How art can build student leadership skills

Creative art experiences that challenge students to observe, articulate, reimagine, and take risks help build their confidence and leadership capacity, say experts.

In “Art-Infused Student Leadership Projects,” Cheri Sterman, Crayola Education director; Nancy Horvat, Multi-Tier Support Systems specialist, Arts Academy, PA; and Jessica Lura, director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Bullis Charter School, CA discussed how to develop leadership qualities in students through art activities.

Art to SEEK for Intention

The SEEK™ acronym is a method that allows students to read and decode art. Using SEEK, students describe what they see, give supporting evidence, explain the artist’s decisions, and describe what they already know and what else they want to know about the art.

This method uses inquiry-based observation skills to determine an artist’s intention and message.

Lura noted that her students recognized that they also used these “life skills” in other areas, like providing evidence in English or giving an explanation in math.

Art for Different POVs

Using a viewfinder, which can be made out of a piece of cardstock with a large hole in the center, students can notice the extraordinary in everyday objects. While discussing leadership qualities, Jessica’s students concluded that a leader is able to see different points of view, and that they wanted to develop this leadership skill of seeing things in new ways.

Students used their viewfinders to help them focus on small details of everyday items, rather than trying to focus on an entire room. “(The students) felt like they had a better eye, a better lens, when looking at ordinary things, and they saw how it tied to building up leadership skills,” said Lura.

Art for Communication Skills

Students can also apply leadership qualities, like listening with intention, speaking with clarity and sharing responsibility, to portrait exercises. In this particular exercise, the first student describes a portrait to the second student, and the second student, who cannot see the portrait, must attempt to recreate it.

In this process, the students must work together, reflect, revise, and respond effectively to one another.

When given more decision-making and reflective opportunities, children become more self-aware and demonstrate significant leadership qualities.

About the Presenters

Cheri Sterman, Director of Education for Crayola, helps ignite educators’ creative confidence and establish creative collaborations within schools and communities. She leverages insights from having worked with educators across the country, hearing their passion for innovative teaching strategies that awaken students’ voices. Her approach is to ask essential questions, spark personal epiphanies through hands-on experiences that make thinking visible, and provide reflective prompts. Cheri knows that the best solutions live within educators, and so coaches them in planning their own next steps. Cheri uses an iterative process that helps educators create, present, respond, and connect—making their voices visible. She authored the Art Builds 21st Century Learning series available on and articles in the annual Champion Creatively Alive Children: Principal magazine, helping schools build creative capacity and engage families in this process.

Nancy Horvat is the multi-tier support services coordinator at the Allentown Arts Academy Elementary Charter School in Allentown, PA. She also serves as a Crayola Education Consultant and coaches/manages assignments of Crayola freelance writers. Nancy holds several master’s degrees in education along with a variety of certificates, including leadership and curriculum development. With over 30 years of experience in public schools, she has taught elementary through high school, in a variety of subjects. Nancy is an advocate of art-infused education and helps educators adopt this teaching strategy. Nancy is a champion of student-led project-based learning, which she believes is the most efficient use of educational time and allows for the development of independent, collaborative and creative leadership.

Jessica Lura is the director of strategic initiatives and partnerships at Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, CA. She works with students and teachers supporting their learning and helping them develop 21st century skills. A National Board Teacher and Google Certified Innovator, Jessica has taught both primary grades and middle school. Her favorite part of being an educator is sparking student curiosity so they become lifelong learners who communicate effectively, work collaboratively, think critically, and use innovative and creative approaches to solve problems.

Join the Community

Champion Creativity: The Power of Art-Infused Education is a free professional learning community that helps principals, art teachers and other teacher leaders build creative capacity schoolwide.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Crayola.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone at here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by more events here.]


3 things schools must know about the rising “phigital” student

A major generational clash is underway, says a foremost expert, and it’s affecting all industries, including education. The clash is coming from so-called Gen Z, the first generation to be considered fully “phigital”—unwilling or unable to draw a distinction between the physical world and its digital equivalent.

So what does that mean for educators? Well, buckle up and hold on.

In an article published in, of all places, Delta’s Sky Magazine, writer Allison Kaplan details her interview with generational expert and author David Stillman on how Generation Z will begin graduating from college this year and what businesses should expect. Here’s a hint: Don’t expect Millennials.

And though Gen Z is starting to graduate this year, there’s still a massive amount of them within various levels of education—nearly 74 million (born between 1995 and 2012), according to Forbes magazine.

Since education has been focusing more on adapting itself to its students, rather than students learning to adapt to its educators, there’s never been a better time to re-examine strategies ranging from classroom pedagogy to campus-wide technology initiatives.

Here are three things K-12 and higher ed must know about the rising “phigital” student:

1. Digital is King

According to Stillman and his 17 year-old son and co-author Jonah, Millennials can still remember a time before the internet. However, Gen Z are truly the first digital pioneers, in that they cannot remember a time when they were not Wi-Fi connected.

“Gen Z has only known a connected world, and as a result, they don’t draw a distinction between working in an office and working in a coffeehouse—it’s all work; they’re always online,” writes Kaplan. According to the Stillmans, Jonah sees dialing into a meeting via video conferencing as no different than sitting face-to-face in a boardroom. This has coined the term “phigital” when referencing the mindset of Gen Z.

For education, this means heavy focus should be placed on incorporating not only digital materials in the classroom, but incorporating mobile devices in class and mobile strategies within the school or institution.

Already, K-12 schools are beginning to leverage the E-Rate for a digital transformation [read here and also here]. And more schools are incorporating mobile tablets and smartphones into their curriculum [read about the staggering growth of Chromebook implementation here].

For higher education, it’s never been more important to allow prospective students to explore their potential institutions via mobile and online methods. For example, according to business recruitment specialist Jeff Boodie, the uptick in job candidates coming to his web-based employment platform via mobile is astounding; so much so that he created his new venture, JobSnap—a smartphone app that lets users upload a 30-second video to showcase their personality, and lets businesses swipe left or right, like Tinder, when choosing job candidates.

Already, mobile has shown to yield tremendous results in student recruiting, and leading colleges and universities are creating mobile apps to communicate campus messages, curb sexual assault, gain instant student feedback on classes and events, create inclusive social experiences, and provide unprecedented access to student-based services.

Top universities are also harnessing IT talent to help satisfy Gen Z’s diversified web needs both in and out of class.

Higher ed is also leading the way in online presence to attract and retain phigital students, like with state-of-the-art websites [read also what mistakes to avoid in campus website creation here].

Yet, even though higher ed is on its way to becoming the leader in digital integration (especially in its implementation of digital textbooks compared to K-12) there is still a long way to go in order to please Gen Z’s phigital nature. According to a recent multi-national research study, one-third of students polled feel that student administration systems do not meet their expectations, making them less likely to recommend the institution. Students also say a lack of digital technology options and tedious online protocols make them think less of their university.

(Next page: Individualization and the real-world for Gen Z)


App of the Week: Survey student and classroom strengths

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

What’s It Like? 

Pairin is a survey-database and visual-representation program that allows for all-in-one access both to survey scores and to lessons for survey sub-skills. First Pairin asks students to complete a 15- to 20-minute survey that can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet or computer. The survey measures 105 soft-skill personality attributes by asking participants to choose between a “yes” or a “no” if the stated trait applies to them. Students and teachers then have access to insights and tips based on each personality attribute. Staff can then drill down to learn more about their students and where they rank on certain personality targets.

Price: Free to Try, Paid

Grades: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: Minimalist design, multiple charts, and a multi-mode curriculum help educators better understand their students.

Cons: The amount of data and options can be overwhelming at first glance without supportive training.

Bottom line: For educators who have the time, drive, and buy-in, this program is a great data-analysis and character-development tool.


4 points DeVos makes about school choice

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos offered a vague look at the Trump Administration’s plans for school choice during her keynote at the American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit.

In her remarks, DeVos again emphasized the administration’s support for local control of education, and she urged states to invest in school choice plans.

She also highlighted examples of students who have used school choice programs to achieve academic success.

DeVos’ keynote came on the eve of President Trump’s FY 2018 budget, which delivers a one-two punch to education and reduces or eliminates funding for many programs, including career technical education and teaching training, in favor of school choice.

Next page: School choice in the Trump Administration


3 ways students with autism benefit from art, music and recreation

According to curriculum therapists, multi-disciplinary sessions appeal to students’ creativity, are relevant to their everyday lives, and help them acquire important skills—especially students with autism.

In a recent webinar, “Art, Music & Recreational Therapy: Incorporating Creative Approaches for Students with Autism,” Courtney Carnes, MS, ATR-BC, art therapist; Julie Hopkins, MT-BC, music therapist; and Erin Witschey, CTRS, recreational therapist, discussed how these types of therapies are used to support individuals with autism by focusing on specific needs of younger and older students and targeting a variety of goals.

Art for Students with Autism

Art therapy helps students with autism target imagination and abstract thinking, sensory integration and regulation, emotion and self-expression, developmental growth, visual-spatial skills, and recreation and leisure skills.

“As an art therapist, you don’t have to be an artist, but you must appreciate, enjoy, and actually experience the art,” said Carnes. She recommends using visuals like charts with different colors to determine the individual’s mood, or icons and photos to symbolize the class schedule for the day.

During sessions, she commonly uses colored bubbles or shaving cream art with younger kids for sensory lessons, while using sketchbook or step-by-step drawing with older kids for leisure skills.

The main goal with these lessons is to have students independent in their art sessions.

Music for Students with Autism

“Music therapists use music to target non-musical goals,” Hopkins explained, “Those goals can really vary depending on the population.”

Hopkins likes to read singable stories—songs in the form of a book—to target goals in young students like reading comprehension, reading pace, and sustained attention.

Since her older students like to share songs with each other through platforms like YouTube, she makes lessons out of song-sharing that involve writing and presentation skills, and how to appropriately comment on songs.

She also uses instrument playing to teach elements of music like tempo, dynamics, pitch, tonality and mood. The students can learn to identify these different elements and then attempt to replicate them with instruments.

Recreation for Students with Autism

Recreational therapy can be used to focus on promoting motor function and leisure skills.

Witschey works with younger students on providing motor development, sensory input, and an introduction to sports skills, while working with older students on sports skill development, exercise skills, and working as a team.

Activities involved in her sessions include throwing and catching, kicking, climbing, going through obstacle courses, and for the older students, team activities.

Witschey added that the students should also be learning everyday skills like how to stay active and healthy.

Every student with autism is different, and using art, music, and recreational therapy can address students’ needs and build skills in a variety of creative ways.

About the Presenters

Courtney Carnes, MS, ATR-BC, holds a master’s degree in art therapy with a concentration in counseling from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a Bachelor of Science in pre-art therapy with a minor in leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. While in graduate school, Courtney held internships at a local children’s hospital and an adult transitional housing facility. Courtney joined the staff at Monarch Center for Autism in August 2014. Since then, she has continued to build the art therapy program for ages 3 through 21.

Julie Hopkins, MT-BC, graduated with honors from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Music in music therapy. Following graduation, she completed her clinical internship at Monroe #1 BOCES in Rochester, New York. She provided related service music therapy to students with a variety of diagnoses in both center-based and district-based school settings. She also worked as the summer music therapist at Creekside School in Fairport, New York. Julie came to Monarch Center for Autism in 2014. She continues to grow the music therapy program, providing both group and individual sessions to target a variety of goal areas such as socialization, academic goals, emotional/behavioral goals, and sensory input.

Erin Witschey, CTRS, graduated with honors from Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio with a Bachelor of Science in recreation with a concentration in therapeutic recreation. Post-graduation, she worked full-time in summer camps, including time at an Easterseals camp for children and adults with disabilities, where she adapted programming to be accessible for all participants. Erin came to Monarch Center for Autism in 2013 as the gross motor instructor and has developed a program that provides needed sensory inputs while practicing a variety of motor skills.

Join the Community

Teaching Students with Autism is a free professional learning community that provides ideas and resources for teachers working with students with autism, particularly advances in technology that can lead to significant breakthroughs in communication and learning. This is a collaborative community where educators can share information to help support the needs of students with autism.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Monarch Center for Autism, STAR Autism Support, and VizZle.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone by clicking here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by more events here.]


How to be an award-winning teacher

Be Transparent and Communicative

By Ali Alowonle

Award: Finalist for Minnesota’s 2017 Teacher of the Year award, nominated for Clark County’s New Teacher of the Year award

My homeroom is 4th- and 5th-graders: 21 gifted students, a mix of boys and girls. It’s nice because the 5th-graders are really the mentors, and next year the 4th-graders get to take on that role. It’s a really great chance for them to grow in leadership. Looping also lets us hit the ground running. I know half my students already at the start of the year. They know the rules and they can help teach the new kids. We get a lot more instructional time that way.

It’s a lot of project-based learning in here. For instance, for chemistry we’ll work on teaching them the properties of atoms and bonds and we’ll go through the whole chemistry unit, but then it’s peppered throughout with different labs they can do. At the end of a unit, they do an individual project where they can ask themselves, “What do I want to do with this?” They can do some experimenting at home, or in the classroom. The only criteria I have is to incorporate something from the unit and then go deep with it.

With intense students like mine, connecting to the family is super important. I send periodic emails to individual parents to let them know how things are going. I always try to touch on the positives, which is something they’re not always used to. I’ve had responses from parents saying: “I’m really surprised by your email. I thought this was going to be another email about how my child was sent home today.”

I also send everyone a very detailed weekly newsletter about what it looks like to be a child in this room for a week. I write down what we’ve been doing each day, in each subject, each project. Especially because a lot of students struggle with executive functioning, planning, and meeting deadlines. I lay it out for the parents: Here’s what you might want to be asking the child. Here’s something you can do at home to extend the learning going on the classroom.

Tips on Awards: Once you are nominated, some awards require you to submit a portfolio. My best advice is to write about what is truly in your heart. Be honest about your philosophy, pedagogy, and teaching. Also try to provide specific examples and anecdotal stories.

To balance duties that come with awards, first take care of your students’ needs and then carve time out of your personal life to deal with any obligations from awards. This way, you are staying true to what really matters—the kids!

(Next page: Tips from 2 other award-winning teachers)


Wow! This inquiry-based, technology-rich school has no tech staff

When I first became principal, I was compelled to explore all aspects of what it meant to be a 21st-century learner in an international baccalaureate context: as a global citizen, as a collaborative co-creator of knowledge, as a caring human being. We must equip every child to manage and thrive in this complex and fragile world in which we live, and to do so with tolerance and respect for others. Being a caring and competent user of technology is core to being a productive, proactive citizen…and we accomplish this with no tech staff. Let me explain:

Wildwood IB World Magnet School is a top performing K-8 public magnet school. We are a diverse urban learning community, where our families speak 23 different languages. Wildwood has students with a wide range of physical and cognitive abilities, as well as students with medical and physical fragilities. We are economically diverse as well, with students from poverty through affluence. We run an open lottery, and our 488 students come from around the city.

IB is fundamentally and foremost about the student, not about a program. It aligns to my mantra of student ownership of learning. At Wildwood, we have been holding K-8 student-led report card conferences for parents for six years. We have been doing individualized student data folders for as long. Students design and run all kinds of schoolwide projects and clubs. They plan and deliver many school assemblies like Pi Day, and they engage in all sorts of action and service, both inside the formal IB units of inquiry and outside of it.

Tools to Support Inquiry-Driven Learning

In my second year, in an effort to get technology into the hands of the students, foster authentic inquiry, and break the “test-prep” mentality which has come to dominate many a school landscape, I launched Inquiry Fair. I had only two expectations for the projects: they had to be student-driven inquiry, and there had to be some kind of technology use.

Inquiry Fair has bloomed into multiple inquiry showcases throughout the year, and has expanded to personal projects and service-learning projects. Students decide what they want to learn and/or do. With the support of a teacher or parent as facilitator, students research, design, plan, implement, and reflect on their learning. With the various platforms to house and share digital work, technology is an integral part of this learning process, especially for grades 4-8.

To give students anytime, anywhere access to literature and text at their level and cycle them through a learning process, we use ThinkCERCA. It allows us to reach students with high-level thinking and reasoning, regardless of their reading level. I love the way the CERCA Framework (which stands for Claim, Evidence, Reasoning, Counterargument, Audience) builds students’ critical thinking and argumentative writing skills.

Another inquiry-based initiative we are always working on is our Next Generation Curriculum model. Upper-grade students do deep research into one literary, one science, and one social science topic of interest to them, and are challenged to come up with a connecting theme and evidence for the connection from each of the domains.

Students also have to select and unpack several Common Core standards to assess the quality with which they defend and showcase their theme. This allows students to use technology to create knowledge that is brand new and unique to the student, and to publish their work as part of their digital footprint.

A pilot project for our Next Generation Curriculum was a student who researched feminist critique, medical ethics, and border wars. She ended up doing an art installation and website on the theme “Rightfully Ours.” It gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?

(Next page: Accomplishing goals with no tech staff)


Virtual island destination aims to prevent the summer math slide

The summer slide, a loss of academic progress during the summer break between school years, has been confirmed in many research studies since an early publication by White in 1906 [1]. All too often kids arrive back at school in the fall worse off in mathematics than they finished in the spring, causing teachers to give up weeks of class time, or more, to make up for that loss.

An early stage education technology company, Cignition, is attempting to break that trend through a summer program that keeps students engaged in mathematics through their online virtual world Fog Stone Isle.

Research Support for the Summer Math Slide

According to a newsletter from the Harvard Graduate School of Education [2], on average, students lose 2.6 months of learning in math during the summer break. They also note that math learning loss is bigger than reading, and cuts across all socioeconomic backgrounds. They suggest that, while reading activities are often part of a family’s daily life, parents and kids don’t usually think about math outside the classroom. (Try to imagine a bedtime math routine rather than a reading routine.)

Duffet et al [3], summarizing a study sponsored by the Wallace Foundation, looked at what kids and parents really want from out of school time. One clear result was that parents and students value free time and a break from school, and kids especially are far more likely to spend their summer playing video games than engaging in anything mathematical. This study provides evidence for the enhanced need, over the summer, to provide engaging activities that are mathematical, while providing creative freedom and an activity that makes the math meaningful in relation to the real world.

A survey conducted by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) [5] of 500 teachers from 16 school districts around the US found that the summer slide results in substantial loss of classroom time for teaching new material – the article states, “66% of the teachers said it takes them at least 2-3 weeks to teach the previous year’s skills at the beginning of a new school year. Of those, more than a third said it takes them 5 weeks or more.”

Summer Learning Opportunities

The summer offers a multitude of learning opportunities. Online classes, how-to videos, applications and games, workshops, camps and exploring the communities near you. Maker projects can be simple and engaging for kids to do at home, which enhance design-thinking and persistence skills. Teachers and parents can plan and suggest what’s right for their students and children. It’s important to find strategies that fit into busy schedules to reduce the summer slide and substantial classroom loss.
Digital Promise looked at results using four different ed-tech products across three school districts as part of summer programs to reduce the summer slide in reading and/or math [6]. Two of the key conclusions were:

In order to get students engaged, it is important to recruit parents and students early

In order to maintain students’ motivation, it is useful to provide ongoing incentives. In one district, a culminating celebration for students was offered. The educators involved recommended, for the future, selecting ed-tech tools that are highly interactive and fun in order to keep students motivated.

At Digital Promise, education leaders seeking to curb summer learning loss have experimented with providing students with devices equipped with ed-tech tools to use over the summer. Emerging research suggests this approach has promise, but there is still limited evidence to help district leaders identify which strategies will be most successful.

To learn more about the use of ed-tech in summer learning, we worked with three Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools districts last summer to pilot four ed-tech products: Mathspace, TenMarks, eSpark, and Amplify Games. In our report, Rapid Cycle Pilots: Summer Ed-Tech Programs, we share key findings on how the summer programs were structured, and offer tips for implementing ed-tech over the summer.

All of the studies cited above support a number of conclusions:

  • The summer slide is a significant barrier to progress in math and reading.
  • The summer slide results in wasted class time reviewing old material rather than introducing new material.
  • The success of summer programs to reverse the summer slide in math depends on techniques to keep students highly engaged and motivated so that they participate on a continuing basis.

(Next page: The virtual island for summer math)