Marin’s Youth in Arts program goes online | #teacher | #children | #kids | #parenting | #parenting | #kids

A kindergarten student in Novato draws while watching a Youth in Arts program on her laptop. (Courtesy Youth in Arts)

A new digital learning platform for the arts is now available for Marin youths.

The platform, dubbed YIArts.COR, is being offered free or at low cost through the San Rafael-based nonprofit Youth in Arts.

“YIArts.COR is the intersection of technology, accessibility, equity and the arts,” said Kristen Jacobson, executive director of Youth in Arts. “Youth in Arts is a small, community-based organization, but YIArts.COR is a big solution to keep arts in the school day for students, schools and families.”

YIArts.COR — shorthand for Youth in Arts creative online resource — features both visual and performing arts programs, said Cathy Bowman, a Youth in Arts artist mentor. Bowman said the programs are designed to help parents and teachers whose kids lack access to arts programs during the pandemic.

“As you know, schools are facing enormous budget challenges,” Bowman said. “The fact that we have been able to double the number of students we were reaching before the pandemic speaks to the value of the arts and creative responses to it. This fall, we are serving more than 4,000 students in Marin and the East Bay.”

Many of the students Youth in Arts is reaching were receiving little or no visual arts or dance education before school closures, Bowman added.

Karen Martinez, a Marin emergency room nurse, said the arts program has been a lifesaver at home.

“The online experience has been challenging for us, as I’m sure for many other families,” said Martinez, who has just started using YIArts.COR to enrich her children’s education. “Needless to say, I’m exhausted.”

San Rafael kindergarten teacher David Peterson said he is using YIArts.COR — and it is helping him keep up with the demands of teaching remotely.

On a typical day, Peterson has his iPad, computer and projector all going, with multiple tabs open to have the materials he needs. He says that online teaching demands mean running on three to four hours of sleep.

Mentor artist Stephanie Bastos teaches Brazilian dance to transitional kindergarten through second-grade students online in San Rafael. (Courtesy Youth in Arts)

“Teachers during the pandemic are definitely modern superheroes,” he said. “There’s no question about it.”

Peterson said the program “has definitely been a fantastic resource for my students.”

“They’re excited
to go on and dance,” he said. “They’re excited to go on and learn the next art lesson.”

The program, at yiartscor.com, offers about a dozen courses. The topics include seeds and flowers, Afro-Peruvian dance, architecture, mixed media and percussion.

“Art is necessary in our daily lives to create balance,” Peterson said. “It engages students. It creates smiles and it provokes thought. That’s why I include it every day and encourage my students to do it every day as well.”

Each course includes at least four sequential lessons that build on skills learned the previous week, Bowman said. Along with how-to videos, written instructions in English and Spanish are available to ensure that lessons are accessible in schools where there are English language learners.

“Teaching online has allowed us to extend our programming beyond what we could have dreamed of,” Jacobson said. “While it isn’t the same as being in class, it is vital that students have a way to express themselves and share their voices during these challenging times.”

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