Thursday, October 3, 2013

For New Posts Visit Our Website!

United South End Settlements has a brand new website design! One of its many integrated features is a blog, so for all future posts from the Children's Art Centre, please bookmark this page:

And visit our website for program and registration information at!

This blog will remain active so visitors can learn about the rich history of the Children's Art Centre and still have access to resources and information.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Babies Brains Benefit from Music Lessons

A recent study compared two groups of babies: 

1. Interactive child-adult music-making and learning songs with actions.

2. Passive music playing in background at various toy stations. 

Both groups started with similar communication and social development, however those who participated in the interactive music classes with adults showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye and showed earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music. This group also showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music. Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn't go their way.

Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones.

While both class types included listening to music and all the infants heard a similar amount of music at home, a big difference between the classes was the interactive exposure to music.

 ADAPTED FROM ORIGINAL SOURCE: McMaster University (2012, May 9). Babies' brains benefit from music lessons, even before they can walk and talk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from­ /releases/2012/05/120509123653.htm

How do we respond to this exciting information? 
The Children's Art Centre developed new music classes for infants & toddlers as part of our Arts in Early Learning Series!

Shake, Rattle + Roll, a creative music and movement class creates opportunities for young children to learn about and move their bodies, explore tempo, rhythm, tone, and steady beat, tell stories through song and movement, and more! The curriculum aligns with the Massachusetts Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers covering age appropriate content in areas such as Social-Emotional, Language and Communication and Cognitive Development. Songs incorporated into the classes can be found on the Music Together Family Favorites CD available for purchase at 

Children enrolled in USES' Early Childhood Education Program receive weekly in-house classes through the Children's Art Centre. Families stay up to date with information about what their children learn such as exploring musical instruments, responding to action words and increasing skills in rhythm and movement. At the beginning of summer, Children's Art Centre Coordinator Helen Schroeder attended a three day training in New York City to learn methods of Music Together, an internationally recognized music program for early childhood that helped inspire many of the activities and theories incorporated in the Shake, Rattle + Roll curriculum.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

6 Reasons that the Arts Teach 21st Century Skills

Success skills such as effective communication, accountability, finding solutions to challenges, and adaptability are just some of the areas that the current generation is lacking. The arts are an untapped opportunity to catapult 21st century students toward achieving their goals in life.

1.     The Arts Don’t Focus on Right & Wrong
The simple fact is, if we learn mainly in an environment in which we pump out answers that are either right or wrong, with no middle ground or room for creativity, we will begin to see the whole world as black and white. We will expect every problem to have a right answer. Participation in the arts opens up our mind to the possibility that the world is full of color and there is more than one way to achieve a goal. When the pressure of needing to find the right answer is removed, it becomes easier to take a risk and try – and trying is the only way to succeed.

2.     The Arts are Inherently Creative
The desire to employ creative people is not unique to Apple. The most successful companies assemble teams of people who are able to see the big picture, to make connections and to predict market trends. Even in a fiercely competitive job market, these skills will always be in demand. Unfortunately, our traditional systems of education are not designed to produce people with these skills. In arts education children are constantly being asked to try new things and think of alternatives. This kind of thinking goes a long way toward developing the essential success skill of creativity.

3.     The Emphasis on Practice
In the arts, it is understood that you will not be able to learn an instrument or be an incredible dancer over night. Developing these skills takes effort and hours and hours of practice. The arts environment encourages persistence through challenges towards mastery, a skill very much needed to thrive in the 21st century. When children participate in the arts, they will not shy away from learning things in their adult lives that are challenging, or take lots of time and effort. They would have already experienced the benefit of that level of practice through their arts training.

4.     The Focus on Feedback & Critique
Feedback is a constant part of the learning process in the arts. This helps children understand that feedback should not be taken personally, but that it is meant to challenge them to push beyond what they think they are capable of achieving. A good arts teacher’s critique is specific; it tells the student what works, what does not, and what they can do to improve. If we are used to seeing feedback as fuel for improvement, our natural reaction when receiving feedback will not be to make excuses, but to ask for more feedback about how we can improve our performance.

5.     The Moment of Success
Each discipline within the arts has its own method of performance or presentation – an art exhibit, a play, a dance show etc. This gives children a sense of accomplishment after all of their effort and practice. This acknowledgement translates into a strong boost of confidence and enhances their drive to continue learning and improving. They have experienced a moment of success and when that happens they are typically motivated to seek even more success.

 6.     The Coping Mechanisms for Handling Stress
Mental health is a growing concern in our society and often people can become overwhelmed with stress. It is important to find ways to calm ourselves during those moments. Dancing, painting or playing the piano can be a great stress reliever. These activities help us let out our frustrations, and express ourselves without needing to use words. If children develop these skills early, then as adults they will naturally gravitate toward these and will have a way to deal with stresses that come up in their lives.

The world is changing so rapidly and the rules in the job market are requiring a different set of skills in order to find success. Long gone are the days when a university degree was enough to guarantee a great career. We need to wake up to the realization that the arts have a critical role to play in the development of the skills young people need to not only survive, but to thrive in the 21st century.

 Posted by September 25, 2013 • Originally published on Americans for the Arts’ ARTSBlog.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Human Web Captures Attention

Arts in the Park, hosted by United South End Settlements' Children's Art Centre, took place on August 20, 2013, attracting hundreds of youth and families for a day of multi-cultural and hands on art activities. Among the participating partners were the Museum of Fines Arts and the Boston Center for the Arts as well as local artist Faith Johnson who implemented the Human Web Project.  

Choosing from spools of many different colors of yarn, participants weaved their threads around trees in Titus Sparrow Park. As they worked, a multi-colored web formed, mapping the collaborative movement that has taken place focusing on the interconnection between human beings.  

Faith Johnson is an internationally exhibiting artist, community arts facilitator, and art educator. She has an MFA from The Museum of Fine Arts and a Teaching Certificate from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Johnson's art practice is interactive, collaborative, and performative as is reflected in her installation, sculpture, performance, and video work. Conceptually she is interested in working with the invisible and energetic as visualized and experienced through metaphor and direct actions. Johnson explores these spaces by creating surreal and haunting human poetics through the re-contextualization of everyday objects, actions/interactions and places.

Observations form our Summer Interns

The Benefits of Mixed Age Groups in Art 
By Nadia Castagna, Lesley University  

"Seven year olds are more creative and free spirited, while  twelve year olds are under pressure and more self-conscious of themselves and their art work. Mixed age groups help older children to be more creative and relaxed and they help younger children be a little more mindful of their work and their behavior. The older children get to practice leadership skills and risk taking with a younger group that is less judgmental and critical, this will help them in their future endeavors. The older children in turn help younger children to communicate and describe ideas. All of this leads to working better in groups, which will help the children in school settings and in future work places."
The Importance of Creative Play 
By Becca Cyr, Lesley University 

"Playing is an extremely powerful force in the lives of children and is often reduced for more stress on academics and schooling.  Through play, children make sense of the world both factually and emotionally. Without it, children would not be able to explore and master their world. The frustrations of "real life" are non-existent; therefore, children have the freedom (and the safety) to try new skills.  Behaviors that are modeled by adults are reworked in play, so that children may make sense of how adults do things. Stories and narratives that are illuminated during play provide insight into how they view and relate to others. 

Creative play, fantasy and storytelling all spontaneously occur during the creation of art. Whereas play helps children express themselves in one way, creating art  is a visual projection of emotions. For this reason, it is completely necessary to focus on the process of making art, rather than the final product."   

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Partner Portraits

Marisol Escobar

The Calder Kids learned about artist Marisol Escobar (born May 22, 1930), who is a sculptor born in Paris. She often creates portraits of public figures, family members and friends in her wood block sculptures.

Students used wood pieces to assemble their own families into block-like characters.