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The Art of Teaching the Arts: A Workshop for High School Teachers

Making the Most of Community Resources

Arts teachers develop relationships with community members and organizations by bringing artists into the classroom, taking students beyond school walls, and asking students to draw inspiration from the voices of their community. In this session, participants see a guest choreographer who challenges the students with her working style and expectations. A visiting theatre artist helps playwriting students develop monologues based on interviews with people in the neighborhood. A visual art teacher and her students work with community members to create a sculpture garden in an empty courtyard at their school, drawing inspiration from a nearby sculpture park. A band teacher invites alumni and local professional musicians to sit in with her classes, giving students strong musical role models.

In This Program


A visiting theatre artist helps playwriting students develop monologues based on interviews with people in the neighborhood.


A band teacher invites alumni and local professional musicians to sit in with her classes, giving students strong musical role models.



A guest choreographer challenges students with her working style and expectations.

Visual Art

A visual art teacher collaborates with the curator of a sculpture park to help students design their own sculpture garden.


Learning Goals

The goals of this workshop session are for you to:

  • Identify the barriers, benefits, and risks of working with community partners
  • Identify areas of your curriculum that might be enhanced by working with a guest artist
  • Identify local organizations that can help your students extend their learning beyond the walls of the school

Almost every community has local artists and cultural institutions. Successful arts teachers find many ways to work with these resources. They take students on field trips, invite artists into the school, and ask students to draw inspiration from the voices of their community.

Connections with community resources give students:

  • New ideas and challenges
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • Ideas for career choices

Getting Ready

(15 minutes)

This program shows arts teachers putting their students in regular, ongoing interaction with guest artists and local cultural organizations over an extended period of time. These are true collaborations for the teachers, the community partners, and the students. They can be challenging to arrange. This kind of learning has many benefits, as well as some risks.

Divide into three groups, and brainstorm barriers, risks, and benefits of collaboration.

Group One:  List reasons why teachers might not typically work with guest/resident artists, or community organizations.

Group Two:  List benefits that might follow from working with guest/resident artists or community organizations, and attending cultural events.

Group Three:  List risks that might be entailed in working with guest/resident artists or community organizations, and attending cultural events.

Revisit these lists after watching the program.

Watching the Program

The information sheets below provide helpful background on the classrooms, programs, and schools featured in each segment:
Segment 1: Dance (PDF)
Segment 2: Theatre (PDF)
Segment 3: Visual Art (PDF)
Segment 4: Music (PDF)

Consider the following questions as you watch the program. You may stop the video after each segment to discuss the questions with your colleagues.

DANCE Michael O’Banion and Hannah Kahn Guest Choreographer

  • How did Hannah Kahn contribute to the students’ artistic development?
  • What opportunities do you provide for students to work with professional artists?

THEATRE Stephen DiMenna and Clare Bauman Community Voices

  • How were students affected by the artists and community members involved in this project?
  • What resources can you find in your community to give your students fresh ideas?

VISUAL ART Jan Wilson and Brooke Barrie Sculpture Garden

  • How did Jan involve community members in the sculpture garden project?
  • How do you acquaint students with career opportunities in the arts?

MUSIC Carmen Laboy Alumni and Professional Musicians

  • How does Carmen share her life as a professional musician with her students?
  • How do you take advantage of community resources to inspire and motivate your students?

Activities and Discussion

(45 minutes)

Part I. Risks and Benefits of Community Collaboration, Revisited
(20 minutes)

Revisit the lists of barriers, benefits, and risks you generated while Getting Ready to watch the program. Discuss these questions:

  • What evidence of the things on your lists did you see in the program?
    Is there anything that can be crossed off or added to your lists after seeing the program?
  • What new ideas for community partnerships did the program generate for you?
  • Planning and time are often seen as obstacles to utilizing community resources. How can planning reduce the risks and obstacles and increase the benefits for teachers, students, and community members? How can time be used wisely so that everyone has a positive experience? As a group, share examples from your own experiences.

Part II. Extending The Learning Community (25 minutes)

Michael O’Banion, the dance teacher at the Denver School of the Arts, described his philosophy of community involvement as a series of concentric circles with the students at the center, and then expanding to include teachers, guest artists, parents, and the community at large.

What educational opportunities are there for you and your students to go out into the community, and when do community members come into the school?

Using the chart below, identify two opportunities for curricular extensions — one you have experience with and would like to share with others; and one you have not experienced but would like to. This chart is organized by the stages of the artistic process: creating, performing, and responding.

As a group, share the opportunities you have identified. Be sure to recommend local resources — both people and organizations — you know about. Take notes on some of the following that your colleagues recommend:

  • Guest artists
  • Residencies
  • Internships
  • Museums Theatre companies
  • Dance companies
  • Bands and orchestras

If you can, share specific collaboration experiences that were successful. Describe and/or take notes on:

  • Learning goals for students
  • Skills that students needed to be taught
  • Planning and preparation that had to be done
  • Relationships that had to be cultivated
  • Outcomes that were important
  • Ways of sharing work/presenting to school or outside community


(On your own)

In your journal, reflect on the artistic outlets you have outside of teaching.  Describe a cultural event or artistic collaboration you recently took part in that was especially meaningful to you.

Additional Resources

On the Web


Career Center
Search for: Arts
Useful resources for steering students toward careers, internships, employment, and graduate school provided by the University of California, Berkeley

Entrepreneurship Center for Music
A unique program for aspiring professional musicians that provides additional training in communication, business, and technical skills

Sarah Jones, writer and performer of Bridge & Tunnel
Sarah Jones’s official Web site

Theatre Development Fund
Select: Open Doors
Information about Theatre Development Fund’s mentoring program for high school students


Denver School of the Arts — Dance Major
Select: Majors, then Performing Arts Department
Web page for the dance program that Michael O’Banion chairs

Hannah Kahn
Web site for Hannah Kahn Dance Company, including information on outreach to schools

Nottingham High School
Web site for visual art teacher Jan Wilson’s school

High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
Web site for the school where Stephen DiMenna works with Clare Bauman and her class on playwriting

Stephen DiMenna
Stephen DiMenna’s Web site, including information about his directing and teaching

Watch Our School Sculpture Garden Grow
Select: Education, then Watch Our Sculpture Garden Grow
Includes the “How to Create a School Sculpture Garden” Manual by Jan Wilson

Christopher Columbus High School
Web site for band teacher Carmen Laboy’s school

In Print

Jackman, Ian. The Artist’s Mentor: Inspiration from the World’s Most Creative Minds. Random House Reference, 2004. ISBN 0375720634

Interviews and autobiographical writings of more than 100 famous painters, photographers, sculptors, and film and video artists

JIST Publishing (editors). Creating Your High School Portfolio: An Interactive Guide for Documenting and Planning Your Education Career and Life, 2nd edition. JIST Works, 2003. ISBN 1563709066

Worksheets and activities take students through self-assessment, education and career planning, and portfolio development, including electronic portfolios

Sweitzer, H. Frederick, & King, Mary A. The Successful Internship: Transformation and Empowerment in Experiential Learning, 2nd edition. Wadsworth Publishing, 2003. ISBN: 0534558798

A book addressing the concerns, emotions, needs, and unique personal challenges that are the essence of an internship or field experience

Zachary, Lois J. The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. Jossey-Bass, 2000. ISBN: 0787947423

Explores the critical process of mentoring and presents practical tools for facilitating the experience from beginning to end


Produced by Lavine Production Group, Inc., in collaboration with EDC's Center for Children and Technology and the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts. 2005.
  • Closed Captioning
  • ISBN: 1-57680-769-X