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Home / Blog / Youth / $1.4M Awarded to Creative Learning School Residencies

$1.4M Awarded to Creative Learning School Residencies

Diane Daily, Program Manager

a photo taken from an aerial point of view over a school table with 5 children's sets of hands are working on a project with beads and silk flowers
STARS Residency with Science & Engineering Elementary Development (SEED) at South Elementary School in Stoughton.

Supporting creative learning in Massachusetts schools continues to be a priority for Mass Cultural Council as schools work to catch up on lost learning and address social-emotional challenges created by the pandemic. Our STARS Residencies grants are key to this effort, providing $2,500-$6,100 to Massachusetts K-12 schools to support residencies of three days or more with a teaching artist, scientist, or humanist. Thanks to our state Legislators who make the funds available, the FY23 STARS Residencies grant round is working with the largest budget since the program began.

As a result, we are pleased to announce this year’s STARS Residencies grants, totaling $1,428,100, to bring 186 artists, scientists, and humanists into 274 schools across the Commonwealth. These cultural partners will be engaging more than 30,000 students in creative learning during the 2022-2023 academic year. A list of awardees is available online.

Program Changes to Increase Equity, Access, and Inclusion

As part of the Agency’s commitment to increasing equity, access, and inclusion across all programs, Mass Cultural Council made some important changes to STARS Residencies this year. We opened the program to allow individuals and organizations to apply, as well as schools. This, combined with the return of schools to their normal operation, increased applications by 43% over last year. We also raised the minimum grant available from $700 to $2,500 in recognition of the work that applicants do to design a residency and complete an application.

We also set three priority criteria to elevate:

  • First-time applicants or applicants that have not received funding from Mass Cultural Council in the last three fiscal years.
  • Residencies serving schools with student populations that are 50% or more Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color (BIPOC) as reported by DESE.
  • Residencies for schools located in cities and towns that are below the state’s median household income and below statewide educational attainment (the percentage of adults who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree). This includes, but is not limited to, places designated as Gateway Cities. A full list of these under-resourced communities is available.

Additionally, our panel of external reviewers of STARS Residencies applications was 50% BIPOC . The review conducted by the external reviewers used the following two criteria:

  • The strength of the learning objectives.
  • The appropriateness of the residency activities to achieve those objectives.

The Results of the Changes

We received 335 eligible applications in this grant round; 75% of these addressed one or more priority areas listed above

Of the funded applications:

  • 35% (95 applicants) have not received funding from Mass Cultural Council in the last three fiscal years.
  • 54% (148 applicants) of residencies are at schools with student populations that are 50% or more BIPOC as reported by DESE.
  • 57% (156 applicants) of residencies are at schools located in cities and towns identified as under-resourced.

Of the grantees, 61% are getting their first STARS Residencies grant and 18% are getting their first-ever grant from Mass Cultural Council. We are thrilled to note that the first-time applicants to the Agency were 100% successful in this program! We will continue outreach to new applicants over the course of the coming year to increase all of these percentages in the next cycle.

Who Are This Year’s STARS?

The residencies that schools and cultural partners will be providing for students are as multi-faceted as in any other school year. Some examples include:

Barnstable: Cape Cod Collaborative STAR Program with Samuel Holmstock
This Drum Circle Residency brings a weekly rhythm, music and community-building experience to the school’s special needs student population. Cultural partner Samuel Holmstock provides drums and other percussion instruments for each participant. Depending on the abilities of each group, the drumming will be a combination of hand drumming, drumming with soft mallets and, if sensory sensitivities allow, there will be street/bucket drumming with conventional sticks. The residency uses basic rhythms first introduced as word phrases that describe the actual rhythm (“If you can say it, you can play it.”). Students also accompany themselves with the drum as they sing songs that everyone knows and enjoys. The unifying theme of the program is the use of rhythm and drumming to build community and foster relaxation and wellness. Teachers will use the drum circle experience as a basis for extending topics of cooperation, mindfulness, and self-regulation. Rhythm identification can also be used in the classroom to support the teaching of more concrete concepts such as counting/math and speech/diction.

Brockton: Oscar F. Raymond School, ImagineARTS — Arts-Integrated Literacy Residency Program, with Kaitlyn Mazzilli, South Shore Conservatory of Music
With Ms. Kaitlyn, kindergarten students bring stories to life through singing, movement, dramatic improvisation and instrument play.  Kaitlyn adapts songs and activities to deepen comprehension of story content, introduce thematic vocabulary, and address literacy skills including sequencing, phonemic awareness, and syllable segmenting. The ImagineARTS curriculum also builds self-management skills (turn-taking, direction-following, collaboration) and musicianship (ability to match tonal and rhythmic patterns, improvisation, creative movement). Families are engaged through go-home materials (each child receives three of the core storybooks) and Family Music Nights, where students can show what they have learned in class.

Lawrence: Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, “Clay Exploration at Phoenix Lawrence” with ceramicist Y-Binh Nguyen
This school residency brings together local Lawrence ceramic artist, Y-Binh Nguyen, two instructors from La House (an expressive arts open studio for authentic expression and healing through the arts), and Phoenix School’s social worker to teach high school students basic clay forms and give them a foundational understanding of the medium, while simultaneously supporting their social-emotional development. The residency will provide students the opportunity to explore a new medium for artistic expression, and the time and space to heal through it. The students at Phoenix Lawrence have already begun to experience the transformative benefits of art therapy through the Makerspace Program. This residency will expand the offerings allowed to them by granting access to ceramics, a medium oftentimes reserved for their more privileged peers. The school’s Makerspace co-leads will be observing and learning during these sessions, equipping them with the knowledge and skills so that they may continue to offer the medium after the residency is over. At the end of the residency, students will participate in a Capstone Project synthesizing what they have learned about artistic expression and its connection to their emotional states and identities. Their works will be shown at an art show and celebration.

Pittsfield: Educational Options for Success at Taconic High School, “Growing Carbon” with Max Galdos-Shapiro, Mass Audubon
Students in specialty high-needs science classes and their teachers will have an opportunity to work with Max Galdos-Shapiro, Earth and Life Science Specialist for Mass Audubon. Designed to give the students hands-on experience with field science techniques, Galdos-Shapiro will guide students to explore the relationship between biodiversity and resiliency in the face of global climate change. Students and teachers will practice science skills to improve their understanding of the carbon cycle, species identification, and climate change resiliency, with most of the time spent outdoors learning through experience. Students will collect and interpret data, build arguments with evidence, and interpret and share understanding graphically. With these skills, students will explore the effects global climate change will have on the city of Pittsfield. This learning, along with their ability to communicate their research, will enable them to be active and informed advocates in their communities. The residency also helps classroom teachers make better use of school grounds and natural areas near their school as living laboratories where students can be immersed in the practice of science.

Springfield: The Academy at Kiley, “The Social Justice Poetry Institute” with poet Imani Wallace
Sixth grade students will have the opportunity to listen, write, and share aloud their own stories through discussion and reflection time that ultimately supports the final product, a collection of poems. The residency will highlight topics that are culturally relevant and serve as a source of healing for the marginalized communities represented at the school. The topics will critically engage diversity, equity, and inclusion, honing-in on a particular aspect of societal injustice with each conversation and writing prompt. These conversations will provide a platform to creatively express thought-provoking subjects that weigh heavily on the mental and emotional capacities of many marginalized groups in the community and in society writ large.

See the Funding List

See the Press Release


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