. Grant requests over $1500 submitted after the April 6 deadline will not be considered.

The deadline for all organizations in the Arts Learning Partner category will be April 13, 2015. Arts Learning Partners are select Montana arts organizations that have a proven record of providing high-quality arts learning experiences to participants both regionally and across the state of Montana. Arts Learning Partner organizations must meet specific criteria for consideration in this category.

Grants up to $10,000 are available and must be matched 1:1 with other funds (MAC will provide a 2:1 match for first-time applicants, Class C schools, or small rural schools supervised by a county superintendent). For complete guidelines, please see our website.

To discuss an idea for a potential arts learning project for your school or community, contact Emily Kohring, Director of Arts Education, at (406) 444-6522 or ekohring@mt.gov.

Photovoice residency with Missoula Flagship Program students, June 2014.

Photovoice residency with Missoula Flagship Program students, June 2014.

Announcing Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts

OPI AND MAC LOGO

The Montana Arts Council and the Office of Public Instruction are teaming up to offer Montana Teacher Leaders in the Arts, a professional development initiative for K-12 educators across the state. Through this exciting new program, MAC and OPI seek to develop teacher leaders who can support other teachers statewide in integrating the arts into their classrooms. According to the most recent data gathered by the Montana Arts Council, less than half of public schools in the state clearly articulate the arts in their school improvement plans.  In Montana elementary schools, 86% of schools offer music instruction, while only 61% offer arts instruction, less than 5% offer any kind of theatre or dance, and 11% of schools offer no high-quality arts experiences at all (http://goo.gl/rPU2ZR).

In addition, over half of Montana’s schools have fewer than 100 students, and with a small student body, few of them can afford to bring in a full or even part-time arts specialist.   The arts are then left to be taught by elementary classroom teachers, who while endorsed to teach the arts in their curriculum, often lack the skill or confidence to offer high-quality experiences to their students. After years of struggle with cutbacks in budget and programs nationally, there is renewed interest in the impact the arts can have on learning.   And with current research that shows 72% of business leaders say creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring (http://goo.gl/vNxBNp), and a wealth of research to support the myriad benefits of arts education, MAC and OPI see an opportunity to give arts education a much-needed boost in Montana’s public schools by training a cohort of educators to serve as coaches, mentors and advocates in their schools and local communities for an arts-integrated approach to teaching and learning.

“The Montana Teacher Leaders project will add an exciting new professional learning opportunity for all teachers across our great state to integrate the arts into their classrooms and spark creative, engaged and joyful teaching and learning for all learners” says Jael Prezeau, Division Administrator for Content Standards and Instruction at OPI.

In the creation of the Teacher Leaders in the Arts Initiative, MAC Director of Arts Education Emily Kohring researched arts-based professional development initiatives happening in other states to seek out models that could possibly be replicated in Montana. After internet research, phone interviews with colleagues, and a site visit to the Alaska Basic Arts Institute this past summer, Kohring brought back some ideas to share with OPI staff. Integrating her ideas with OPI’s strategic plan for professional learning for educators, a plan was developed jointly to help overcome one of the unique challenges of our state: geography. In a state as large as Montana, how do you ensure an opportunity available to a teacher in Missoula is also available to a teacher in Wolf Point?

In its first year, Teacher Leaders in the Arts will recruit up to 18 teachers evenly distributed across OPI’s nine professional learning regions statewide. Teachers Leader candidates will come to a 10-day summer institute at Salish Kootenai College, where they will be deeply immersed in multi-disciplinary arts integration tools and strategies, brain theory, ideas for building creative classrooms, STEAM learning, and cultural arts led by master teaching artists and educators. Teacher Leader candidates will return to their regions, where they will receive a stipend to support a field project in arts learning during the school year. Technology then becomes the source of connectivity for the Teacher Leader candidates spread across the state, as they gather monthly as an online professional learning community to share how they are implementing what they are learning. They will also receive bimonthly webinars on selected topics in arts learning, led by leaders in the field.

At the end of the school year, the first year cohort will be identified as a Teacher Leader in the Arts in their region. A Teacher Leader in the Arts will be ready to serve as a resource to other educators to help them implement arts-based learning in the classroom, Teacher Leaders will also serve as champions for arts learning in their regions, advocating for greater access to arts learning opportunities for all of Montana’s K-12 students. The first-year cohort of Teacher Leaders in the Arts will also help plan and execute the second year of activities for the Initiative.

In year two, the Teacher Leaders in the Arts program will place a special focus on teachers in schools with less than 100 students, as well as schools with a majority American Indian population.

For the first-year cohort, the program seeks Montana K-12 arts specialists in visual art, music, or theatre; professional teaching artists with significant K-12 public school experience; school principals or administrators; and retired arts specialists. Classroom teachers with a strong background and comfort in the arts will also be considered.

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION AND APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE 2015-2016 TEACHER LEADERS IN THE ARTS INITIATIVE.

Questions? Contact Emily Kohring, Director of Arts Education at MAC, (406) 444-6522 or ekohring@mt.gov

A Day in the Life–Montana Shakespeare in the Schools

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I invited a new colleague to write a guest entry on the Big Sky Arts Ed blog, Barbara (Bobbi) McKean.  Below she writes about her experience with one of MAC’s Artists in Schools and Communities Arts Learning Partners, Montana Shakespeare in the Schools, a program of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks.  Bobbi has had a long relationship with the company, and recently took some time on her sabbatical from the University of Arizona to help the company train their actor-teachers to work with students in the many schools where they tour.

Starting in 2004, I have had the opportunity to work as educational consultant with the Montana Shakespeare in the Schools program The statewide tour of Montana Shakespeare in the Schools is now in its 22nd year. The program is the recipient of the Montana Arts Council’s Artists in Schools and Communities grant program and the Shakespeare for a New Generation grant program from the National Endowment for the Arts. It reaches one middle or high school each day with an 80-minute performance of a Shakespearean play, a post performance talk back, and related workshops for smaller groups held in students’ classrooms. This year, thanks to a sabbatical from my University, I spent three full weeks working with the actor-teachers in preparation for their current tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

As a teaching artist and an associate professor of theatre education, working with MSIP exemplifies what I believe is critical to arts organizations in the schools: We consider each day as both an artistic and an educational day. From the time the van arrives, the company members are actor-teachers. The entire day is viewed as our opportunity to excite students and teachers to the world of theatre and Shakespeare.

It isn’t about doing a performance for students and teachers. It is about creating opportunities for the company to interact with students and teachers. It is about playing and investigating together what actors do and what Shakespeare has to tell us about life, about theatre and about our current situations. In our current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the characters sit in the audience at times; the music is modern, sometimes silly and global; the text is clear; and the action is intense and non-stop. At the end of the play when Bottom asks Theseus: “Would it please you to see epilogue?” often the audience will shout “Yes! Epilogue! Epilogue!” (Shakespeare however has Theseus decline). As one of the actor-teachers put it “this has been one of the greatest interactions…we’ve taken them from ‘we have to watch this play’ to ‘we want to see MORE of this play!’Montana Shakeapeare in the Schools 2014 tour of A Midsummer Night's Dream

During the post-performance talk back, the actor-teachers take questions, often discussing the play and the process of putting the performance together. One student noted that the play within the play reminded him of Romeo and Juliet (one of the plays MSIP performed this past summer). The actor-teachers were then able to talk about how Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream right after Romeo and Juliet and perhaps he wanted to poke some fun at his own tragedy.

At lunchtime, the actor-teachers spend time talking with the students. Some ask them about the life of an actor and where they learned their craft. This provides an opportunity to talk about college (all of our actor-teachers have college degrees). Students are genuinely comforted and thrilled the actor-teachers take time to listen to their stories. A student sitting alone allowed a couple of actor-teachers to sit with him. “At first few words were exchanged but as soon as we started asking him questions he perked right up telling us all about things he was interested in and things he was learning about. We got a crash course in astronomy and the medieval chivalry code. You could tell this student is bright and just wanted someone to fan the flame and listen.”

A key component of the day is the workshops. Each workshop is structured around the play and is designed to encourage students to actively engage with some aspect of Shakespeare’s text. The language workshop asks students to explore Shakespeare’s metaphors in the text. As one actor-teacher wrote: “I was thrilled with the ideas they were coming up with for why the weather was happening and the characters they were creating.” In the production workshop, students create their own version of the play within the play. This year the actor-teachers are trying to involve the classroom teachers either as partner teachers or as participants. In one workshop, the teacher jumped in and the students really were enthusiastic about him being a part of the workshop. New this year is a music workshop where students are asked to create sounds and Shakespeare’s rhythms using their voices and bodies to see what happens. While the workshop is exciting, many students find it difficult at first. “Making a collective challenge to the group about making strong vocal / percussive choices at the beginning, and establishing a safe space where no choice will be deemed “stupid” I’ve found is the MOST important step in the workshop.” The stage combat workshop is a regular option for students. “The nature of the work requires students to be fully in or just out altogether. And the payoff is huge when it clicks. They take ownership of the moves and gain a respect for the discipline.”

When each day is finished, the actor-teachers know they have given their all. But they also come away “knowing at least a tiny bit more about more than I did before” and that they are “paying it forward” by instilling in others their love for theatre and Shakespeare that will continue long after the van leaves the parking lot.

Bobbi McKean is an associate professor in the School of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of Arizona. She first saw Montana Shakespeare in the Parks perform in 1984. In 1985, she was an actor in the summer company. And every summer since then, she makes sure she spends at least some time under the big Montana skies!

A Montana Teaching Artist Weekend–Save the Date!

Save the Date!

Montana Teaching Artist Weekend

Hosted by the Montana Arts Council and the Holter Museum of Art

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Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18, 2015

A professional development and networking opportunity for teaching artists serving schools and communities across Montana.

Teaching artists fill a critical need for arts education for learners young and old in the Big Sky. Join the Montana Arts Council and Holter Museum for a professional development opportunity that will help you sharpen your skills as an artist, educator and advocate for high-quality arts education for all Montana students. This opportunity is open to teaching artists of all disciplines who provide hands-on learning experiences to learners in school, after school, and in non-traditional learning environments.

Highlights of the weekend will include an opening reception Friday night at the Holter Museum of Art with a keynote speaker to be announced, and opportunities for teaching artists to network with each other.

Saturday’s schedule will include a plenary workshop on arts learning and the brain, along with workshops on effectively marketing your skills, and building strong school and community partnerships.

The full agenda will be announced soon. Registration will be free, but limited to 40 total participants. Lodging will be available at the discounted state rate to all participants.

REGISTRATION WILL OPEN FEBRUARY 4, 2015.

For more information, contact Emily Kohring, Director of Arts Education at (406) 444-6522 or ekohring@mt.gov

 

Bright Spots

Why is it so hard?  Seriously. 

This is a question that was asked in a recent blog post by arts education leader and advocate Matt D’Arrigo, his response to being surrounded by a preponderance of evidence about the benefits of arts education, and the seemingly overwhelming support  for arts education by average Americans (93% of Americans believe it’s important, according to Americans for the Arts), and still feeling he was rolling a boulder up a hill.

“Yet here we still stand; hands out begging for change–both literally and figuratively.”

His question is one that rattles around in my brain almost daily. as I hear the same story over and over:  lack of money, lack of supplies, lack of qualified instructors, lack of time, lack, lack, lack from teachers, administrators, parents, and colleagues across the country.

All of us are rolling that boulder up a hill.  Our Artists in Schools and Communities program ran out of funding two months into the fiscal year, for the second year in a row, due to budget cuts.  The worst part of my job is telling a teacher or artist who calls me I have no money to fund their program this school year that isn’t half over yet. Sometimes it is too hard, especially when I have to tell it to a school with no arts specialists, with a population of kids who don’t have the resources to take after school arts classes either because they are expensive or they live too far away from any.

And then, as has happened so many times before, a teacher inspires me to keep going.  Jennifer Magiera teaches in the Chicago Public Schools, and gave this talk at a Tedx event.  It’s long, but it’s worth it if you have 18 minutes:

Magiera talks about a lot of good things related to arts education, like the power of purposeful play, and how we can’t just expect kids to know how to use their creative skills if we don’t give them any opportunity to practice them in the classroom.  She talks about how opportunities to use creative thinking in the classroom gives kids the skills they need to “outwit obstacles” in life.  I love that!  She also talks about how she wanted to transform her teaching to give her students more opportunities to be creative, and how overwhelming it felt to her because she waited too long and the change was very hard to make, but she managed the change by focusing on the “bright spots.”  She defined bright spots as small things that are working, and these small things help not to let the big things overwhelm you.

Change is hard, and slow, and daunting.  But, Magiera is right, it is not hard to find bright spots.  In arts education in Montana, we have so many!  Here are a few that I have encountered, just in recent memory:

  • UM Dance Professor Karen Kaufmann and Missoula-based dance educator Jordan Dehline just published an incredible resource for teachers called Dance Integration: 36 Dance Lesson Plans for Science and Mathematics (available at www.HumanKinetics.com).  These lessons have been field tested in Montana classrooms by the CoMotion Dance Project with Montana classroom teachers.  They work!  I’ve seen them in action.
  • In October the Montana Music Educator’s Association (MMEA) held their annual conference at Hellgate High School in Missoula.  I spoke briefly at their general session, which opened with bandmasters from all over the state playing a newly-commissioned piece in honor of our great state.  And have you ever heard an auditorium packed with music teachers sing the national anthem together?  I highly recommend the spine-tingling experience. The energy in the room was through the roof.  We have remarkable music educators in the Big Sky–they love music, and they love young people.
  • The VSA Montana Choir sang during the MEA-MFT conference across town that same day.  The choir is made up of some 40 adults with disabilities–but their choir director doesn’t treat them like they have disabilities.  We watched their rehearsal, where they warmed up, he gave them notes, he corrected them and made them do it again–just like any choir.  And they sang with a sense of joy that lifted the spirits of every person in the room.
  • This past summer, Montana Quarterly published an article about Bynum School, one of 61 one-room schoolhouses in Montana.  At Bynum school, they have an 80-year-old tradition of beginning each and every day by dancing.  One of the most beautiful articles I’ve every come across about arts education, and Montana, I have not stopped thinking about it.  I hope someday soon to meet their remarkable teacher, Susan Luinstra.

I’d love to hear about your bright spot in arts education.  Every bright spot helps add some light, and makes the hard part, the non-stop struggle to keep arts education accessible to every student, a little less daunting.

Get Involved in the 10th Anniversary of Poetry Out Loud!

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All Montana high schools are invited to participate in the 10th anniversary of Poetry Out Loud.  Poetry Out Loud is a national poetry recitation competition created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and sponsored by the Montana Arts Council.  Poetry Out Loud encourages high school students to memorize and perform great poems.

Poetry Out Loud builds on the recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, seen in the popular forms of slam poetry and rap music, and invites them into the high school classroom.  The program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence and learn about their literary heritage.  Teachers participating in Poetry Out Loud receive classroom materials both through the mail and online.  Participation in Poetry Out Loud comes with strong connections to the Montana Common Core Standards in English Language Arts.

The program features a pyramid structure that includes classroom, school, regional and then the state competition, held in Helena in March.  The winner of the State Finals goes on to compete at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington DC April 27-29, 2015.  In addition to the travel costs for the winner and one adult chaperone, the State Champion also receives $200 cash plus $500 for their school for the purchase of poetry books from the Poetry Foundation.  The State Champion’s English teacher will also receive $1000 towards their travel cost to attend the national competition.  The National Champion receives a $20,000 college scholarship as well as $500 for their school to purchase poetry books.

Last year’s champion was Sowmya Sudhaker from Butte High.  79 schools across Montana participated in Poetry Out Loud.  Could the next State Champion be sitting in your English class?

To get your students enrolled in Poetry Out Loud, contact our State Coordinator, Margaret Belisle, marbelisle@aol.com or (406) 439-6443.  She will also be leading a session on Poetry Out Loud at the upcoming MEA-MFT Educator’s Conference in Missoula October 16-17.  Stop by and ask her questions!