New media arts curriculum to build pipeline to creative careers
(Calif.) With media arts now a staple in California’s new art education standards, a Los Angeles-based non-profit is developing a media arts curriculum to be piloted in five schools serving about 9,000 students in South L.A.
The curriculum development–as well as the ensuing teacher training–is being funded by a near-$2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
LA Promise Fund, recipient of the grant and curriculum developers, is aiming to have 360 teachers trained to teach to the curriculum by the end of the 2022 academic year.
Alex Karas, director of arts programs for the LA Promise Fund, said the funding will first go toward writing of new curriculum, which integrates media arts into English language arts and mathematics.
“We partnered with Hollywood providers to make sure students are exposed to real-world scenarios and are able to use real-word tools and discover how media arts is actually used in the professional world,” Karas said in an interview. “So, for instance, we’ve partnered with Paramount Animation to integrate animation practices into the curriculum so kids can learn about character development, the marketing of films, and the animation process as it relates to the professional world in their backyard.”
Participation in arts education has long been shown to improve soft skills as well as social-emotional and academic outcomes. Students exposed to various art programs tend to demonstrate higher levels of self-confidence, imagination, cooperation, communication skills, memory, empathy and tolerance.
Media arts in particular has received more attention in recent years, as well as support from policymakers–partially because of the benefits of arts education as highlighted in numerous studies, but also largely because of the need for trained workers to bolster California’s “creative economy.”
Creative industries include careers at the forefront and behind the scenes of music, film and television, art and design, photography, theater, writing, broadcast and an ever-growing number of other fields.
Unsurprisingly, California especially has a significant need for those trained to work in such fields.
Karas said part of this organization’s mission is to promote education equity in L.A. County. He also noted that implementing this type of curriculum in often underserved schools will help prepare students who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity for local, in-demand careers.
“In Los Angeles, one in every seven jobs is in the creative economy, and of those jobs, two of every three are in media and entertainment,” he said. “We see this as a way of developing a pipeline of kids who are trained and acclimated to this world, and exposed to these careers that they otherwise–even though these jobs are virtually in their backyard–probably don’t know even exist.”
The curriculum currently under development will cover grades 6 through 12, and will be integrated into ELA and math courses. Again using animation as an example, Karas said students may learn ratios in math as they relate to how characters are drawn.
The organization’s media arts curriculum may ultimately benefit students statewide. The California State Board of Education recently adopted new arts education standards that not only revised visual and performing arts standards, but also added media arts as a fifth discipline.
Of the 22 recipients of last year’s federal arts education development and dissemination grants, Karas said the LA Promise Fund was the one that specifically focused on media arts.
“We understand that media arts is a newer field with new academic standards, but not a lot of curricular support, so we see this as an opportunity to set the stage,” Karas said.
To better implement the new curriculum over period of four years, a cohort of 24 math and ELA teachers across grades 6 through 12 will receive intensive professional development and coaching support, reaching 600 students each year. An additional 360 South L.A. teachers will be trained by the original cohort teachers, reaching an additional 9,000 students.