Progressive Arts Alliance is celebrating 10 years of bringing amazing arts education into schools. I had the opportunity to interview Tammy Zelwin, a teacher in one of Progressive Arts Alliance’s (PAA) partner classrooms. Read on to find out more about the great work this organization is doing and how you can help!
Why CLE: Where and what grades do you teach? Tell me a bit about your school.
Tammy: I teach grades 6, 7, and 8 math at Orchard STEM School in Cleveland Metropolitan School District. My school is a Pre-K to 8th grade school that integrates Problem-Based Learning (PBL) with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) units. PBL is real-life problems that students face that are curriculum-based and require students to think outside the box in order to solve.
Why CLE: How does PAA work with Orchard STEM School to enhance your curriculum?
Tammy: The PAA artists work with the teachers (in my case team of teachers since we are departmentalized in the middle grades) to plan out a unit or project that we all want to do. It is a collaborative process, led by both the teachers at Orchard and the artists at PAA. It is driven by the curriculum. PAA brings an aspect to the unit that the school could not provide on its own. PAA artists also bring and enhance a skill set that in some cases may not exist if they were not there.
Why CLE: What types of activities/programs does PAA do in your school?
Tammy: PAA has done all types of work with the students in the school. They have done web page design, documentary work, dance, 3 dimensional sculpture making, work with architects and product designers, musical production (mixing beats and break dancing), collaboration with PBS to document the What’s Going On Now: 40 Years after Marvin Gaye, etc.
Why CLE: Can you share a PAA success story that you’ve seen in the classroom?
Tammy: The 8th graders that worked on the PBS documentary went into the neighborhood to showcase some of the issues that they thought needed to be addressed: crime, poverty, death, etc. The students felt that they had a voice in their community in a way that they may never have had in the past. They also enjoyed working with PAA artists on this unit and asked nearly every day if the artist was returning.
Similarly, the 7th graders were given the task of creating a documentary about a greenhouse that was donated to the school. The students worked with two PAA artists to learn how to conduct interviews, created a documentary and actually constructed the greenhouse (with help from PAA), all the while documenting the process with cameras and video equipment. It was a year-long unit. At the annual Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) Festival in May, the project won second place to all of the participating schools in the district.
The 6th graders made locker organizers with the assistance of a product designer. She had another designer come to the classroom to judge the designs and the winner was invited to visit a product design firm in Chagrin Falls. There they saw what designers do in the real world. The students also were able to showcase their design to the firm. They enjoyed the experience very much.
Why CLE: How do the students respond to PAA?
Tammy: The response is unanimously positive. The kids love working with the artists. I worked with three different artists in three totally different capacities and the response was very positive. The kids loved when the artists came to visit and loved the units that they were working on.
Why CLE: Describe PAA’s impact/influence on your students.
Tammy: The impact that PAA has had has been incredible. I have really enjoyed working with them on several levels. It has made me want to be more creative in the units that I teach my students. It has also made the students more creative. They would not have been able to do ANY of these projects had it not been for PAA. I could not have done them on my own. The work we have done together is invaluable. The kids have mentioned wanting to become a product designer. They have also been exposed to positive role models (and they recognized this exposure verbally). It has made the students see more of a connection between math and the arts in their various forms.
Why CLE: Why do you think PAA is important and successful in the classroom?
Tammy: PAA has upped the ante not only on how I teach, but the products that I expect my students to create. It has been a life force for the arts curriculum in the middle grades as well as in the school in general. Without PAA, I worry about making some of the projects that I do as interesting as they can be. I really love the collaboration that we have with them and hope that it continues for a long time in the future.
On Saturday, August 11, PAA will be hosting “10 Years of Rhapsody: A Progressive Arts Alliance Celebration” at House of Blues Cleveland. This event is a celebration of the great work that PAA does, but also a fundraiser to help keep that great work going in classrooms and for students just like Tammy’s.
Grandmaster Flash will be spinning tunes for a dance party, the Corporate Cleveland Dance Crew challenge will take place, PAA All-Stars will perform, and more!
Tickets are just $25 for general admission, $50 for VIP Lounge Balcony access, and $150 for an all-access pass. For details on the different ticket levels and to purchase, click here. It’s sure to be a hip-hoppin’ night supporting a wonderful organization that does great work for kids!