Unmute, Engage, Inspire: Arts Education in Quarantine

Unmute, Engage, Inspire: Arts Education in Quarantine (Digital Story)  is a snapshot of arts education in the time of COVID-19. This project sheds light on how amazing and resilient we all are despite the incredible challenges we have faced. Teachers and artists have many similar attributes. We are innovators, creators, and activists. We want to bring joy and beauty into our communities by making opportunities for learning and growing. 

When the pandemic shuttered schools, rehearsal spaces, and performance venues we all were forced to slow down and breathe. We made time to prioritise our health and wellness. We adapted everything we do as a community  to a colder, digital world. That took an incredible amount of energy and determination but it was also isolating. 

School assemblies and university performances were reduced to recorded content. Community partnerships reduced to “asynchronous” minutes. We wanted and needed more for our elementary school students and college students. 

Natalie Greene and Kelsey Magaña are both educators in San Francisco. Natalie leads Dance in the Community classes at USF and Kelsey teaches First Grade at Redding Elementary School.  Both educators are committed to promoting social justice through community partnership and fostering leadership. 

Through this project, USF students have had an opportunity to interact with elementary students synchronously and it has been magical!  While educators are feeling the many logistical pressures of adapting to online learning, our students are thriving when given the opportunity to do so!

To an untrained eye, one may wonder what First Graders and college students have in common. We now know that we all yearn for connection and for meaningful assignments that transcend the page. We need to get out of our seats and move!  We need to sing or pick up our instruments while we can. 

While we all faced anxiety about teaching in new ways, we overcame this challenge and created something beautiful. University students provided fun and engaging opportunities for the first graders to enjoy song, dance, and theatrical expression! We engaged in discussions about  anti-racist teaching practices and equity in the arts. 

The digital story serves as a reflection of this work thanks to the collaboration of Voices interim director, Sean Gresens and filmmaker Joanna Glum. We were able to call back our partnerships from our senior projects, and show our growth since we all graduated. It has been a wonderful way to reconnect with PASJ faculty we admire, and collaborate with brilliant current students from many disciplines. The PASJ legacy is alive and thriving.


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