An Inside Look at Idaho' Arts-Powered Schools Summer Institute

from the official blog of the national Endowment for the Arts.

September 5, 2012
by Michael Faison, Executive Director, Idaho Commission on the Arts

Photo: Participants at the 2012 Arts-Powered
Schools Summer Institute get hands-on during their
final collaborative project. Photo by Idaho teaching
artist Mike Shipman.

“We can all use imaginative thinking across every part of our lives—and we can all learn to do it better.” — Eric Liu

In 2001, the Idaho Commission on the Arts and the Idaho State Department of Education collaborated on a baseline survey of arts education in Idaho' elementary schools. The survey results identified a need and strong desire by Idaho elementary teachers for arts education pedagogical training. The outcome was the long-term partnership between the arts commission and the state department of education called Arts-Powered Schools Summer Institute.

Now in its tenth year, with the invaluable support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts-Powered Schools’ residential summer professional development institute immerses elementary educators in strategies for teaching in and through the arts. From June 17-22, 2012, nearly 100 elementary classroom teachers and administrators, arts organization education managers, and Idaho teaching artists gathered at the College of Idaho in Caldwell to grow their arts education pedagogical capacity and design teaching-artist residencies for the benefit of Idaho elementary students.

The 2012 Institute focused on “Imagination, Creativity, & Innovation.” Throughout the week, teaching artists led elementary-school teams from around Idaho in active, art-making sessions that stimulated imaginative thinking, which led to creative action and ultimately to innovation. In other words, educators learned how to model—and teach through—the creative process. They learned how to apply experiential learning to instruction supporting Idaho Humanities Content Standards. Then they pulled together learning objectives across multiple areas of inquiry with an essential understanding—in other words, a “Big Idea.” And what was the Big Idea for this year' institute? We can all use imaginative thinking across every part of our lives—and we can all learn to do it better.

Participants received early inspiration from Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon' Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, and the first day' keynote by Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, authors of Sparks of Genius, the 13 Thinking Tools of the World' Most Creative People. Building on the Liu and Noppe-Brandon concepts, all institute presenters modeled the authors’ “29-½ Practices” in their sessions, ultimately offering a field manual for ways to spur imagination in our lives.

Through week'-end, learning was hands-on. Mornings began with “Art Sparks”—large-group mental jumpstarts led by teaching artists. Studio intensives followed—in writing, music, printmaking, dance, and theater—led by teaching artists Malia Collins, Dan Senn, Amy Nack, Kay Braden, and Dwayne Blackaller. These creative intensives offered art-making experiences for the educators, who daily became more conscious in the creative process: how it felt to work in an unfamiliar medium and to struggle, learn, and ultimately succeed in creating something entirely their own. Participants were encouraged—and provided daily opportunities—to experience art-making in disciplines with which they were uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

The participants gathered in their school teams to construct residency plans for their classrooms. Aiding them in this were daily sessions collectively titled, Digging Deeper—Advancing Arts Teaching and Learning Through Reflective Practice, in which school teams from the previous-year' institute, who had implemented their own residency plans in the subsequent school year, provided documentation of student learning to the participants. These sessions provided daily forums for others to learn from peer experiences. Between the hands-on studio experiences and peer reflections, the new teams acquired knowledge to begin their own residency planning.

And where did the school administrators in attendance fit in? They were residency team members too. They also had their own roundtable, facilitated by Principal Laurie Little of Peoriaud, Arizona, wherein they discussed practical issues for implementation, such as arts integration across curricula, and the complexities of residency scheduling in schools.

Throughout the week, the participants documented their personal learning, modeling the reflective practice they would expect of their own learners in their classroom through the subsequent school year. In the evenings after dining together, teams of participants performed new literary, musical, and theatrical pieces they had created under the guidance of institute teaching artists. Their peers then had the opportunity to observe, describe, analyze, and interpret the work, modeling student expectations under Idaho' Humanities Content Standards.

So went the week, from morning to night. Then on their last day, in their culminating studio experience, the participants demonstrated “Practice 24” by taking printmaking to scale—with a steamroller for a print drum—creating mega-prints to remind them of their Arts-Powered learning and to encourage them to recreate that sense of creative awe in their own classrooms.

Each summer the ArtsPowered Schools Summer Institute offers a residential professional opportunity designed to immerse educators in strategies for teaching in and through the arts.

The 2012 ArtsPowered Schools Institute will focus on designing learning experiences that recognize the arts as modes of thought. Throughout the week you will develop your imaginative thinking abilities and creative actions, leading toward innovative results. Through this process, we will all acquire skills to better prepare students for greater in-depth learning across the curriculum.

Sessions will model how the arts can be integrated into any classroom environment, demonstrate how an essential understanding can be examined through multiple layers of experience, and provide opportunities for participants to focus on documenting learning targets.

Throughout the week you will work with some of the finer artists and educators in the country, explore your own creativity, and acquire valuable curriculum resources to enrich your teaching practice in support of the Idaho Humanities Content Standards.

All APS activities will contribute to the overall cycle of learning around the Institute’s essential understanding. Every layer of the institute, rather than being seen as a series of discrete activities, is conceived of as contributing to the week’s “big idea” and collaborative artistic creation - intentionally moving from "process vs. product" to "process becoming product."  

What is the Big Idea?
A “Big Idea” or essential understanding is an overarching idea that unifies, inspires, and resonates with children, an idea that is rich with possibilities and permits teachers and children to work together in many ways.

“Big Ideas” are intriguing. They invite questions and multiple answers. They create a spirit of inquiry. Organizing curriculum around conceptual essential understandings, allows room for an array approaches to teaching, and abundant products in terms of student work in various disciplines and media.

Essential Understanding for our ArtsPowered week:

We can all use imaginative thinking across every part of our lives – and we can all learn to do it better. 


Who Should Attend ?

  • Former Attendees:  We offer something new every year!
  • Elementary Classroom Teachers seeking new perspectives, teaching strategies, and an opportunity to enliven and renew their creative energy.
  • Principals and Administrators interested in the power of the arts to enhance learning in all subjects.
  • Art Parents who work to create a school arts focus that involves families and community members in the life of the school.
  • Artists and Cultural Organizations developing links between work in the arts and important school goals.


Our exploration of creativity as applied imagination will begin with noted co- authors Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein, Sparks of Genius, The 13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). The Root-Bernstein’s have married their diverse and complementary interests to a wide variety of creativity studies. A full professor at Michigan State University, Robert studies the evolution of physiological control systems, autoimmune diseases and scientific creativity; Michele, a writer, Kennedy Center teaching artist, and adjunct faculty member at MSU, currently studies the invention of imaginary worlds from childhood to adulthood. Together they lecture, consult, lead workshops and write. Imagine that!

We’ll start each day with an ART SPARK

Each day will open with a brief activity to spark our creative process and focus the week’s exploration within the frame of APS 2012’s essential understanding. These whole group sessions will serve as sparks for your engagement in a powerful learning cycle, as we unleash our ability to think of and express new possibilities. 


Each ArtsPowered Schools participant will choose and participate in one Art Studio Intensive. These sequential daily studio sessions will immerse you in an art form as a creator of art. You will gain experience in working with artistic mediums – using the artistic process to develop skills, express ideas, and reflect on and refine your work.  Studio teaching artists will model “teaching for meaning” and help participants gain skills in developing dynamic arts units that they can use in their classrooms.

Select One (Include your 1st & 2nd choice)

  1. What If?: A Fiction Writing Workshop
    teaching artist  Malia Collins

    Everyday we’ll start with “What If” and follow our imaginations to answer it.  Allow yourself, at least on the page, to write as someone else for a while. Starting with beginnings, we’ll move on to characterization, scenes, and dialogue – always coming back to the question, what makes a great story? If you’ve always wanted to write fiction, but didn’t know how to start, this workshop is a must.

  2. Sound Art Studio Workshop
    teaching artist  Dan Senn

    Music is not necessarily melody and rhythm. Music is always sound organized in time. 
    Most objects make sound when hit or moved and when these are ordered in time, music
    emerges. But the way sound is organized is important. In this workshop, from a sound perspective, we will look at the everyday objects around us and create compositions and performances using our own graphic notations. Musical training is not required. Just a flexible mind.

  3. Where the Magic Happens
    teaching artist  Amy Nack 

    Bring your imagination and prepare yourself for the surprise and serendipity of printmaking. We'll explore the magic of layering color, images, unique textural effects, and the endless variations achieved from simple printmaking techniques and plate design. Drawing experience definitely NOT required!

  4. We All Dance
    teaching artist Kay Braden

    We all dance. We all make patterns in our lives. Dance is the expression of that---we move, we create. These studio sessions will focus on the fundamentals of movement, awareness and expression to stir the imagination and make possible the idea of creative output. To move is to experience breath and time and the potential for joy---the creative soul in each of us.

  5. Never Say No To An Idea
    teaching artist  Dwayne Blackaller

    Never shut the flow with ”no” or even with “yes but.” When you say yes but”` it encourages everyone in the group to become invested in keeping a thing aloft. “Yes and” activates the very forces that fuel the imagination. In this theater session you will imagine making one idea stitch from the last to the next.


DIGGING DEEPER – Advancing Arts Teaching and Learning Through Reflective Practice    

Reporting project outcomes is a persuasive means for teachers to contribute to wider knowledge and reach people that may be interested in your unit or lesson design and student learning results.

During the 2011-12 school year, APS artist/school residency teams carried out outstanding residency projects. Each team committed to taking deliberate steps to document student learning, collecting samples of student work, and participate in a reflection of their cooperative work in order to tell the story of the student learning.
Residency teams will be presenting shared observations and documentation of students and their learning and engaging us as responders to help refine future work.


Each day sequential informational sessions will focus on the fundamentals to good arts education practice to frame arts-integrated lessons and residency planning. Topics include:  full strength 21st Century Skills at the Core; connecting understandings across subject areas; great questions- as expressions of genuine curiosity; and the importance of noticing and documenting the impact of art work on student learning.

$1,500 Artist in Residence Awards Available.
Throughout the ArtsPowered week, teachers will have opportunities to work with ICA teaching artists, developing plans to include an artist in residence project at your home school during the 2112-2013 school year.


We are pleased to announce a special daily session designed for principals, curriculum directors, and counselors. This roundtable forum will provide an opportunity to review the day’s content and to discuss pertinent issues such as scheduling, integration of the arts, and other issues you bring to the table. Laurie Little, principal of an arts rich school in peoriad, Arizona, will facilitate this special session.


Have fun, try something new! Banish fears that inhibit your creativity. Choose from a wide variety of one day studio workshops each afternoon presented by ICA teaching artists. Each art form will offer you a variety of ways to practice your creative thinking. For example, Theater: never say no to an idea; Printmaking: change the scale of your images; or Dance: bring small pieces into prominence. A list of all the possibilities will be available the first day of the Institute. No pre-registration needed.


Participants will be encouraged to spend their free time working on their studio projects, planning lessons or residencies, or organizing an aspect of documentation. Workspaces will be open after hours.


Evening events provide opportunities to experience and enjoy live arts performances and exhibitions of artwork and to connect to the rich arts resources of the community. Participation in the evening events provide opportunities for you to sharpen your skills and deepen your understanding as you observe, describe, analyze, interpret, the work of others – key components of the Humanities Content Standards. 


Participants will explore a process to document their learning, post photos and captions, and create text and photos to illustrate learning targets and process. We invite all participants to bring digital cameras and USB cables and to try out this creative way of collecting evidence of learning. 



$200, Idaho residents (includes instruction, materials, single occupancy dorm lodging, breakfasts, lunches, hosted dinners, and evening arts activities).

  • Local participants can choose to spend evenings at home or out-of-towners can arrange accommodations at their own expense if “dorm life” is not their style.

Registration fee for non-Idaho residents, $800.


Academic Credit
One to three professional development credits through Boise State University or Northwest Nazarene University are available for ArtsPowered Schools participants. Academic credit is optional and will be arranged at registration. The charge is $60.00 per credit.



Sunday 3:00 - 5:00 Registration and Dorm Check-In
  5:00 - 7:00 Opening Events, Keynote Speaker
Monday - Thursday 8:30 - 9:15 Opening Art Spark
  9:30 - 11:00 Art Studio Intensives
  11:15 - 12:00 Digging Deeper
  12:00 - 1:00 Lunch
  1:15 - 2:15 Discovering Intentions for Teaching and Learning
  2:30 - 4:00 Choice Workshops or Arts Leading Learning
  4:30 - 6:00 Open Studio
  6:00 - 7:00 Dinner
  7:30 - 9:00 Evening Events and/or Open Studio
Friday 8:30 - 11:00 Closing Events


To Enroll  

Mail the registration and the check to:
Dr. Peggy Wenner
Idaho State Department of Education
ArtsPowered Schools Summer Institute
P.O. Box 83720
Boise ID 83720-0027

We are not set up to accept credit cards.
Please make all checks out to the Idaho Commission on the Arts 
Please make all out purchase orders to the Idaho State Department Of Education

Register Early to get your first art studio choices!
ArtsPowered Schools will be able to accept 100 participants for this summer’s Institute.

Please include all school participants’ forms and payment in the same envelope.

Throughout the ArtsPowered week, teachers will have opportunities to work with ICA teaching artists, developing plans to include an artist in residence at your home school
during the 2012-2013 school year.

For more information contact:

Dr. Peggy Wenner
Idaho State Department of Education

Ruth Piispanen
Idaho Commission on the Arts
208-334-2119 or 1-800-Art-Fund


ICANational Endowment ISDE
Idaho Commission on the Arts National Endowment for te Arts eaprrtment of Education, State of IDaho