play / 2014

Arts & Fitness After School for the Health of Young Minds Bodies and Spirits

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Will & Company

@willandcompany wants to foster the health of young minds, bodies and spirits with @artsandfitness after school at Bethune Middle


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Arts & Fitness After School is a 3 hour daily program to provide middle schoolers with activities to promote lifelong healthy habits.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • South LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

We will take a revolutionary approach to after school programs by using these hours not as an adjunct of the academic day, but instead spend them fostering aspects of our children that are not addressed during the school day. Teachers are admirably squeezing in as much instruction as possible, often tethered to the approach of “teaching for testing” or bound by Common Core Curriculum. This program will focus on strengthening and aligning the mind, body, & spirit. Angeleno’s youth becomes empowered with an overall well-being that will make them better students, have more focus and become self-motivated. By including parents and family members, these values become a part of their home life, laying the groundwork for lifelong habits.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

“Electricity is really just organized lightning.” - George Carlin

This is the crux of our approach for a cohesive, coordinated, community-based after school program. In an organized collaboration to create an electric and dynamic after school program, we will harness the lightning power of established groups who are experts in each of their fields and have a track record of providing enrichment classes in LA schools.

We will implement this project in the second semester of the 2014-2015 school year. The first pod will begin on Jan 12th and the second will run till April 10th. With structured 6 week pods, we will work with students for 3 hours everyday after the bell rings. Two cohorts of 3 groups of 20 will rotate every hour, participating in each module. So while one group is in the water safety program, the second will be learning the four emotions through improv, and the third would be practicing yoga and mindfulness exercises. Another day, they would rotate between creative writing, learning the components of competitive swimming, and preparing a meal with produce from farmers markets. Several times a week, the students will also tend to the community garden.

Parent volunteers will be recruited not only to assist instructors, but to participate in the activities themselves. They will help with the garden, learn a dance routine, and become informed about water safety.

While we believe that the process is the product, that learning is a lifestyle and has no finish line, we also believe in the empowerment of students to share their experience with their local community. Parents will help host a culmination festival in the week of April 13th. Students will present work-in-progress artistic pieces, serve healthy food they have prepared, and engage in a dialogue of their experience in the program. Open to the local community, we will also live stream the event in order to share it with the global community.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

Young bodies especially need active PLAY time! A Cornell University study found that an additional 1 hour/week of PE reduces obesity probability of a fifth-grader by 4.8%. Everyday for one hour, students will either be in a water safety class, or participating in the Mustang Swim Team practice. In addition to these daily one hour sessions, they will also participate in yoga classes.

To have the energy and desire for active PLAY, children need to make better food choices. UC Davis and UC Berkeley cost-benefit analysis showed for every $1 spent on nutrition education, between $3.67-$8.34 is saved in health care costs. Nutrition education will be disseminated through improv exercises and through hands-on cooking classes.

Cooperation and conflict-resolution is essential for individuals to PLAY together. The US Departments of Education and Justice Report shows students in after school programs have fewer behavioral problems, more self-confidence and can handle conflicts better than non-involved students. Instructors will be trained in how to work cooperatively with their students, how to use positive reinforcement, and use any conflicts as teachable moments.

We see these goals as a reality for one school within the next year. By 2050, we aspire to have Arts & Fitness After School implemented county wide in Los Angeles.

Whom will your project benefit?

The neighborhood of Florence in South LA is under 3 square miles yet has a population of over 44,000, ranking among the highest density areas in LA County. The population is comprised of mostly Latinos at 70% and African-Americans at 28%. The median age is 23, the median household income is $29,447, 40% are living below the poverty line, and 60% of adults hold less than a high school diploma.

Approximately 2,500 families are headed by single parents. In an average week, the residents of Florence will experience 13 violent crimes and 23 property crimes.

Mary McLeod Bethune Middle School on West 69th Street will be the recipient school for this project. A Title 1 school, Bethune has an an enrollment of approximately 2,500 6th - 8th Grade students. In 2013 CA State Tests, 71.7% of Bethune’s students scored below proficiency in Language Arts and 72.1% below proficiency in Mathematics. According to the CA State Department of Education, Bethune’s Academic Performance Index is 1/10 with 10 being the highest.

Bethune is identified by the Community Coalition as the number one Highest Need middle school in all of LAUSD. Students in High Need schools are almost 5 times as likely to be exposed to gun violence, have 3.5 times the number of students in foster care, and nearly 4 times the number of drop-outs as compared to Low Need schools.

This program will benefit the students of Bethune Middle School, their families and their community.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

With 25 years of presenting assemblies, workshops and residencies, we will provide the performing arts module. We have confirmed the organizations and companies below as our collaborators.

The Trojan Swim Club consists of USC graduates and world class athletes from 15 different nations, representing five of the world’s continents. Their Outreach Program is aimed at empowering disadvantaged youth in the Los Angeles area and neighboring communities of USC. A benefit of this partnership is that they are already working with Bethune Middle School by reviving the Mustang Swim Team in an otherwise dormant pool facility on their campus. This will be our first time working together.

SC Fitness is a minority female owned and operated small business whose mission is to improve the life of their community through enjoyable exercise with a strong dance influence. SC Fitness was our main collaborator when creating the pilot program of Arts & Fitness After School for Elementary, and was able to underwrite the costs through a Lululemon Athletica Metta Grant. As our collaborator, SC Fitness brings a staff certified by AAFA Youth Fitness, AFTA Group Fitness and dance instructors in Zumba and Ballet.

youTHink is an innovative education program of the Zimmer Children’s Museum which uses the power of art to foster critical thinking, engage diverse learners, promote literacy and serve as a tool for social change. They provide art/education lessons in LA area public schools along with professional development opportunities for teachers. Youth Services provide meaningful art, leadership and community involvement opportunities for middle and high school youth beyond the classroom. This will be our first time working with youTHink.

Happy Healthy Yummy provides bilingual Spanish-English classes rooted in an experiential and experimental hands-on cooking and tasting process. Through continued exposure, and not force, students are introduced to new foods, see others enjoy them, and eventually make their own decision to try new things. Students cook vegetarian seasonal dishes based on available produce to promote seasonal eating. What is most beneficial to working with HHY for the first time is that these classes can be taught without the need of a traditional kitchen.

The three factors critical to our success: -Shared methodology of teaching approach
-Curriculum & lesson plans that intersperse with each module -Weekly check-ins of key leaders for each group

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs

  • Each 6 week pod will have 90 students. This project will have two pods for a total of 180 students. By 2050, we see this program to be year round at several schools for a total enrollment of 3,510 per school.

Per capita crime rates -Most violent crimes by juveniles occur between the hours of 3pm and 7pm on school days. With this program, we are creating a safe place for students to spend their after school hours, lowering the possibility of becoming a victim of crime. In the process, we are offering outlets of creativity, self-expression and physical activity for those at risk of committing juvenile crimes.

Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric) and Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric) -Intergenerational play and informal spaces for play is increased through the swimming module. By thinking outside the box and seeing the pool at Bethune as a park environment as well as an informal place for enjoyment, intergenerational play of grandparents, parents and children is possible and attainable.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will measure our success with the following goals:

  • 86% of students to pass water safety test within 6 weeks
  • 20% of students will commit to year-round Mustang swim team
  • Culmination Festival - students will present an artistic work-in-progress and cooking demonstration in an open to the community event
  • Students will create a 1 week meal plan to present to their parents

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

As a theater company with 25 years of working in Los Angeles school systems, we have learned:

There is no need to choose between a time for fun and a time to learn. We attest that not only can we experience the two at the same time, but that more learning can be absorbed when done through play. With a program entrenched in enjoyment, the mind stays open to receive information, the body is receptive to movement, and the spirit is inspired to stay strong. As actors, our job by definition is to play. We evolved a teaching technology based on acting and theater in which our core belief is that you can teach any subject through this artistic matrix. We learned how to apply theater in teaching math with a show called “Juan and Oona’s Excellent Adventures,” putting history on the forefront with “Latinos Shaping a Nation,” and providing conflict-resolution with “The Truth About Bullying.”

1 +1 = 3. On our own, we can accomplish a certain amount. What we have found is that when we join forces with other like-minded organizations, the combined outcome is symbiotic. This is evidenced by a collaborative effort we undertook with TreePeople and the Stormwater Division of LA, whereby we reached every elementary child in LAUSD - twice! This was accomplished through TreePeople’s outreach capability, Stormwater’s funds and our technology, which allowed the collective to provide an environmental education of our City Forest’s Water Cycle to 700,000 students over the course of 3 years at the cost of $1 per child.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Because two of our collaborators, The Trojan Swim Club and YouTHink, already have established relationships and an on-going programs at Bethune Middle School, we have the full support from the school principal Carlos Gonzales to begin in January of 2015, and finish by late April 2015. Principal Gonzales has given confirmation in students’ participation and use of space on campus.

We are able to activate Arts & Fitness After School almost immediately because each collaborator has their curriculum & staff ready to go.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One major challenge we foresee is student retention. We will address the commitment issue from the get-go. On the first day, we will have contracts for the students to sign in which they are bound not only by their word of honor, but also by being denied participation in the culmination event should they have more than 2 unexcused absences. By establishing this agreement, we are instilling the importance of holding themselves accountable, and understanding that their actions have an effect.

Another challenge is parent and community involvement. Because we believe it is important for the culmination event to be presented for and assisted by members of the community, we need to contact and get commitments from these individuals. We will enlist the help of the school administration to announce a call for volunteers through their standard means of communication (robocalls, letters sent home). We will also have collaborators take to their social media accounts to enlist volunteers. Throughout the course of the program, instructors will encourage students to be vocal with their parents and engage them in discussion about the activities from the program to keep them involved and aware. We also see this open discussion with parents as a way for them to realize the students’ sense of pride for the culmination and will inspire them to become an active part.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach