At Side x Side, we position art at the core of all learning. This means we are not creating visual aids to complement new knowledge, instead we are creating new knowledge through art-based learning processes.
We believe that education infused with creativity and the arts is the most naturally engaging, effective and inclusive form of education for all learners. Our programs and trainings enhance both student and teacher experiences, knowledge retention, and build confidence and community. Creative learning environments allow students to show up in new ways – building skills in collaboration, problem-solving, and leadership. Arts Integration is proven to enhance student engagement, attendance, academic performance, all while elevating school culture and community.
We are driven to allow students, teachers, artists, and the community at large to build confidence in themselves, and connect with what they are learning and to connect with each other. We do this by incorporating Arts Integration and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in education through direct programming in schools as well as through training teachers to think with an arts integration and SEL lens so they can deliver their own curriculum creatively to engage, include and support all students.
Side x Side was born of one arts integrated project that our founder, Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, designed to include and engage with students that were struggling to contribute and succeed. And what she realized in the process was this approach had impact it had on ALL students. Since then, the organization has allowed for many many more programs to be designed, built and delivered in classrooms throughout Portland, Maine and now beyond.
A Side x Side Classroom Program is a collaborative project designed by the Classroom Teacher and Teaching Artist to deliver standards-based classroom curriculum in an engaging, inclusive way utilizing different artistic mediums. Each program is unique, flexible and creative – built to the needs of the students, classroom and curriculum. We also include visiting experts and professionals related to the curriculum or artistic medium – giving students new perspective about possible career paths, and how their unique personality, interests and skill sets might serve them moving forward. We have had programs in K-12 settings. Here are a few examples:
Side x Side Film program for fifth graders:
And for a more in-depth look at how a program works:
Moving Oceans: a Side x Side program for second graders
We have seen over and over the benefit of Side x Side programs in the classroom. Our goal is to create the most impact we can in helping every student possible to learn through an education that incorporates both Arts Integration and Social Emotional Learning. Accordingly, some of our most important work is in supporting and training classroom teachers to think and teach with these methodologies organically.
Much like their students, many teachers believe they are not “artists” or “creative” because they don’t have an arts background, or they lost their confidence in their own education. We help the teachers that train with us to unlearn this unhealthy belief. They experience the power of Arts Integrated learning as they start as the student in our trainings creating their own art with professional teaching artist. They experience the educational power of a creative learning environment, and the way it can bring out creative thinking and confidence – how it brings out the best in students, and in themselves. From there, we support our teachers in learning how to deliver these types of programs to their students, brainstorm how they can create programs with their curriculums and build integrative, creative and inclusive environments for all their students to thrive and shine.
Throughout the years, our Professional Development for teachers has evolved as we’ve learned what works best. We now intensive training programs in partnership with USM, called the Summer Arts Institute. And we also offer individual Professional Development workshops throughout the year.
Arts Integration is the use of programs that bring critical thinking, creativity, and innovation into the classroom by integrating science, technology, literacy, and the humanities with the arts to enhance school curriculum and deepen learning. Why?
- 2X: Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are two times more likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.
- 3X: Students involved in the arts are three times more likely to win an award for school attendance and to be elected to class office.
- 4X: Students involved in the arts are four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair and to be recognized for academic achievement.
- 5X: Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are five times less likely to drop out of school than their peers.*
*Americans For The Arts