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Students take Summer ACE Photography Courses

by Anna Mack, Teaching Artist at Ojeda Middle School

These photos were made by students from both Del Valle Middle School and Ojeda Middle school during the ACE summer enrichment program put on by Del Valle ISD.

Over the course of the month, each student made a book of their photography (17 in all). Every week, we worked on a different genre of photography.

  • Week 1 was for narrative and story-telling
  • Week 2 was for still-life and abstraction
  • Week 3 was for portraiture and self-portraits
  • Week 4 was for book construction.

There were some auto-biographical writing exercises peppered throughout, and those also made it into the books.

Each book ended up featuring between 8-12 photographs and one or two pages for their writing. During showcase (yesterday) we had a display table set up outside the auditorium for students, parents, and staff to check out the work! I attached a couple pictures to show what the display looked like. To see the rest of the photos, go to

Anna Mack is a TAP teaching artist at Ojeda Middle School.

Teachers and Students Go on Adventures in Art

by Natalie Goodnow, Artistic Associate

Theatre Action Project (TAP) teaching artists Frank Nappi and Lindsay Palmer had the unique opportunity to craft linked curricula for their 2nd grade after school classes at Hornsby-Dunlap Elementary. They focused on the work of four artists: Frida Khalo, Rosa Bonheur, Salvador Dali and Faith Ringgold.

Actor Frank Nappi guided the students through an interactive process drama framing the entire semester as an urgent quest. He began the semester by showing students a short video which he filmed with another Teaching Artist, Miss Kate Shaw. She was in disguise as the mysterious super villain, “Z” who explained that he had magically captured teachers from the students’ very own school and transported them into famous paintings by artists such as…you guessed it– Frida Kahlo, Rosa Bonheur, Salvador Dali, and Faith Ringgold! Z cackled that the students had no hope of ever rescuing their teachers, because they knew nothing about art!

After seeing this video, the students could not wait to prove the mysterious Z wrong!  With visual artist Lindsay Palmer, the students:

  • Learned about the historical context in which these artists lived.
  • Asked big questions about why and how these artists engaged in discussions of activism about the social issues of their time.
  • Created their own artwork inspired by Kahlo, Bonheur, Dali, and Ringgold.

Back with Mr. Frank, the students engaged in narrative pantomime and improvisatory play to further explore the artists’ work. Using just some tape lines on the floor, and a lot of imagination, the students crafted a magical airplane that could journey straight into the paintings themselves, where Mr. Frank used narrative pantomime to guide students through the worlds of the paintings, their sights, sounds, smells, and textures, their people and places, and then finally (through the power of improvisatory play, also known as make believe) to rescue their captured and beloved teachers.

I’ll venture to say that the students retained much more historical knowledge than they would have had they been taught it in another way. The arts-based teaching strategies gave them a compelling need to learn that information, and also fun and hands-on ways to learn. They also learned social-emotional skills such as teamwork, confidence, and leadership, as they strategized how to work together to create these works of art, and to rescue their teachers.

And that’s how it works! Theatre Action Project uses the creative arts to activate the social, academic, and emotional development of young people. In school, after school, in our communities, every day!

Special thanks to Teaching Artists Frank Nappi and Lindsay Palmer for all your hard work this semester, and for ACE Afterschool Program Coordinator Jennifer Corrigan for your support!

TAP After School at Smith Elementary

On December 14, the auditorium at Smith Elementary was filled to the brim with mothers, and fathers, and sisters and brothers who were there to see Smith’s Holiday Performance. Smith’s ACE Program featured the 1st grade students of Teaching Artist Lillie Hollingsworth and their moving adaptation of Munro Leaf’s popular story Ferdinand the Bull. Describing the story the class adapted and the student’s experience with their play, Lillie shared, “The Story of Ferdinand is a wonderful tale about a bull that doesn’t like to fight. Ferdinand is different than all the other bulls; he loves to smell the flowers and to sit by his favorite tree. But why?”

My first graders spent 6 weeks asking that question. Why doesn’t Ferdinand like to fight? Quite simply, Ferdinand doesn’t like to fight because he gets dizzy. They developed great dialogues through improvisation and games. The game we play the most to develop these characters was hot-seating. We interviewed characters from the story and they told us why they made certain choices. It allowed students to explore deeper character traits, and they were able to see them as more than just good guy or bad guy. My students were particularly interested in talking to the mother cow about why she was mad that her son would smell flowers. We found that the mother was worried about her son fitting in, and in her own way, wanted the best for him. It was clear that the talent of these first graders went beyond their age limits. At the Tuesday night performance, they shined, even though two of them had been sick all day, they refused to abandon their show. We were even asked to perform again on Thursday morning in front of the whole school. They were elated to tell everyone to not be a bully bull, and to respect others even if they are different from the norm.
-TAP Teaching Artist, Lillie Hollingsworth