Arts programs at public schools are often noted for cutbacks rather than impact. But P.S. ARTS is helping to strengthen the presence of the arts in schools.
Founded in 1991, P.S. ARTS works to supplement arts education in California public schools. Today, the organization provides yearlong visual arts, music, theater and dance instruction to nearly 25,000 K-8 grade students across the state.
A recent two-year study of the program shows that it works. Students participating in P.S. ARTS programs show improvement in expressing complex ideas, creative problem-solving, collaboration, and taking initiative. Nationally, increased access to the arts consistently have positive effects on skills and values that help children throughout life, like empathy and creative thinking. For at-risk students, experiencing the arts in school is also associated with better academic results, job opportunities, and civic engagement.
Recognizing these benefits, the P.S. ARTS model works to integrate the arts into the broader curriculum. “P.S. ARTS fosters a genuine collaboration where teaching artists and teachers are planning and looking at how to integrate standards together,” said Olivia Adams, principal of Walgrove Avenue Elementary School, where P.S. ARTS has been active for several years. “It’s not just working on the visual and performing arts standards, doing it through the content of social studies or science.”
The full-time teaching artist at Walgrove Elementary, Donzell Lewis, is well-loved by teachers and students alike. “I talk with the teachers throughout the year on how we can collaborate and bring theater into the classroom,” he said. This collaboration has resulted in fun projects like the radio dramas fourth graders produce in their social studies class, or the multimedia plays third graders create around their family heritage.
Capitalizing on this success, P.S. ARTS is now moving to formalize its efforts to bring in more senior volunteers. Initiatives like Family Art Nights, Intergenerational Arts Experiences and Community Theater Intensives will all benefit from the new Intergenerational Volunteer Corps.
“Enlisting and training senior volunteers eager to develop and share their artistic talents will increase our capacity to implement community arts events,” said Kristen Paglia, CEO of P.S. ARTS. “The wide range of life experience and skills that our senior volunteers have will have a positive impact on these events. And they will also benefit by engaging in social, purposeful work with youth while exercising their own creativity.”
At a recent Family Art Night at Walgrove Elementary, senior volunteers were paired with teen volunteers to help facilitate the program. This structure not only creates the opportunity for the two generations to work together toward a common goal, but also to develop relationships as they volunteer together over time.
“I taught for many years at Crossroads School in Santa Monica,” said Pam Posey, a retired visual arts teacher and a member of P.S. ARTS’ board, as she volunteered at Family Art Night. “I really miss working with children, and I’m so excited to be here.”
In addition to the teen-senior volunteer model, young students also benefit from Intergenerational Arts Experiences, which brings senior volunteers into the classroom to help with arts activities. “They’re in the school with the little kids making art together, being present together,” Paglia said. “We know this intergenerational integration is important.”
P.S. ARTS has a long record of successfully incorporating the arts into school curricula, and now with programs bringing parents and older volunteers into the schools, it is making the arts part of the broader community. We’re proud to support P.S. ARTS as their intergenerational programs enrich students and adults alike. Learn more about the program here.
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