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Creative STARS: Investing Nearly $1M for Arts, Humanities, & Science Learning in Schools

Carmen Plazas, Communications Manager

(Boston, MA) – This year, Mass Cultural Council will invest nearly $1 million across 243 schools statewide with grants that support creative learning through the arts, humanities, and sciences, for students of all ages.

Thanks to a budget boost from the Legislature, Mass Cultural Council reached more schools with its popular STARS Residencies that connect artists and nonprofit cultural organizations with schools to provide creative learning experiences for students in grades K-12 with grants up to $5,000.

“Each year educators across the Commonwealth send a strong message: We want the arts and creativity in our schools,” said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director. “STARS grants help our teachers connect with artists, scientists, and cultural partners as they work together to create rich, meaningful learning projects throughout the year.”

“I believe the arts play an essential role in fostering creativity among our students and broadening skills such as problem solving, generating and conveying new ideas and working effectively in teams. STARS Residencies provides an opportunity for students to engage in creative learning experiences outside of the traditional classroom setting while immersing themselves in the arts, humanities and sciences,” said Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), House Chair of the Education Committee.

This year, Mass Cultural Council invested $958,400 in STARS, reaching more than 21,000 students. It is part of the agency’s broader, FY19 investment of more than $2.5 million in creative youth development and education in the arts, sciences, and humanities. This year’s STARS include:

Holyoke: Holyoke STEM Academy and Enchanted Circle Theatre

This year, $21,000 in STARS Residencies grants was awarded to seven schools in Holyoke. A number of these residencies are with Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT), a national leader in the field of arts integrated learning. At the Holyoke STEM Academy, 60 sixth grade students will work with ECT and teachers to research, write, and present an original performance on their chosen theme, “The Impact of Plastics on our World.” The students will explore the environmental and economic impact of plastics in their community and create Public Service Announcements for use in advocating for a Plastic-Free School to their elected officials. Students will learn to collaborate with their peers toward a common goal, and experience how creativity, care, persistence, and teamwork can help them solve challenging problems together, leading to success in reaching their goal.

Boston: Margarita Muñiz Academy, Stage One: In-School

This introductory theatre education residency is designed to foster each young actor’s personal growth and theatrical development. Focusing on writing and performance skills, Company One Theatre artists teach theatre as a process, leading the student-artist to develop his or her skills at their own rate, through a curriculum that embraces the Boston Public School (BPS) Theatre curriculum

Pittsfield:  Allendale Elementary School and Mass Audubon

This year, eight schools in Pittsfield won a total of $30,000 in STARS Residencies funding for creative learning residencies. The entire third grade students at the Allendale Elementary School will be working with Mass Audubon on “Hurricanes, Herons, and Hemlocks: Life Cycles and Weather in the Berkshires.”  Students will practice science skills to build understanding of life cycles, evolution, and weather/climate and their close connections. The sessions will focus on hypothesizing about and testing scientific concepts. Throughout the residency, students will collect and interpret data, build arguments with evidence, and interpret and share understanding graphically.  As a culminating event, students will make presentations on life cycles and weather and hold an open house for the school community, families, friends, and local officials. The school will invite the local paper to cover the open house event and will feature it on their website, newsletter and blog.

Springfield:  Music in the Schools with Community Music School of Springfield

This year, Springfield Public Schools is receiving a record $140,000 through the STARS Residencies grant program to support music in 28 of the city’s schools. Lead by the Community Music School of Springfield, the programs teach students in elementary, middle and high schools to read music sing and develop basic skills on their chosen instrument.  Many of the students would not have music without the program. At some of the schools, teachers use music to help developmentally challenged children speak and sing. On Martin Luther King Day, more than 700 of the students convene at the Mass Mutual Center to perform a city-wide concert to honor Dr. King. Through the STARS Residencies, students engage in ensemble and community building experiences, gain confidence, and learn perseverance and self-discipline.  They become positive role models for their peers, demonstrated through improved behavior in class and leadership opportunities at performances.  And, they develop the ability to become an artistic community working toward a culture of peace and non-violence through the arts.

Besides STARS, Mass Cultural Council supports a range of creative youth development and education programs, including its nationally renowned YouthReach Initiative, which uses arts and culture to empower at-risk adolescents with skills and knowledge to help their transition to adulthood; SerHacer, the first public program in the US to support in-depth music education inspired by El Sistema; and Big Yellow School Bus grants that help schools fund field trips to cultural venues.

About the Mass Cultural Council

The Mass Cultural Council is a state agency supporting the arts, sciences, and humanities, to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and its communities. It pursues its mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists. The agency’s total budget for this fiscal year is $18 million, which includes a state appropriation and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. Mass Cultural Council also runs the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund in partnership with MassDevelopment.

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