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Project Imagine

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Project Imagine

Grant: The US Department of Education, Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination Grant (AEMDD) Grantee Name: Youth in Action (Fiscal Agent), on behalf of Side x Side Name: Project Imagine
Funding Amount: (four year total): $1,911,849 Year One Funding: $360,946
Partner in Project: Dr. Kelly Hrenko, from The University of Southern Maine

Number of Schools served: 4
Number of Students Served: approximately 1,700
Number of Teachers Served: 80+
Project Imagine intends to collaborate with several dozen qualified teaching artists, university education interns, professional content experts, and other local arts and educational organizations. After year four, Project Imagine programming will be available for all eleven Portland public elementary schools.

Announcement: Side x Side, a Portland educational nonprofit formed in April 2013 by parents and artists in Portland in order to promote academic excellence through comprehensive arts integration, and the University of Southern Maine Art Department jointly announced the award of the grant on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at Reiche Community School in Portland.

History of the grant

The Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination (AEMDD) program furthers the development of models that effectively strengthen and integrate arts in elementary and middle school core academic curricula. The purpose of the AEMDD grant is to support the enhancement, expansion, documentation, evaluation, and dissemination of innovative, cohesive models that are based on research and have demonstrated that they effectively:

  1. Integrate standards-based arts education into the core elementary and middle school curricula;
  2. Strengthen standards-based arts instruction in these grades; 
  3. Improve students’ academic performance, including their skills in creating, performing, and responding to the arts. 

Projects funded through the AEMDD program are intended to increase the amount of information on effective models for arts education that is nationally available that integrate the arts with standards-based education programs.

Year one, the development year

In the first year, team members from Project Imagine will partner with leadership and teachers from the participating Portland public elementary schools. They will plan and develop six comprehensive, K-5, arts integration programs based on the 2013-2014 pilot program at Reiche Community School, as well as develop and implement a professional development institute for teachers, teaching artists, and student interns.

These programs will be piloted and evaluated, as a framework for broader arts integration through all Portland elementary schools, with a goal of increasing proficiency in mathematics and reading while strengthening learning for all students, thus creating further progress toward engaging academics and equity across the district.

The elementary schools approved to participate in the study, were selected based on academic proficiencies, demographics and strict grant criteria. The participating schools are: Reiche Community School, Ocean Ave Elementary School, East End Community School, and Riverton Elementary School. Project Imagine’s two main objectives are to:

  1. design, develop, and test a comprehensive elementary arts integration model that includes a system of professional development supports and resources for teachers that aid in the rapid learning and ease of implementation of the classroom programs;
  2. obtain evidence about this proposed model’s usability and effectiveness.

An independent evaluation team will conduct a mixed-methods analysis, of both qualitative and quantitative data, to assess how the project is meeting its goals as they are defined in the program’s Logic Models for teachers, experts and students.

How it works

Our design framework provides programming that integrates content with core subjects including language arts, science, math, and social studies with the arts.

This approach

  • ties arts-based instruction to Common Core learning standards
  • cultivates 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and decision making
  • joins with strong, like-minded community partners
  • includes credit-earning opportunities for university interns and CEUs credits for teachers
  • generates program sustainability with a “community of practice” in arts integration through guided arts experiences
  • creates broader learning environments by integrating strengths of teaching artists, visiting professionals and classroom teachers
  • provides for evaluation and feedback to enable project growth across the district

Imagine for Yourself

Imagine for a second a group of students out walking the streets of Portland with a local architect, finding geometry in buildings they have looked at every day without really seeing them. Hear a classroom buzz as three students, all struggling readers, comb through a scientific text with excitement because they are building a moving 3-D model of a living ocean with the help of a sculptor.

Watch, also, as Sarah exits the school building. She’s eight and wearing pants that clearly don’t fit; her soles separate from her shoes every time she takes a step. But she holds her head high—she laughs with two friends, a small pile of books in her hands. Mere months ago, before participating in an art and writing project, Sarah barely ever spoke in school. She kept her eyes down; other kids made fun of her clothes. That was before she explored who she is, before she enumerated her uniqueness in words and images, before her work hung in a local gallery. Now her teacher can’t scan the room without seeing her hand in the air.

All the students described above have learned to engage with school—they are improving their literacy and math skills, becoming critical thinkers, exploring and developing the competencies necessary to thrive in the 21st century. Side x Side has grown from scenes like these, and with Project Imagine we propose to duplicate and replicate scenes like these all over the city of Portland.