What Young People Are Saying
The data represented is from REACH/Ashland students, trained by Story for ALL, conducted listening sessions with 23 students across five East Bay Middle Schools. The student interview protocol was structured around 14 key inquiry questions, ranging from the arts and creativity to safe schools that prepare young people for adult success.
Throughout the data, students expressed appreciation for the ways in which they already feel supported at school.
- Meaningful Learning
- “Every night when I go to bed I always have to list three things at least that I learned from school. If I do not succeed in listing those three things going to school was pointless, going to school that day was just a waste of my time, I shouldn't have done it. And I never fail to list three things every single day this year. And I think that's a really powerful thing."
- Availability of Arts Programs
- “[School name], to me, has so much opportunity as an artist which I think is really great. We have a dance program that you can go into different levels of dance.....We also have so many options for art classes and for music classes.”
- Supportive Adults
- “Just the teachers, everyone's very supportive. We're very lucky at [school] to have a lot of counselors to help us, to have teachers who really want us to succeed and sort of help us go through that journey of high school.”
- “I think I do....I do love the teachers cause they do send off a positive vibe into the classroom....Once you get to know your teachers it's like each classroom is a small family. Each period of the day is fun.”
- Safe School Environment
- “Pretty much from day one it's established that there's no hate, no homophobia, very accepting, like it's OK to be wrong. So yeah, they do a very good job of that here.”
Student participants noted some critical ways that arts education impacts their emotional world.
- Art as Creating Safety
- “...as I start knowing this art community more I realize art education doesn't really encompass what art - what it is. It's not necessarily education, it's more like a safe place where you can express your ideas and no one's afraid of it.”
- Art as a Way to Feel Free
- “Freedom.....it's like allowing for my creativity to flow. Having arts in school is a good way for kids to actually let them be themselves. There are some people that will tell your kids, you have to be this, you have to achieve that. With art, you're allowed to be who you want to be...”
- Art as a Tool for Self-Expression
- “A cathartic way of getting your ideas out when words can't speak, when your mind just feels it's about to shut off, I guess.”
- Art as a Force for School Connection
- “Honestly, art calms me down. It allows me to relax. Though you have the stress of deadlines and whatnot and having to get something perfected, I just love how the class is constructed for me. It amazes me what my classmates can do and what I can do. It allows my creativity to flow. I see myself as a better person with the arts. So, that's why I actually love coming to school now.”
Students consistently valued (or requested) opportunities to learn in creative, connected, and inspired classroom environments.
- Arts Integration in Core Academics
- “[School can inspire by] showing us art that relates to what we're learning about. Encouraging us to use art to show our learning which I think schools often use writing the most. But, if we're allowed to use art we can show what we're learning and talk about it in words but also visually or with music or something like that.”
- Providing Students with Sources of Inspiration (via exposure, environment, collaboration)
- “Once you see what anyone and everyone can do in this class it kind of blows your mind a bit. I think there should be more artwork around the school...showcased more rather than just up here.”
- “I'd say when I'm working with other people on certain ideas, that's definitely when I naturally feel obliged to come up with an idea that improves upon theirs. That's kind of where it builds up.”
- Inspired Teachers who Promote Creativity
- “I feel like teachers who follow a script don't necessarily stimulate this creativity that is in all children.”
- “Some teachers are more open to kids being creative than others. Some teachers really squash the creativity out of people, you know?”
- “My favorite teachers are people who are really into what they're teaching who balance out the school. Cause there's teachers who I can tell don't enjoy what they're doing. And then there are teachers who love what they do so much that they - it's not about the money or whatever, it's about their passion.”
Making connections to life beyond high school was voiced as a key need (and sometimes concern) of student participants.
- Making Connections to Careers
- “I wanna become an interior designer and math helps with that a lot and so does art cause you can visualize what it would look like.”
- “...academics [are] very important to me. I want to become a nurse so all the science is really important, math, all of that....
- “I want to be a Broadway actor when I grow up. So drama is really helping me and we're learning what you need for an audition and how to project your voice and stuff like that. That'll be helpful.”
- Supporting Pathways to College
- “A lot of my childhood has basically been aimed at going to college and getting to study what I want and study the things that I've kind of started to get interested in. I know that basically everything I've been doing here for the past few years has just been setting up to feel confident in a college setting and feel confident in learning the things that I'd like to learn.”
- “I mean with college just around the corner, there's definitely a lot of help there.”
- Building Practical Life Skill
- “I think we should add a class about taxes. And how the housing market works and how rent works and how getting a job works and that kind of stuff. Cause I feel like that prepares me more than reading Of Mice and Men and writing an analysis of the characters who I forget.”
- “I feel like there's some things that I'm not learning that I wish I did. Some practical things like learning how to budget. I really don't know how. I know how to save money but I don't know how to live, you know? I guess it's kind of something that you're expected to learn when you're put in that situation when you become an adult but I think it would really important to learn that before, so there's some context.”