When local schools and businesses closed their doors due to COVID-19 in March, the Community School of Music & Arts acted quickly to move its in-person art and music classes, lessons, camps and concerts to an online format.
“Many of our offerings could be presented online with little disruption. Faculty members received training in best practices for online teaching, and staff made some adjustments to the way programs were offered to be more compatible with a virtual format,” said CSMA’s Executive Director Vickie Scott Grove.
Indeed, the school has maintained a robust schedule of virtual arts learning and concerts throughout the pandemic.
A more challenging question, however, was how to continue serving the tens of thousands of students served by CSMA’s Art4Schools and Music4School programs, which provide sequential, standards-based arts education in public schools — and in many cases are students’ only access to arts education. In Mountain View, these programs are supported by donations to the Mountain View Educational Foundation and offered in partnership with the Mountain View Whisman School District.
According to Art4Schools Program Manager Jennifer Mineer, “We have been so impressed by the hard work and innovation that our incredible teachers and school partners have put forth to continue art and music education for students who are learning from home. Our district partners work tirelessly with us to address everything from scheduling needs to instrument distribution, and, as a result, we are able to seamlessly integrate arts education into students’ online school day.”
As a result, the Art4Schools and Music4Schools programs are bringing a dose of creativity to online lessons in every elementary school in the Mountain View Whisman District.
Two CSMA art teachers, Wendy Ron and Karla Navarro, describe what it has been like teaching online.
Ron, who teaches at Stevenson PACT Elementary, says that though she misses seeing students in person, virtual learning has its upsides. She has seen introverted students open up more since they can now type questions to her in the chat section of their screens and her younger students now “have no problem keeping their hands to themselves.”
One of her favorite things about teaching online is seeing parents, siblings and pets join her classes.
“We are engaging with families right in their homes. Students are excited to share the art they have hung in their room or around their homes,” Ron said.
She is happy to provide parents with a moment of peace: “I am grateful (parents) can rely on me to connect with their child in a meaningful way and to support them in a moment of need. That makes me feel really good.”
Bilingual art teacher Navarro teaches at the District’s Spanish immersion school, Gabriela Mistral. Her favorite teaching moments have been watching students’ reactions to her lesson plans. She says her students “always have genuine, honest responses. Their expressions of excitement, wonderment and curiosity are so pure.”
Despite the occasional technical hiccups, she finds satisfaction in teaching online “knowing that it’s (my students) on the other side of the screens eagerly waiting for me.”
Navarro’s favorite lesson is teaching fourth graders about California missions using line, contour and perspective. In the process of teaching this art lesson, Navarro ensures her students learn about land acknowledgment and the Native American experience around the missions.
“Art is my favorite subject,” said Mistral fourth-grader Nicolas P. “I look forward to Friday (lessons) all week. I like how Ms. Karla tells stories about the history of art while she teaches us. She’s a great teacher, who’s very kind to kids and knows a lot about art and all the things behind it.”
CSMA is one of seven local nonprofits that benefit from donations to the Voice’s Holiday Fund. By partnering with Silicon Valley Community Foundation to administer its annual Holiday Fund campaign, 100% of charitable donations go to agencies serving the local community. CSMA uses contributions support important programs such as financial aid and the in-school arts programs serving public school students who may not otherwise have access to an arts education.