PSUSD launches new arts programs – Desert Sun

Some PSUSD first and fifth graders are the first to reap the benefits of a new program aimed at spreading positive messages about diversity and tolerance and positivity impacting social, emotional learning.
The “Arts and Literature” program launched a few weeks ago at four elementary schools with plans to expand to additional schools during the second half of the school year. Led by PSUSD Artist-in-Residence Emily Culhan, students are engaged in a 50-minute lesson that includes reading a book to them and then participating in an art project based on the book. Following the presentation, the class gets to keep a copy of the book.
For the initial program at the four schools, Culhan has been presenting a lesson on the book All Because You Matter by Tami Charles described as “a lyrical, heart-lifting love letter to Black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will.”
The fifth-grade book is Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. The book is described as a “celebration to remind all of about the beauty, history and magic behind names” and is about a little girl frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, who tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class.
During the first semester of the new program, the participating schools include Agua Caliente, Bella Vista, Della S. Lindley, and Vista del Monte.
“As evidenced by the smiling students and amount of engagement, this program is quite a success and will expand to more schools second semester,” said PSUSD Coordinator of Visual and Performing Arts Barbara Anglin.
A second recently launched arts program is one designed for middle school girls who need some “extra positive time.” It’s called STAAR (Strength Through Art And Relationships), and it is an arts mentoring program led by Artist-in-Residence Angela Kinley. During the first round of visits to the schools, Kinley is working with the girls on a weaving project during which they create a lanyard. She met with 10 students per grade level at each middle school and will do it again during a second round with a separate group of 30 from each of the four middle schools.
“If you walk around during the class period with the girls and Angela, you will see and hear that this more than an art lesson; this is a life lesson,” said Anglin. “When girls say, ‘I made a mistake,’ Angela calmly and kindly says ‘So, that’s okay, don’t take it out, just keep going.’ And then she shows them a weaved lanyard that she made and points out the mistake that she made and that no one sees it in the final product.
“And if a girl says, ‘Mine is ugly; I don’t like mine,’ Angela calmly and kindly takes them not to talk bad about their art; that their art is as individual as they are. Life lessons through art!”
Anglin and Kinley, who is a working artist with years of experience working with youth, are collaborating to determine the project for next semester since Kinley has experience with not only textiles, but pain and print making as well.
One thing is for sure, and that’s that the participants – who are selected by school site counselors – are benefiting from the positive experience.
“If you are in the room at the end of the class period, you will hear the girls say, ‘No I don’t want to go! I want to keep working on this!’
Joan Boiko is the Coordinator of Communications & Community Outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. She may be reached at (760) 883-2701, ext. 2 or email [email protected]

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