Joan L. Boiko
| Special to The Desert Sun
As teachers across school districts throughout the region, state and nation work diligently to keep their students engaged in the virtual platforms of the distance environment, visual, fine and performing arts teachers have the added challenges of trying to be true to course curricula in classes that traditionally include heavy interaction and use of instruments and materials.
“One of the challenges of the visual, performing and media arts teachers are combatting a lack of materials in order to supply each student with needed materials in their home environments,” said Palm Springs Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator Barbara Anglin. “As an example, teachers have class sets of acrylic paints or scripts but not enough supplies or budget for each student to individually have paint or scripts.”
PSUSD arts teachers have risen to the occasion and have reinvented both themselves and their class contents to deliver lessons and engage with their students virtually.
“Our amazing visual, performing and media arts teachers are teaching different parts of their curriculum, perhaps out of order or a little differently, such as art projects, doing some dances instead of group dances, art history and music theory,” said Anglin.
To be able to provide materials such as art supplies or play scripts or pieces of music for each student in their home environments, the Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District has established a “Protect the Arts” campaign. Part of that campaign is a weekly arts and entertainment show featuring PSUSD performers from the district’s high schools and Musical Theater University, which airs at 6:30 p.m. on KESQ Channel 3 on Sundays through December. Those who would like to support the fund, can donate at psusdfoundation.net/arts.
Arts classes are held in the afternoons during distance learning, and sometimes it is challenging getting students to return to classes via Zoom after lunch. Still, the educators bringing arts instruction to PSUSD students are continuously finding innovative ways to inspire and motivate.
“I am so impressed with our teachers and Artists in Residence,” said Anglin. “They are so passionate about their art form and are working hard to provide engaging and meaningful lessons on virtual platforms.”
PSUSD has many partnerships with arts organizations throughout the Coachella Valley resulting in a wide array of annual enrichment programs and performances for district students. While some are not possible until students can return to campus and groups are allowed to gather, many of the programs have been adjusted and reimagined for a virtual platform such as the Boys Arts Mentoring program for middle schools boys, Lady Lead for middle school girls and Charlie Ciali’s art and video art lessons. Coming soon will be the Palm Springs Arts Museum program for third, fourth and fifth graders; the McCallum Theatre aesthetic art program for fifth graders; Cabot Yerxa Pueblo Museum’s program for second graders; Living Desert program for kindergarteners; and short film study with the Palm Springs International Film Festival for high school media arts and theatre students.
Musical Theatre University Kids for middle school students is in its second year and has adapted to the virtual platform as has the MTU program for high school students. Brand new is MTU Junior which launched for 70 elementary students last month.
Joan Boiko is the Coordinator of Communications and Community Outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 883-2701, ext. 2.