James John with Amy Steel + Alice Hill | April 2013

Students learn to collaborate through Right Brain programs. Our program manager recently shared how we make it happen in a NEA podcast interview. Photo by Allie Maki Maya.

We’re famous! Right Brain recently joined the ranks of poet laureates, famous filmmakers, Pulitzer Prize winners and other folks who have been featured on the National Endowment of the Arts’ Art Works podcast. Host Josephine Reed’s interview with Program Manager Marna Stalcup is a 30-minute short course on what The Right Brain Initiative is all about, and a wonderful opportunity for us to share what we do with listeners worldwide. It’s worth a listen or five. 

The interview comes hot on the heels of a $25,000 grant award from the NEA, and Marna discusses the ways these funds translate into real learning for local students through extensive training for classroom teachers and visiting artists. Teachers learn to integrate the arts into their lessons and artists learn how to teach their craft within the school curriculum. These educators enable students to learn traditional subjects like science, math and technology in a meaningful way, and they also develop the innovative creative thinking skills essential to future success.

Marna points out the value of using the arts to engage students and enable learning beyond standardized classroom instruction. “We hear from teachers all the time […] a child that’s acquiring the language or is challenged to learn in a very linear way has new inroads to learning and has new opportunities to express their understanding.”

Real results have emerged over the past five years, with a series of classroom observations showing 21st Century skills like critical thinking and communication can double with an artist and classroom teacher working together, compared with a traditional classroom setting. Plus, over 64% of Right Brain teachers put their training to work, utilizing arts integration strategies in their daily practice.

In the end, host Josephine Reed is convinced we’re on the right track. “Gosh,” she says. “It makes me wish I was a kid in Portland.”

Becky Thomas is Right Brain’s Outreach Apprentice for Summer ’13.

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