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The makeSPACE Blog


Meet Denise

Committed to bringing out the best in all of her students, Denise uses both personal experience and accumulated knowledge to bring her classes to life.

Denise Velasco teaches typical middle school courses at Network Charter School, like math and health, as well as more unusual courses, such as a course on zombies. Denise is committed to bringing out the best in students.

Regardless of their perspectives, when students come into one of her classes, they all come out with a different perspective on life. Denise shares her past experiences to highlight what she teaches in each class.

Denise felt intimidated by art and creativity before she began arts integration training in the ArtCore project. During the ArtCore project, Denise took huge steps outside her comfort zone to reach her students in new ways. She modeled risk-taking as a priority in her teaching. She sought to establish conditions for creative engagement for all her students, especially those who felt unsure about engaging in creative risks. She engaged integration strategies with theater, music and visual arts. She brought the Math Anxiety Monster project to her students and learned a great deal about how to shape a classroom environment that was supportive to all her students and conducive to powerful learning (you can learn more about that work here).

Since that experience, Denise has continued to refine her approach using past integrated lessons and projects, taking risks with new ideas, and growing as an artist of pedagogy.

Denise sets conditions for creative engagement by:
• Using reflection on social and emotional experiences in learning (math anxiety)
• Emphasizing the process in creative engagement and learning
• Modeling how to take risks in learning
• Discovering new possibilities from mistakes
• Creating shared vulnerability through group discussion

Key Creative Resources:
• Growth mindset and risk-taking
• Adaptive to changing circumstances
• Open-minded to new experiences
• Integrative thinker
• Humorous

Read More from the makeSPACE Team

Creative Routines

Creative routines help us establish the conditions for how we engage in mental challenges. To shape a creative classroom environment, they provide an accessible entry point… and endless possibilities. They can even help us find new pathways to creativity for teachers and their students.

A Time to Rekindle Joy

In the following video, founding MakeSPACE member Ross Anderson breaks down the importance of joyful experiences both in the classroom—and beyond. Recorded at the 2020 makeSPACE Winter Institute. How can you bring joy into your classroom?

Making Space for Racial Justice

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi recently said the racism we have all experienced and unconsciously internalized is like being rained on (with racist ideas around us) without ever knowing we were wet. When someone tells us that an idea or statement is racist, it’s like someone offering an umbrella and telling us we are wet, as we stand unaware of being soaked by the rain. 


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We want young people and their teachers to be fulfilled, to feel agency, and to shape their own lives and the world around them. We want them to thrive within the possible - as the world offers them moment after moment of uncertainty.