WHY CONSENSES IN SCHOOLS?
Consenses Curriculum has been introduced into schools around the country (Berklee College of Music, Brimmer & May, Tabor Academy, Walnut Hill and Shady Hill School, West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard Charter, Wellesly to name a few) to boost Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and inspire empathy and perspective taking skills. She has seen amazing advancements in student’s empathy and tolerance through this work. Here’s what Students, Parents & Teachers are saying:
“I think Consenses and its presentation was very grand. To see us all working together while not knowing who you are working with or even what age, it was very grand when everything was revealed.”
5th Grade, Charles River School Student
“I think Consenses has been one of the most enlightening, eye-opening projects I have learned about in a very long time and it has truly changed the way I will perceive and understand art for the rest of my life. At first I wasn’t sure what it meant or the process behind it but as soon as you explained it I fell in love with it! I think this relates to all mediums of art, entertainment, and life. I also found it fascinating how most of the chains came full circle and every piece in some way related to the original image. I can’t say enough about the project and I’m going to keep sharing it with others who would appreciate its purpose and reason for being created. I can say this is a project I will never forget and I’m so excited that Janie is going to continue it though our semester! I hope that I can work on a project as inspiring and exciting as this during my career. Thank you so much!”
Lissette Velez-Cross, Emerson Student
“Thank you so much for sharing Consenses with us. It was wonderful to hear you speak about the project and the inspiration behind it. I appreciate and cherish more how people around me see life, and while it may be different from my own perspective, it is equally valid and genuine.”
Ray Brown, Berklee Student
“It’s been extremely inspiring, and profound to see everything from a different angle. As an artist, it’s very easy to be caught up in my own perspective, so this has been an eye opening, humbling experience.”
Arreanna, Berklee Student
“I cannot thank you enough for helping me remember that I AM an artist. I am so grateful for your time and wisdom.”
Ryan Kane, Emerson Student
“Consenses was one of the highlights of my semester. Your project is so creative and inspiring and I feel so grateful to have been able to participate in the process! It really reminded me how important it is to be open to a variety of perspectives and experiences.”
Erin Snyder, Berklee Student
“I was recently asked what my writing process used to be like compared to what it’s like now and my response was that my writing process used to be a furrowed brow and a desperate pen. Now, it’s the act of discovery as a small child on Christmas morning opening a box of ribbon. The experience of responding to an image and writing from the essence of that image has been one of the most rewarding and art changing experiences of my life. This experience brought me deeper into my current process from ‘writing,’ to asking the question: ‘What wants to be written?’ My process and my songwriting went deeper and have become more honest through this process and will echo through every piece I witness as a writer forever.”
Scarlet Keys, Berklee Professor Advanced Songwriting
To say that Consenses was life changing would not be hyperbole but rather a simple statement of fact. From the moment my colleague Janie Howland mentioned the project in a yearly review session to the moment the last bit of installation was loaded out of Wellesley College students faculty and staff were enveloped in a creative tsunami. As the Director of the Theatre Program for over two decades I can honestly say that this was one of single most satisfying exciting energizing and community building experiences we have had. From the moment the idea of bringing it to Wellesley was proposed through all the myriad details that needed to be addressed, not one single person failed to see the potential for it. It brought the community together in the planning,the execution and the experiencing of it as an entity. Students were exposed to the work of artists from around the globe, faculty were energized by the creative surge that accompanied every portion of the exhibit. And lastly, but not by any means least the community at large (on and off campus) was brought together in a time of deep divide.Consenses will be remembered and talked about here long after this academic year. To the world at large I say” I heartily endorse this for the positive and life affirming affect it has on all who see it,create and endorse it”.
Nora Hussey, Director of Theatre and Theatre Studies, Wellesley College
“OMG What a great Class!!!! Again thank you all for making this happen for our kids”
Kiely Rigali 8th grade Edg
“At the beginning of the class the students were shy, especially Bethany. Bethany was a little reticent and said she couldn’t think of a title for the fragrance she and her classmates were smelling. After we went around the room and the other students read their titles out loud and talked about what images the fragrance evoked for them, Bethany gained confidence and joined in the class discussion. She read her title for the fragrance and told the class why she selected that title. It was amazing to see her transformation. Her whole face lit up when she spoke. After that, all of the students got very excited about the next project – the interpretation of the painting – and they were talking up a storm. At the end of the lesson all of the students had an AHA moment! They all GOT IT! Especially Kalub. He was visibly awed by the knowledge that dawned on him. It was written all over his face. He said he could never go back to his old way of thinking now that his mind was opened up to seeing different perspectives.”
Susan Block, 9th grade Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Consenses Teacher
(In A Letter to the Headmaster) How are you? I’m sorry I did not get to talk with you after Sally Taylor’s presentation this morning. I had to write a quick note to say how wonderful it is to have a program like this brought to the school. I found her presentation to be very inspirational and important – not just for art and music students but also for all students – and adults. Working together, listening to other people’s perspectives, hearing what other people bring to the table, using all of our senses in interpreting the world around us, and doing so without worrying if we’re “right” or “wrong” – she is making a program that speaks to each person and to help people grow both individually and together. Personally – I left inspired for the rest of my day! And on a larger note, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this program could be brought to all of the CHS students, rather than such a small number? If there is a way to do that, it should be explored!
I look forward to talking with Alec later today about how he was affected by Sally’s presentation as well as his own experience of performing an original song before the group. Thank you for supporting this program today and I hope it leads to more!
Have a great day,
Kristen Bellotti, Coventry Public High School, RI
It was a pleasure to work with Sally on her Consenses project. She has a thoughtful approach to deepening the connections among the arts. Her curriculum is thorough and provides many access points for children of all abilities to evolve as creative beings. And the exhibition: imagine being a child whose art inspired musicians like Carly Simon and Natasha Bedingfeld, dancers, poets, photographers, painters, sculptors, perfumers, and even chefs! Sally has a keen way of bringing the best of the arts to audiences of all ages.
Laura Thompson, Curator of Kidspace at MASS MoCA
Sally, you get the golden glove for utility infielder work: an exhibition that glows from both your art and your curatorial acumen, and that so far has been enjoyed by over 28,000 patrons; but also your work in the local classrooms with another lucky 80 kids; to say nothing of the 880 kids who came to your class-time art assembly concert. That’s great, but what touched me was the single young girl who wrote a poem that you insisted on setting to music.
Joe Thompson, Director of MASSa MoCA
Social Awareness and Social Skills:
Student: I learned that everyone interprets art differently. Not just art, but also life. People have their own point of views, even if you might be seeing the same thing.
Student: I learned to look at things from different views and to listen to other people.
Student: I learned to see in different perspectives.
Teacher: Learning around social awareness happened all throughout, for various reasons with different students. For example, students tended to view one kid as a jock, but then he came up with a beautiful metaphorical way of expressing something. Then others appreciated him in a new way and realized they had pre-judged him.
Teacher: Consenses teaches “a different approach to meaning and understanding” [through art]
Teacher: “For international students, other students reflected on how different their interpretation of things was… Sharing opened up a new avenue [of expression and communication] for them, with art as the vehicle–it was pretty powerful”
Teacher: [Social awareness, self-efficacy]: The whole perspective piece is excellent. “This is my perspective, I’m going to stand by that” (self-efficacy). And, “I also appreciate your perspective, that it’s neither right nor wrong” (social awareness/empathy). I was watching the kids start to take risks, appreciate each other’s work, and come at things in an open-minded way.
Teacher: It’s the power of paint, music, etc. to transmit emotion, state change—to connect [people]
Student: I learned how everyone’s different points of view connect.
Student: My favorite part of the consensus course was seeing how they all connect in the end.
Arts educator/administrator at Mass Cultural Council: “When you start with youth voice and end with the connective tissue amongst those voices, then you’ve got something truly powerful and very much needed for young people of our time.”
Teacher: I worked with students who are from other countries and speak English as their second or even third language, and learned that they are perfectly capable of utilizing the skills taught in this curriculum as well; Thanks to the universal language of the arts!
Teacher: Not only was it a great teaching moment for curriculum building, but also teaching an art based course and helping students to move further with a project and develop their creative ideas. The whole concept of everyone’s perception was so well communicated throughout the course and was a cornerstone for so many other aspects of my teaching.
Teacher: I was able to see how a different approach to meaning and understanding can be instrumental in providing a reflective space for teens to find a little compassion for one another.
Teacher: The “essence” sheets were great. Students truly developed their ability to look at things from a different perspective. The consistency of this activity was key to its success.
Teacher: [Students] get to lean into one another and find delight in that journey together.
Teacher: Relationship skills are so much needed at my level of younger students. This course allows for working together and accepting everyone’s ideas.
Teacher: I can use this course to get students to respectfully respond to each other’s work, and also to work together.
Student: I learned how to identify how certain things make me feel.
Student: My favorite part [of the course] is getting to know my strengths and weaknesses.
Teacher: We had several students who are already very self-aware. But, in the process of creating metaphor, even those students were able to show a part of themselves they weren’t aware they could express. For example, one student had lost her mother. The “essences of your mother” exercise was poignant, a way to approach an aspect of herself that she hadn’t thought about, to realize how her experience of loss could be looked at another way.
Growth Mindset and Self-Efficacy:
Student: I got a sense of what I can do with my creativity when I put my mind to it.
Student: I learned about sculpting and learned to think outside of the box. I can do so much more than what is standard or minimum.
Teacher: In terms of growth mindset, I heard informal comments from students: “Oh, I never thought I could paint a picture, and I really liked doing that. I can do this.” It’s in the doing, in the creating, that they are able to grow. That’s one of our learning outcomes as a school. There’s often a lot of “I can’t” in art. Trying to get rid of that is important.
Teacher: The student who fears the arts benefits a lot. Because, somewhere in the mix, they’re going to find that thing they love or feel good about.
Teacher: The students’ knowledge about…themselves as a learner increased.
Teacher: A really gifted artist thought she was going to be too advanced for this course, but she did it and still benefited, working in totally new mediums.
Student: My favorite part was getting to show my talent. I don’t really get a chance to do that in school.
Teacher: A highlight for me was seeing our students be proud of themselves and who they are as learners.
Teacher: My biggest “yeah” was seeing these students that typically struggle get right to work with written tasks and volunteer to share their work; two things they usually struggle with.
Teacher: All students can be successful with this program and modifications can be made so that all students can participate.
Teacher: Art integration inspires student learning and engagement. It is very empowering for the students to be able to have the freedom to create art and to feel good about the choices they made. This program allows for acceptance and to appreciate all learners.
Teacher: This course teaches acceptance and appreciation of all artists. It creates self-confidence and inspires you to want to learn more.
Teacher: “In terms of self-management: Some kids realized they weren’t quite capturing what they had tried to, hadn’t put best work forward; and they had to work on managing their own expectations for what they were creating.”
Thinking abstractly and creatively:
Teacher: Consenses is also a tool to understand how metaphor works, how analysis works. “What flavor would this painting be if it were a flavor?” That’s a mind-blowing opportunity for kids, conceptually door-opening. Comparing an art work to another thing…develops higher order thinking skills. These competencies are the harder things to teach because they’re so intangible. And Consenses makes it fun to teach them.
Teacher: A highlight for me was seeing the students be creative and leave their comfort zone.
Teacher: It was great…. [Sally] has a great way of seeing, describing and phrasing things to get the students to explore their thoughts and creativity.
Teacher: The photography module was great—the video was great. Sally’s explanations are so accessible! The photographs we got from students were incredible.
Student: I love the poetry because it really let my creativity fly.
Student: It was the best day of my life. My favorite part was building and hands on.
Student: I had fun and that is what is important. Thank you.
Teacher: Keep going and creating curriculum!! It is wonderful, engaging, and new age for our students.
Teacher: [Consenses creates] a safe space learning environment.