Burbank Arts For All Foundation Focuses On Elementary Student Creativity

By On February 22, 2018

Burbank Arts for All Foundation hosted a Community Exchange gathering on recently at William McKinley Elementary School, highlighting creativity for kids through a few examples of arts programming in BUSD’s elementary schools.

Among the guests in attendance was BUSD Board of Education Vice-President Dr. Roberta Reynolds and Clerk Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, Burbank City Council Members Bob Frutos and Sharon Springer, and District Representative for State Senator Anthony Portantino, Arda Tchakian.

Foundation Program and Outreach Manager, Saundra Montijo, welcomed guests and shared how these Exchange gatherings are a part of the Foundation’s resource-sharing and advocacy efforts, fostering an open dialogue on what’s happening in arts education in Burbank Unified Schools.

The Foundation’s current advocacy work also includes the formation of a team of parent leaders called the “Arts Advocacy Leaders,” a group that meets throughout the year to discuss arts education in BUSD and develops ways that the Foundation can best serve each of the District’s parents, students, and teachers.

Jennie Ford, Parent at Walt Disney Elementary, stated, “As a parent who wants to do my part in helping grow access to the arts in our school district, I am pulled in many directions to offer service. There’s always plenty of meeting options with multiple organizations and often at the same time.”

“I find it’s the most inspiring, progressive, and solution-oriented group of arts advocates that do more than just talking about what they want to see happen. I always learn something new or build a relationship with a person I haven’t met before. It makes me feel like my volunteer time is making a difference and I am ‘In the room where it happens’!” 

For Wednesday’s Exchange, Burbank Arts for All Foundation’s Executive Director, Trena Pitchford, facilitated a panel discussion featuring BUSD elementary educators Liz Costella (Principal, McKinley Elementary), Alicia Boylan (Teacher, Bret Harte Elementary), and Dr. Jennifer Meglemre (Principal, Roosevelt Elementary).

Because every school site in BUSD is unique with its own culture and student population, each site has developed its own approach to bringing arts instruction into its classrooms. All eleven elementary school campuses begin developing their arts education programming using their unique strengths and their Principal’s vision to meet the needs of their students.

Pitchford encouraged the guests to keep in mind that the constant in public education is change. “While our focus today is arts education, we also know that schools have many other requirements in order to provide an excellent education. The Foundation always keeps in mind the holistic view of how to support a child’s social, emotional, and academic learning career. It is quite amazing how much BUSD schools accomplish.”

The panel conversation began with Principal Liz Costella sharing some of the challenges faced in implementing arts programs at her school site. She emphasized the importance of outside funding to support sustaining a program over time.

“Lack of funding and facility space are two of the main obstacles school sites can face when determining what arts programming to move forward with, and both challenges must be heavily weighed in making programming decisions,” Costella continued.

“A program like the Art Gallery, which was funded through a grant from the Foundation, is a great example of a sustainable program. Teachers and students can view the works of art throughout the year and teachers can incorporate the art into their curriculum per grade level.”

Teacher Alicia Boylan shared the impact of arts integration on her students. Ms. Boylan infuses the arts into all aspects of her teaching, giving students a new approach to core subjects such as math.

Struggling students are able to use art to find success in difficult subjects, while shy, introverted students are given the chance to shine through creativity. Students are also taught to embrace and learn from mistakes, rather than fear them, which develops their problem-solving skills.

In the “Sketching in Math for Fun and Glory” project, also funded by the Foundation, students created fractals and the Fibonacci sequence through doodles in their own sketchbooks. “I think it really resonated with my students because they were sketching in their own book, coming up with their own ideas. It was their work and they were very excited about math.” Many of Ms. Boylan’s students continue to use art as a learning tool far beyond her classroom, even bringing the techniques taught to them into their future school years!

Principal Dr. Jennifer “Dr. Meg” Meglemre told guests how she has worked with her parents and teachers to build a successful music program over her 7 years at Roosevelt Elementary school, resulting in every student being exposed to music every year. In the beginning, parent groups were funding most of this program; however, as the District has begun to take on some of these costs, parent-raised funds have been redirected to other programming and needs.

Dr. Meg went on to explain her approach when ideas are presented to her by teachers, parents, and students. She stated, “If I ever write my memoir, it will be called ‘Starting With Yes.’ When an idea is presented, my response is always, ‘Yes, I love it! And then: how can we do it?’ It opens up the dialogue to explore what will be needed and the challenges there may be to determine the idea’s overall possibility.” In empowering those within the Roosevelt community with the freedom to innovate, a positive and collaborative atmosphere has been fostered at the school.

Guests were then treated to a slideshow presentation on the many arts programs offered at McKinley from parent leader and PTA Arts Chair, Ali McNeeley. The faces of excited, smiling children and teachers engaged in a large variety of arts activities appeared on the stage’s screen, to the delight of all present. Highlighted programs included several Foundation grant-funded projects, such as the school’s Rainforest mural, REMO Drum Circle workshops, Garri Dance artist-in-residencies, and the school’s hallway art gallery.

BUSD’s Arts for All Plan is supported by an ecosystem that includes the District, parents, community partners, and Burbank Arts for All Foundation working together to offer creativity in every BUSD student’s education. Over the past 12 years, this ecosystem has supported the District’s efforts to rebuild and sustain arts programming at every level.

Upon reflection for the evening’s focus, Pitchford stated, “Community support and parent volunteerism is essential to the success and sustainability of BUSD’s arts ecosystem including support with fundraising, volunteering time, and in-kind donations of skills and resources. Burbank Arts for All Foundation’s Arts Advocacy Leaders are working to develop ways to best support the needs of parents and arts supporters in our community. We want to ensure they have the tools and resources to best benefit them both now and as they continue through their child’s educational journey through BUSD.”

While many strides have been made in arts education in BUSD, there is still much work to do. The Foundation invites our Burbank community to join us as we continue this important work to make sure that BUSD’s children have the quality arts education they deserve.  For more information on Burbank Arts for All Foundation and how you can get involved, visit: www.BurbankArtsforAll.org