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This week CCSESA puts the spotlight on Plumas County's innovative approach to providing their students with an arts education.
For five years, Plumas County teacher Danielle Frid traveled the windy mountain roads between two towns 35 miles apart, delivering art instruction at the middle and high school levels.
 
But with the birth of a new baby in 2015, Frid felt that traveling between Portola and Quincy was too time-consuming and stressful.  While she took a leave of absence from Portola, the art teacher teaching at both Chester and Greenville High Schools resigned.
 
The Plumas County Office of Education/Plumas Unified School District faced a dilemma: cut back on art instruction or find a feasible alternative.
 
“Not only is art instruction a critical form of self-expression, but in many circumstances art classes give students additional motivation to stay in school and an alternative avenue to learning,” said Assistant Superintendent Kristy Warren. “Cutting our schools’ art programs would have had a detrimental impact on students.”
So Plumas County Superintendent of Schools Terry Oestreich approached Frid with an idea: Instead of the time-consuming back-and-forth between sites, what about starting a digital teaching program that could make art lessons available online?
 
The COE pursued this idea, and now, entering the third year of the program, students feel right at home with the digital platform. Using technology as a bridge, this rural county in the northern reaches of the state has used innovative, out-of-the-box thinking to provide students with quality arts learning.
 
In the first year that the program was piloted, Chester and Greenville art classes were taught digitally.  However, beginning the second year and continuing through this current year, the program is successfully teaching students digitally in Portola as well.  
While technology helps bridge the gap between instructors and students, connection remains vital. Frid uses Google Classroom to stay connected to her remote students. This provides her with another form of online communication, and enables her to share assignments and lesson plans and answer questions.

Student artwork is turned in for grading using the inter-district mailing system, as students gradually fill their portfolios. Frid visits the remote school site in person every other week to check in with students. She also makes herself available through email and by phone.
One of the most important factors that makes the online arts instruction work is the onsite facilitator who is in the classroom with the students while they are learning digitally.
 
Current class facilitator Brenda Ross said she maintains constant contact with Frid to ensure students are on task. Frid provides Ross with lesson plans, rubrics and handouts. Ross inputs daily student participation points and sends Frid their assignments.
 
Frid said she’s discovered that because of the intensive communication that the digital arts program requires, she’s been challenged to regularly self-reflect and find ways to be more clear and precise. This has helped her clarify and refine her objectives.
Because the program requires a high level of self-initiative on the part of students, it has heightened their ability to work independently, Frid said. Students are showing a willingness to work harder and take ownership of their own learning objectives and success.
 
Furthermore, having lessons accessible online means that students can review instructions as needed and work at their own pace. They can also catch up after an absence more easily.
 
Sometimes Frid even has students she is directly teaching view her video lessons on laptops while they create. This frees her up to provide one-on-one assistance.
 
Frid said the digital arts program meets two critical objectives: it maintains the availability of quality art instruction, and emphasizes the fact that “we’re all intrinsically artists. We just need to be given the opportunity to create.”
 
Plumas County Office of Education’s motto is to “collectively inspire every child, in every classroom, every day.” County Superintendent Oestreich said, “Initiatives such as the digital arts program, and the dedication and innovation of the teachers and staff, support this reality.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:


• Contact Nina Martynn, Plumas USD Marketing Media Specialist, for additional information on implementing this type of arts learning in your district or county office.
 
• Subscribe to Danielle’s YouTube channel to view her online art lessons.
 
• Find out more about arts learning through CCSESA’s Arts Initiative website, which offers sample art lessons and curriculum, guides for after-school arts programs and information about its Summer Institute.
 
California Alliance for Arts Education, which advocates for quality arts education, offers toolkits, arts campaigns, and resources to help schools promote the arts.
 
• The California Arts Council offers grants for arts educators, information about a variety of arts initiatives and additional resources for advancing the arts.






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