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Joni Starr: Courageous Creativity – Everything is Waiting for You

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This is an unprecedented time. Our regular routine has been disrupted, human interactions are minimized and our relationship to the future has been compromised. The question is: Who do you choose to be in response?...

This is an unprecedented time. Our regular routine has been disrupted, human interactions are minimized and our relationship to the future has been compromised. The question is: Who do you choose to be in response?

In times of conflict and uncertainty artists have captured the moment and reflected life through their art forms:

  • – Kathe Kollwitz depicted German peasant revolutions in her paintings.
  • – Athol Fugard wrote plays denouncing apartheid in South Africa.
  • – Joan Baez demonstrated against the Vietnam War as a singer/songwriter.
  • – Kurt Jooss made dances depicting the futility of peace negotiations.


These individuals moved beyond preservation and survival and expressed a strong courageous creativity.  They embraced their artistic imagination and found artistry as a way of living. I believe this is something we can do today for our students and for ourselves. We can examine what it means to deepen and broaden our idea of creativity and artistry.

For me the first step is inspiration.  What keeps knocking at the door of my consciousness? Is it big and important, something existential? Is it small and mundane, something repetitious? Is it deep and thoughtful, something familial? Is it broad and expansive, something unreachable?

I listen to this knocking and invite it into my thought. I allow it to motivate me. I let it grow into something more tangible, then I can move it around in my own hands – next, I find I am making something. Something that connects to the world around me and reflects how I feel about it. Something unprecedented.

This is the creative process. Sometimes it is as quick as lightning, often it moves through us slowly like sap down the tree. Always it is unpredictable, like our currently unpredictable times.

One of my favorite poets, David Whyte, writes a poem titled, Everything Is Waiting For You. It prompts us to think about our place and how it is ripe with possibility. I find it comforting as I sequester in my home, listening for the starting point of inspiration, and beginning my courageous creative journey. I hope you, too, begin your journey.

Everything Is Waiting For You

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

David Whyte

From Everything is Waiting for You

2003 Many Rivers Press

Joni Starr serves as Administrative Coordinator of Arts Integrated Learning for Ingham ISD and as a Teaching Artist for the Wharton Center in Theatre and Dance. 

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here: Joni Starr: Courageous Creativity – Everything is Waiting for You

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Carrie Jeruzal: “Making it Work” for Students with Learning Differences

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Educational modifications and accommodations are every teacher’s responsibility.  They are required as outlined in federal and state law (Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997, Reauthorization of IDEA 2004 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504). If...

Educational modifications and accommodations are every teacher’s responsibility.  They are required as outlined in federal and state law (Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997, Reauthorization of IDEA 2004 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973-Section 504).

If you teach students with special needs or learning differences and want to administer a MAEIA assessment, then you will need to apply required modifications and accommodations.  Accommodations are changes in how a student accesses information and demonstrates learning. Modifications are changes in what a student is expected to learn. Sometimes however, in the arts, it is difficult to know exactly what accommodations or modifications should be applied.  This blog post is intended to give arts educators ideas and options of how to best meet the needs of these students by accommodating or modifying MAEIA assessments.

One of the best things about MAEIA assessments is that they were designed and published in a way that teachers can modify or alter them to best fit teachers’ and students’ needs in widely differing arts classrooms around the state.  This kind of flexibility naturally lends itself to alterations and changes that need to be made to assessments to comply with Individualized Educational Plans, or IEPs.

The attached document is an example of a MAEIA Visual Arts Assessment called: Analyze and Describe, meant for 6th grade students.  The accommodations and modifications that I made are described and highlighted in yellow.  Some of the changes I made benefit all students and simply make the booklet more accessible, such as the images and color coding that I implemented on the Graphic Organizer, and the option to type the answers rather than hand write them.  Other accommodations were only for students with IEPs, such as the option to dictate or “tell” the answers to questions within the space of our school’s resource room with the aid of a Special Education teacher.

Here is a list of additional accommodations and modifications that you may want to consider when administering the MAEIA assessments:

  • – Download the Student Booklet into Word and rework it to print with fewer items per page or line
  • – Print the Student Booklet with larger text
  • – Read and re-read the assessment instructions aloud to the student as needed
  • – Provide an outline or checklist of the assessment tasks on a separate sheet of paper
  • – Allow students to give responses in a form (spoken or written) that’s easier for them.  For example, they  can tell you the answer instead of writing it down           or typing. Some computers have a dictate option.  The student can dictate answers to a device instead of writing it down.
  • – Allow the use of a spelling dictionary or digital spell-checker
  • – Allow students to use notes or handouts from class
  • – Offer the assessment in a different controlled and quiet setting, such as a Resource Room or library.
  • – Allow the students to sit where they can perform best (for example, up front near the teacher)
  • – Use special lighting or acoustics
  • – Take the assessment in a small group setting
  •  – Use sensory tools such as an exercise band, wiggle seat, yoga ball, stress squeeze ball, etc.
  • – Give extra time to complete a task or all of the assessment
  • – Have extra time to process spoken information and directions
  • – Allow the student to take frequent breaks
  • – Administer the assessment in several sessions or over several days
  • – Take sections of the assessment in a different order
  • – Administer the assessment at a specific time of day
  • – Use a gentle alarm or chimes to help with time management
  • – Mark text with a highlighter for organization
  • – Allow students to answer fewer or different assessment questions
  • – Select a different standard to assess than other students
  • – Students may be excused from particular parts of the assessment
  • – Provide pencil grips and wide-lined paper for writing
  • – Provide adapted scissors
  • – Accommodate students with sensory issues by removing art media that triggers them
  • – Allow the use of earplugs or headphones (without input/hookups) to block out background noise
  • – Reduce actual clutter in the room and visual clutter on the Student Booklets
  • – Insert meanings of vocabulary words continuously throughout the assessment and/or on a separate help sheet
  • – Repeat and rephrase directions
  • – Reduce multiple choice answer options using white-out tape
  • – Keep student from distractions by special seating, study corrals, etc.
  • – Give clear directions and repeat and rephrase them
  • – Write the assessment workflow schedule on board


Arts teachers are masters at being flexible, finding substitutions, differentiating instruction and in general, “Making it Work!”  However you choose to provide accommodations and modifications to students with learning differences, it is important to check-in with your building’s special education educator and review mandates outlined in IEPs.

In any case, documentation and reporting of accommodations and modifications are required by law.  Check with your special education teacher to understand the preferred documentation process for your school.

Additional Resources:

Carrie Jeruzal is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and Visual Arts Educator in Pentwater, MI. She was recently honored by the National Art Education Association as the 2017 Western Region Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here:Carrie Jeruzal: “Making it Work” for Students with Learni

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Zach Vandergraaff – 5 Ways MAEIA Assessments Can Improve Your Teaching

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

“Assessment.”  It doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. As ARTs teachers, we’re often scared off by the idea of assessments. We think they’re just...


 It doesn’t have to be such a dirty word. As ARTs teachers, we’re often scared off by the idea of assessments. We think they’re just hoops to jump through and impossible work for us to do.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Effective and applicable assessments make a huge difference in teaching. According to 10 Research And Proven Practices of Dr. John Hattie, assessment has a potential combined 0.80 effect size.

This means we can improve student learning by almost 2 years over the course of one year!

While this is important, improving your own teaching is important too, and the MAEIA assessments are a big part of what I’ve been doing to improve myself.

Here are 5 ways I use MAEIA assessments to improve my own teaching.

#1 Accurate Picture of Students

If you’re teaching elementary music as I do, you likely have more than hundreds of students (I’m at 650+). I’ve always thought ,as we did small assessment activities, that I had a decent idea of how the whole class and individual students were doing.

When I started doing more intentional assessments with MAEIA, I found something quite different. There were some students I had been assuming could do my tasks easily, but they were faking it with confidence. The assessments showed me that I was leaving them behind.

There’s no way you can accurately just “eye-ball” success in your classroom. These tools from MAEIA now help me ensure I’m getting an accurate picture of all my kids.

#2 Pushes Students to Improve

There are times over the years I’ve gotten stuck in ruts with my students. They learn the things I’m teaching them, but they have a harder time seeing the end-result they’re working towards.

This is more of a failure on my part than on theirs. Introducing some MAEIA assessments has actually helped me to push them harder.

It also gives them an idea of where they’re heading. My students talk to each other across grade level and share their pride at mastering certain assessment activities (although they don’t always realize that “tests” are what they’re doing).

They come to me later and ask when they can do what the older kids are doing. I always plan curriculum long-term, but MAEIA helps me to help them see the grand scheme of what they’re working on.

#3 Self-reflection

The MAEIA tools also help me to reflect on my plans overall. There are dozens on dozens of examples of assessments to pull from; they show me areas I’m neglecting too.

You could pick assessments you feel your kids will be successful at, or you can look at ones you’re not sure about and teach with more of those ideas in mind.

#4 Checks My Assessment Practices

Each assessment also has very specific details on how you may want to teach and administer the assessment. As I went through some of these, I learned something:

I am accidentally doing things which give students the answers!

For example, I’ve often assessed my Kindergarten students on their ability to keep a steady beat to recorded music. I also knew I shouldn’t pat the beat with them, or they would just copy me.

Going through MAEIA’s version of the assessment, it mentioned specifically how they need to do the check with their eyes closed.

This may seem obvious to everyone else, but it was something my kids needed. They were subconsciously looking to others to come up with a group answer for the steady beat.

This is just one example of the high-level assessment practices MAEIA can help you with to get the best picture of your students’ ability.

They also include various rubrics to help you see where students could be.

#5 Informs My Teaching

Finally, the act of collecting data with MAEIA assessments informs my own teaching. I can see more specifically where the gaps in my students’ knowledge are.

For example:

The rhythm reading assessment for third, fourth, and fifth grades uses different types of rhythms over 10 questions for each grade level. I used this with my fourth graders as a pretest just a few months ago.

In the assessment, I was able to see which types of rhythms in which meters the students struggled with. Then I adapted my pacing to specifically fill those gaps.


Assessments are important and make a big difference in how I reach my students better. It can be hard to know all the assessment best practices, but using the MAEIA assessments streamlines the process and helps me keep up with the current teaching practices.

I strongly encourage all music and ARTs teachers to check out this program for their own classroom and find what works for them. You won’t regret it!


Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher at Bay City Public Schools and writer for Dynamic Music Room. He also serves as Past-President of Michigan Kodaly Educators and current Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association. A downloadable pdf of this post is available here, 5 Ways MAEIA Assessments Can Improve Your Teaching.

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Martin Argyroglo, “Adrian Villar Rojas -Where the slaves live © Fondation Louis Vuitton,” photograph, Forgemind Archimedia, Licensed for noncommercial use under Creative Commons.

Debra Henning: What’s In A Word? Cross-Curricular Instruction and Assessment in the Arts

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The following post offers an example of the manner in which MAEIA’s “Cross-Curricular Connections Assessment,” V.T 312 for Grade 8, can encourage students to think deeply about connections between the visual...

The following post offers an example of the manner in which MAEIA’s “Cross-Curricular Connections Assessment,” V.T 312 for Grade 8, can encourage students to think deeply about connections between the visual arts and language. In the assessment, students are asked to create an artwork that connects the principles and subject matter of another academic subject of their choice to the visual arts. The assessment item assesses several visual arts standards, including students’ ability to “effectively analyze and describe ways in which the principles and subject matter of other disciplines taught in school are interrelated with the visual arts, as well as their ability to “relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding.”

Martin Argyroglo, “Adrian Villar Rojas -Where the slaves live © Fondation Louis Vuitton,” photograph, Forgemind Archimedia, Licensed for noncommercial use under Creative Commons.

A picture, we know, is worth a thousands words. But what’s the worth of a word?  That depends, of course, on the word. Does it refer to a specific object, such as the tallest building in the world, or to something more general, as the word buildings does?  In the vast hierarchy of words – call them concepts, if you like – few words encompass more meaning than vernacular. Commonly defined as “the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region,” the word, vernacular stands in contrast to literary or cultured language, most frequently to Latin. Carried throughout the Great Roman Empire, the Latin language served as a unifying force in law and religion, yet less so in the everyday lives of the people, who continued to find linguistic expression in their own mother-tongue.  In a slow give-and-take process, aided by the translation of the Bible into English and by patriotic stirrings, the vernacular would emerge supreme as the mother-tongue in England, France, and Germany grew from spoken dialects into full-fledged languages, “adequate for the expression of any and every kind of thought.”

In the centuries-long evolution of language, however, the meaning of vernacular, itself, became something quite different from its origins. Which is why Adrian Villar Rojas’ sculpture, “Where the Slaves Live” makes such an intriguing subject for cross-curricular instruction in the arts.  The title of the massive “living sculpture,” composed of multiple layers of earth and manufactured materials, recalls the Latin root of the word vernacular, i.e., verna, meaning a home-born slave, and, hence, language of the home-born slave.

Like the sculpture commissioned by France’s Fondation Louis Vuitton, Roja’s concept for the sculpture layers multiple meanings. “Where the Slaves Lives” confronts visitors with a silent reminder of France’s vacillating opposition to slavery, which the French abolished, re-established, and in 1848 again re-abolished in her colonies. On the terrace of  Frank Gehry’s magnificent glass ship, Rojas’s sculpture recalls the ships that carried slaves and the fate of many at sea.

Set in a building that is synonymous with wealth, privilege, and luxury goods, Rojas’ work has the potential to stir the kind of debate and reflection intended by the mission of Fondation Louis Vuitton. By using the word as Rojas does – as a reminder that in verna  and vernacular, slavery is at the core of  the French language and the mission of   L’ Academie Francaise – the artist ramps up the potential for debate and reflection.  Today, one of the aims of the Academie is to “protect the French language from foreign, notably ‘Anglo-Saxon’ invasions,” but that goal has not always been central to its mission. Since its founding in 1635, the Academie has been tasked with a much more fundamental aim: to guide the French language from “from the vulgar (or vernacular) state of language to that of language equal in dignity to Latin.”  As used by the Academie, the words vulgar and vernacular become synonymous, both meaning “the common or usual language of a country; both obscuring the meaning of verna – a home-born slave. In “Where the Slaves Live,” Roja recovers the origins of vernacular, while delivering a powerful message about the hidden history of language and the importance of cross-curricular instruction. 

The Fondation Louis Vuitton,
Designed by the Canadian-American Architect, Frank Gehry and Located in Paris, France
Iwan Baan, Frank Gehry – Fondation Louis Vuitton, 2014, Photo 12, Forgemind Archmedia

Debra Henning is a MAEIA key communicator, specializing in visual arts and arts integration. A downloadable pdf of this post is available here Debra Henning: What’s In a Word? Cross-Curricular Instruction and Assessment in the Arts.


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Carrie Jeruzal: Storing the Data  (i.e. Keeping Digital Photos of Student Artwork)

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Arts educators who are interested in using MAEIA assessments to assist in tracking student growth often ask the question, “What do you use for storing all the artwork?”  Being that the...

Arts educators who are interested in using MAEIA assessments to assist in tracking student growth often ask the question, “What do you use for storing all the artwork?”  Being that the photos of student artwork become the digital data of learning, this isn’t always an easy question to answer.  Modern technology offers a plethora of digital image data storage and sharing resource choices that each have their own strengths and weaknesses, their own quirks, limitations, special features and user learning curves.  Also, as in the nature of all technology, each choice I present here has a “shelf life”, that may or may not be easily predicted.    

To help arts teachers with the research needed to make this decision, I have first compiled a list of relevant questions that are important to ask when selecting a method and a vehicle for visual arts data storage and second, a list of what seem to be the top contenders. 

10 Questions to Determine your Arts Data Storage Needs:

  1. 1. How long do you need to store the data (a year, two years, a student’s entire K-12 career)?  Some methods of storage have time limits, some newer apps or clouds may not have the “staying power” you need to rely on, and not every school will support all kinds of tech.  For example, my school stopped offering MS Office this year and now I have to pay for it on my own!

  2. 2. How are you going to collect the data?  Will you be taking and uploading all the photos?  Do you intend for students to collect and submit the data?

  3. 3. What device(s) do  you plan to use to take and transfer the photos?  Are you going to use digital cameras, tablets, iPads and or Smart phones?  Is your storage method compatible with your selected device? 

  4. 4. Do you plan to share the artwork with administration, other art teachers, parents, the world?  Do students need open access to the files?  Check out the sharing capabilities and limitations of each choice.

  5. 5. Does your data include video art or other time based media?  Do you plan to include written documents, any recorded audio or visual artist statements?  Some storage methods are strictly for photos.

  6. 6. What are the security and privacy features?  Who can access the data and who is restricted?  If open to an online gallery, who can comment and are comments filtered?

  7. 7. Is the storage method free or require a fee?  This may depend on the amount of storage you need and the fee may be a subscription that requires yearly renewal. 

  8. 8. Do you need back-up?  Check with your tech support to see how your school handles file back-ups in the case of media failure.  Does the program allow old data to be archived?

  9. 9. Once stored, who owns the data?  Fair Use and Intellectual Property Rights may matter.

  10. 10. What are other art teachers in your district already using?  It may be be beneficial to keep data storage streamline between teachers in your school. Does your school or district already have a policy on data storage?    

Data Storage Choices:

Popular Online Learning Platforms For Your Virtual or “Flipped” Classroom:

Google Classroom 


  • Edmodo 

  • Moodle

Cloud Storage:

Google Drive

  • Dropbox

  • Box

  • Microsoft OneDrive

  • Amazon Drive

  • Flickr 

  • Great for Sharing on Social Media, Offers Online Gallery, Some Offer Product Sales:
  • Artsonia

  • Creatubbles

  • KidBlog 

  • ArtKive

  • Keepy 

  • Canvasly

Online Portfolio Sites (Easy Website Builders):

Digication E-Portfolio 

  • Adobe Spark

  • Weebly

  • Wix

Developed Specifically for Educator Data Collection:


  • Seesaw

  • Remini

 Other blog posts that may be helpful:

Carrie Jeruzal is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and Visual Arts Educator in Pentwater, MI. She was recently honored by the National Art Education Association as the 2017 Western Region Middle Level Art Teacher of the Year.

A downloadable version of this article is available here: Carrie Jeruzal_Storing the Data

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Cathy DePentu: Career-long Learning

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I have been in school for 58 of my 63 years. Granted, I’ve switched roles a few times and moved back and forth from the front of the room to behind a desk (...

I have been in school for 58 of my 63 years. Granted, I’ve switched roles a few times and moved back and forth from the front of the room to behind a desk (or music stand), but still, the end of August is a turning point of each year.   Even after all these years, I still toss and turn the night before school starts wondering what the year will bring. Much of my excitement is the same as when I was in elementary school: Who will I see the first day? What adventures we will share about summer?  Will the people I work with be kind? Will they like me?

Every year, I am privileged to share my passion for music and music-making with a new group of students. We work together and learn from each other. Even though only a few of these students will choose the Arts as a career, I know that the thought processes and learning strategies involved in the performing arts classroom will benefit them all throughout their life.

We learn patience, collaboration, cooperation and persistence. When we fail, we try again. We value each others contributions and celebrate our differences. We are accepting and welcoming; our classrooms are safe spaces. Of course we will encounter obstacles to success–perhaps budget, administrative or legislative. While we may not be able to control the situation, we CAN control of how we choose to respond to it.

I say “we learn” because after all of these years, I truly feel once the unique process of teaching and learning through the Arts is shared, we are all both students and teachers.

Being willing to adapt and continue to learn while I teach keeps me from teaching the same year, over and over again…and so every year can be exciting and fresh.

Have a great year everyone, and remember that MAEIA is just a click away!


On that note, we’d like to invite MAEIA-informed community members to join the Facebook closed group: MAEIA PLC. Look for us under “groups”. Request to join and share in professional dialogue with like-minds about MAEIA and arts education. 

Cathy DePentu is a MAEIA Leadership Fellow and serves as Director of Orchestras for Plymouth Canton Community Schools.

A downloadable pdf of this article is available here: CathyDePentu_Career-long Learning.



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Cecilia Gollan: How MAEIA has Made Me a Better Teacher (Part 1)

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

If you were to stand outside my classroom or talk to kids that take my classes, you would get the impression that I know what I am doing. Kids would make comments about how they...

If you were to stand outside my classroom or talk to kids that take my classes, you would get the impression that I know what I am doing. Kids would make comments about how they like my class and want to take more art. Well, that is all true. Personally, however, I feel that I am not a master teacher and can always do better.

An Invitation to Elevate
Back in 2011, there was this survey about arts education came out and I told my principal I was filling it out. Little did I know, I would become a part of this project called MAEIA.  I am not sure how it came about, but I applied to become a part a meeting with other art teachers from across the state.

I remember sitting in my first meeting as a blueprint writer. I was in awe and a little intimidated by the brain power in the room. I had heard of some of these names, but had never met them.  It was pretty amazing. As the day went on, our task unfolded. We were going to create a gold standard plan for four arts disciplines in Michigan.  All I could think about was how exciting this MAEIA thing was going to be for the arts programs in our state and I was going to be a part of it.

Program Benefits
I started as a blueprint writer. During this process, I learned how to better express myself in order to have a greater impact on arts classrooms, including my own. I researched to see what was happening in our state and across the country to support our recommendations.

Next, a program review tool was created to help districts and schools take a deeper look at their arts programs. I tested this on my own visual arts teachers. The results were similar to what I expected. I was able to share my results with my superintendent and he then was able to look deeper at our programing.

Around the same time an assessment specifications document was created which looked at state curriculum and national standards to suggest ways to assess students. This process helped me to look at what I was doing in my own classroom and reevaluate my assessment processes.

As these documents were written I don’t think is was until we started writing the high school assessments that I was able to reflect on my teaching and see the benefits of this project. The process of connecting the standards with a way to assess students that let me see my practices needed a 2.0 version.

At that point, I had been teaching middle school for 19 years. I had always strived to change things up and be innovative in my classroom.  It is amazing what diving into state and national standards does for your classroom practices.  As I worked through the writing of first high school, and then K-8 assessments, I also switched from teaching middle school to high school. I was a veteran teacher, but really felt like it was my first year. As I made this switch and needed to familiarize myself with the state standards I was relieved that I had these assessments as my finger tips.

The best part of this project and MAEIA assessments is that they are adaptable to our current practices and projects. I found that it was easy to slip in an assessment when I could search for one that was related to what was already planned.

Fast forward to October 2017, I am still a part of MAEIA. I am a Leadership Fellow- sharing these resources with teachers, administrators, districts, and cultural organizations who want to advance creativity in education. I am also a Team Lead for the Collaborative Scoring System pilot. Along the journey of MAEIA there has been many parts to make it what it is today. I have been fortunate to have been involved in many of them.

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Visual arts educators collaboratively review student work during the MAEIA arts assessment field test. The MAEIA Project has created 350 arts performance assessments in visual arts, dance, music, and theatre for voluntary use by K-12 Michigan teachers.

Janine Campbell: The Lasting Impact of Quality Professional Development

Heather Vaughan-Southard    Leave a Comment   

Professional development is an impactful tool for teachers. When it is directed in ways that allows teachers to take what they have learned and apply it in their own classrooms to engage students, it becomes...

Professional development is an impactful tool for teachers. When it is directed in ways that allows teachers to take what they have learned and apply it in their own classrooms to engage students, it becomes one of the most powerful tools we have. If you are interested in help assessing your district’s or school’s access to Arts-specific learning opportunities for professional learning, use the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Blueprint and Program Review Tool.

I am fortunate that I have had the continued opportunity to participate in and even lead quality Arts-specific professional development throughout my teaching career. Each conference, keynote, and presentation has made an impact on my approach to teaching in big ways and small. A key approach when I attend any conference is to take one idea, tool, or method and find a way to weave it into my practice.

Last April, I had the privilege to participate in “The Power of Art Conference” at The Lab School in Washington D.C. This three-day event gave me the opportunity to meet teachers from across the country, hear from thought-leaders in Arts Integration, and tour a school in our Nation’s Capitol that puts the Arts in the heart of their instruction. The Lab School hosted the event because of their commitment to Arts Integration and their history of sharing with teachers what is possible when you bring content and classrooms together for big, bold collaborative projects.

Over the years, collaboration is something that I have pushed more and more with my students. It has looked differently depending on what our end goals were; sometimes we did small group projects and sometimes we planned events that included the entire school. Regardless of the end result, the goals have always been for students participating to not only learn about the content covered through the creation of the collaboration, but to also feel a connection to those who are a part of making it. I often call these projects, “Legacy Projects” because of their lasting, visual impact on the school.

At The Lab School, legacy projects are everywhere. From the mosaic columns and the dragon fountain in the courtyard, to the large installation works often created with the help of well-known artists like one of the key figures in the school, Robert Rauschenberg, you can see something made by students in every area of the school. Each year before his passing, Rauschenberg would come and create a large collaborative work with the students for display in the school. Each time, something different was created and a new approach would be taken; each time, students knew they were creating something that would be left for others to view for years to come. This was something I knew I wanted to bring back to my school and weave into my teaching practice right away.

Fortunately, I did not have to wait very long before I was able to do just that. After returning home from “The Power of Art Conference,” I soon received an opportunity to use collaboration as a springboard into a large mixed-media piece my students made for one of the largest art competitions in the world: ArtPrize. The 19 day competition is celebrating its ninth year and has opened up a Youth Collaboration Award for the first time this year with a classroom grant of $5000 to those with the most votes.

Our collaborative work, “Painting Under Paper Cuts,” involves three 4x8ft panels and is a visual reaction to a week of state testing that happened to be occurring during its creation. Students started with choosing paint from a variety of colors. They were asked to paint how they felt and use brushes, sponges, and other tools, including their hands, to make marks overtop each of the panels. They then worked in pairs to create cut out images from separate pieces of colored paper that included images of their classmates and various symmetrical and asymmetrical circle patterns. These pieces were pasted on top of the painted panels. This work will be displayed during ArtPrize at Monroe Community Church in Downtown Grand Rapids from September 20th-October 8th. You can view and vote on site with your smartphone for the work at Once the competition completes, the work will find a permanent home in our Library at our school.

I am thankful I work in a school that embraces the opportunities offered through quality Professional Development. Because I use what I have learned through these experiences in tangible ways in my practice, I am able to show my students and the greater school community what is possible when ideas are put into practice and when students come together to create a positive visual impact on their environment. These collaborations are one of the best parts of my job and one that my students often comment on as their favorite, too. If you would like more information on The Lab School of Washington D.C. or “The Power of Art Conference” and how to get involved, visit their website.

Do you work with the principles Janine listed above in your Visual Arts classroom? MAEIA suggests looking at the following assessment items:

V.T304 Applying Principles of Design to Paper Cutouts

V.T407 Collaborative Compositions

V.E404 Communicating an Idea

**Janine Campbell is the Visual Arts Teacher at Byron Center West Middle School and is a Visual Arts team member of the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Program. Her classroom has won local and national recognition in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, as well as various grants for their use of technology. She was named a 2014 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator, 2015 Michigan Art Education Association Middle Level Educator of the Year, and 2015 National Art Education Association Middle Level Educator of the Year. You can see more of her students’ work in the classroom at

A downloadable pdf of this post is available here Janine Campbell_Quality Professional Development.


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Carrie Jeruzal: Redesign- Make it Bad, Then Make it Better

Carrie Jeruzal    Leave a Comment   

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect…. A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a...

Just like great art, great art education is often inspired by personal experiences. But, not always in the way one might expect….

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter’s class was holding a bake sale during a community event as a fundraiser for a field trip. I don’t have much confidence or experience in baking so I thought this one “treat recipe” that I found online would be cute, easy and perfect for a busy mom like me. Well, it wasn’t so easy and I messed it up terribly. Turns out candy kisses look the same slightly melted as they do burnt and one should not let them stay in the oven, “just a little bit longer!”

So I took a deep breath, ate some burnt chocolate, regained my strength and senses and decided to persist by getting creative with my odd sense of humor. So, tongue-in-cheek, I created a new recipe embracing the struggle. I called it “Mommy Can’t Bake Mix”.

Mommy Can’t Bake Mix
Step 1: Wait till the last minute to make baked goods for your daughter’s bake sale. Go to the store at night when most of the other crazies and overworked moms are out.

Step 2: Look up easy recipe on phone that literally requires two minutes of baking time. Step 3: Screw up baking and throw tantrum / blame husband for no reason.

Step 4: Pout for a minimum of 5 minutes.

Step 5: Think to self, “Failure is Impossible,”- Susan B Anthony.

Step 6: Throw failed ingredients into a bag anyway along with random treats found in cupboard like pretzels, m&ms, crackers, marshmallows, croutons, cough drops, glitter, etc.

Step 7: Get computer genius husband to make cute labels.

Step 8: Put it on social media like a legit baking mom would.

The end.

If these treats were going to be bad, I was going to make them really bad. It became fun and funny. They became a novelty. I hoped people would buy them, not for the “treat” that was inside, but for the clever concept behind them. I ended up selling 5 bags! Turns out homemade brownies taste and sell better than clever concepts, however, I still counted success points in creativity!

So, what did I learn from this “lemons to lemonade” moment, and how did I apply it to art education? I learned that when the objective of a problem becomes to make something really bad, the doors of humor and creativity become wide open. That’s where I got the idea for my middle school “Redesign” learning unit which leads to the MAEAI V.T209 Performance Task: Redesign- Make it Bad, Then Make it Better. 

“Redesign” Learning Unit

Introduction: I start by introducing my students to the concept of object/product design, design thinking and the design process. We look at examples of everyday objects and talk about the differences between good design and bad design depending on factors such as the object’s intended use, intended customer, cost of materials, durability, demand, etc. All students share a story of a time when a product broke or failed. We also look at and describe the evolution of a product’s design such as a car, the telephone and the vacuum cleaner. Students get concrete examples as to how visual arts have inherent relationships to everyday life through these product designs. Then it’s time for students to engage in a 2-4 day performance task.

Performance Task V.T209: I start the task by asking students to all select a different everyday-manmade-designed-object by having them cut one out of a magazine ad. I have also modified the task by asking all students to start with the same object, such as a shoe. I have instructed students both ways and by settling on one object for everyone to focus on I do sacrifice the variety of outcomes, but I also save on time and the need for cutting and pasting materials. Either way, once the object is selected students are asked to reflect upon and explain the current relationship of the object to everyday life.

Then begins the fun part. Instruct students to make it bad. Invite them to redesign the product so that it is truly terrible by transforming it into something impractical, unappealing, and/or harder to use.

In order to do this, the student must recognize the object’s intended use and successful design attributes and design against them. I tell my students that as long as their ideas are school appropriate, (no potty humor, nothing mean spirited or overly violent), that there are no limits to their creativity! At first some of my more regimented students don’t quite understand me, they don’t believe that I’m actually telling them to make something bad. I have to clarify that they are exercising their creativity in a new way by thinking about a design problem from a fresh perspective.

By exploring what makes something really bad, you in turn are also open to exploring its opposite design, what might make it really good. Then lightbulbs. Then students sketch truly creative results that they can’t wait to share with the class.

“Shark Shoes”

One of my favorites created by a 6th grade girl was a design that we quickly knick-named, “Shark Shoes.” What would make a pair of shoes the most uncomfortable shoes ever? Well, the answer is tiny sharks swimming in the bottom of your shoes that would bite your toes all day, of course! Pair that with slippery seaweed soles and fish hook laces for added discomfort and you have a terribly creative design!

Students overwhelmingly enjoy this part of the process. They will fly around the room to share their ideas with everyone and anyone, each trying to one-up the others. It’s like I’m giving them permission to be silly and a little naughty and they love it! They reflect on their design through this verbal exchange and then in writing.

Then the next day the instructions flip. Students are asked to reimagine the design of their object to be even better than the current design. They must solve the problem of how to improve it. Again, there are no restraints to their creativity and they must reflect upon their design once it is complete. The first image above is a “good design” for a shoe that can not only adjust the temperature of your feet cooler or warmer depending on comfort zone required, but can emit four different pleasant fragrances including lavender and grape fizz from a secret compartment in the heel.

In conclusion, instructing to develop student creativity doesn’t always take a safe and expected path. Just like in real life, approaching a problem from a fresh point of view can open our minds and force us to think in new and interesting ways. Design problems can be fun and silly. Our best ideas sometimes arise from our failures when we give ourselves and our students the opportunity to flip the measure of success.


This task is one that I wrote for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) project. Here are links to the complete task booklets available for V.T209.

Teacher Booklet
Student Booklet

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Cheryl L. Poole: Co-Creation as a Process

Cheryl Poole    Leave a Comment   

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the honor of working with educators in the MAEIA project...

Cheryl L. Poole is an educator with more than 40 years of experience in visual arts, museum administration and facilitating professional learning. She has had the honor of working with educators in the MAEIA project over the last 5 years.

Hundreds of Educators Contributing to an Exceptional Outcome

I believe that no one of us is the ultimate expert in our field. While it makes the process slow and somewhat cumbersome, I hold firmly to the idea that the more individuals with the rights of revision that are involved in a project, the more authentic the results. The MAEIA assessments are a prime example of hundreds of educators contributing to the co-creation of a body of exceptional work.

Observing the Process

For four years (2013-2016), I was involved as support in the creation of all of the MAEIA assessments. I confess I wasn’t one of the great minds that created them but I had the privilege of observing the collaborative process from which the assessments sprung. What I observed was some of the very best work I’ve seen in nearly 40 years of working with adults.

First Steps of Co-Creation

Beginning the process required a clear sense of aspiration, a lot of inspiration, and more than a little faith.

The creation of the assessments began in the spring of 2013. Volunteers representing the disciplines of dance, music, theatre and visual arts convened to first understand the mission of MAEIA. Then work was divided among teams of 6-8 educators spanning the continuum of K-12, higher education, educational administration, and teaching artists.

Together, they:
-pondered the scope of the MAEIA project,
-learned the expectations of their roles as creators of assessments,
-received their targeted standards, and
-departed with tight timelines for finalizing assessments in each of their fields of expertise.

I recall the teams leaving that first day with more than a little apprehension about the tasks at hand. It was unclear at that point in time how many would come through with enough draft assessments needed to realize MAEIA’s mission.

Working Together Separately

Connected only through online channels, the creators of the assessments drew on the breadth of their experiences to imagine arts performances that could be measured and how that measurement could happen. They identified criteria to measure and determined what degrees would meet and surpass expectations. Every assessment was one of group effort and iterative refinement.

Through this process, practitioners became writers. Writers became reviewers. Both waded into the demands of revising, field-testing and revising again. Dozens rose to the demands of creating performance assessments where none existed previously. And as nearly always happens, leaders stepped up to drive the project forward.

Growth Through the Process of Co-creation

When I look back on the organic nature of the process of these adults learning new skills and challenging each other, I watched how most of them gradually developed new skills beyond their “day jobs”. Practitioners diving deeply into unfamiliar processes joined forces to encourage and support one another; living up to the expectations they held for themselves and one another.

The Co-creation Continues

The results of their work, 360 performance assessments in the arts, are available free.

These creations continue to be works in progress. Submitting your opinions and suggestions for improvement give them more visibility and often a greater level of relevancy. When YOU use them and revise them to fit your instructional plan, you bring your expertise to the process, and the work continues to develop.

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