Tuesday, November 04, 2014

JumpstART Program provides opportunities for entire Detroit School of Arts community

Tags: awards, community engagement, detroit, english and education

The theme of this year's JumpstART Academy was "What does it take to be an artist and a scholar?" Based on this theme, students illustrated key ideas to focus their work.

This summer, students at the Detroit School of Arts—a performing and fine arts public high school in Midtown Detroit—got a jumpstart on the school year. For two weeks in August, nearly 100 entering freshmen participated in the JumpstART Academy.

The JumpstART Academy is a joint project of the School of Education and the Detroit School of Arts (DSA). Funded in part by a grant from the Knight Foundation, the JumpstART Academy is an interdisciplinary summer program designed to help new students understand the culture and expectations of the DSA while exploring their identities as scholars and artists both in high school and beyond.

The idea for the JumpstART Academy began with a shared concern from DSA teachers that some freshmen students were entering the ninth grade without all the skills necessary for success in high school. Open to all incoming freshmen, the JumpstART Academy not only provides an opportunity to brush up on vital skills, but helps students prepare for their high school careers at DSA.

Launched in 2013, the concept and structure for the JumpstART Academy was designed by the School of Education’s Victoria Haviland and Deborah Peek Brown, with support on integrating mathematics and the arts from UM-Dearborn staff members Rheta Rubenstein and Judith Flowers. Haviland and Peek Brown also co-planned and taught arts-integrated classes with DSA staff and took part in the final performances. Implementation of the program has been undertaken by two groups of co-directors—in the first year, then-DSA special education teacher Makia Alexander and U-M grad student Esohe Osai; and in the second year, U-M program coordinator Cecelia Sharpe and DSA language teacher Miriam Braun.

Engaging with students during the summer months also offered a valuable opportunity for professional development by working with DSA teachers around a common project. Victoria Haviland explained that summer programming is “a way for us to actually connect with teachers outside of the more typical after-school time frame.”

The emphasis on connection and collaboration is enhanced by the program’s structure: All classes are team-taught with U-M and DSA staff, and classes are planned and taught by groups of teachers, not just one teacher in isolation. “In our second year,” Haviland noted, “we were really successful in deliberately planning all lessons with arts and academics people together—not just ‘adding in’ some extra time for the arts people to come in and do their thing.”

In this way, the JumpstART Academy has also been a means for developing and strengthening a common vision for the school. “The teachers here care about the students deeply, and are dedicated to the school. There is a vision for the school as a beacon in Detroit for preserving the arts in a strong academic setting,” Haviland said.

Having completed its second year this August, the JumpstART Academy was able to engage students in a wide variety of arts-centered learning activities, including interdisciplinary workshops that combined music and math; poetry, dance, and history; and visual arts, technology, and social studies. Students worked with teaching artists and their peers from other arts disciplines to explore the intersections between different art forms and different fields of study. Students also spent time engaged in intensive projects around each of their chosen majors (voice, orchestra, band, dance, visual arts, theater, music tech, and radio/television/broadcasting). The JumpstART Academy culminated in a showcase performance for an audience of hundreds of friends and family members.

Much in the same way the JumpstART Academy has been a vehicle for building capacity for teachers, the program also gives DSA students a chance to excel and step into official leadership roles. Co-directors of this year’s program, Sharpe and Braun, noted that one of the most successful aspects of the program was the utilization of student mentors. Ten rising juniors and seniors assisted staff and faculty in facilitating programming, field trips, and guest artists while working with the younger students to serve as role models, answer questions, and help them acclimate to the high school experience. A small group of sophomores who took part in last year’s JumpstART Academy also participated as mentors-in-training.

The JumpstART Academy has proven to be a valuable tool for providing professional development, transitioning students from traditional academic programs into an arts-centered high school, creating leadership opportunities for older students, and promoting more successful outcomes for the entire DSA community.

Victoria Haviland is Administrative Specialist

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