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The makeSPACE blog

Reinvigorating the Desire to Teach Through Creative Engagement in Education

Moving makeSPACE Forward

What are we celebrating?

More than 200 of Oregon’s rural K-12 educators have expanded their creative capacity, individually and professionally, during the makeSPACE project. 

MakeSPACE began in 2018 when the US Department of Education awarded project partners, Creative Engagement Lab and Inflexion, an Assistance in Arts Education grant of $2.5 million to develop a hybrid professional development system (online and in-person) for rural educators in arts-integrated instructional strategies. Creativity continues to be touted as one of the top 5 desired skills from 21st century employers. The makeSPACE project aims to meet that demand by delivering research-based approaches to creative teaching and learning across content areas and grade levels.

The quality of the online experience makes this program unique. The training material is highly experiential, includes a dynamic online interface, and uses cutting edge instructional design to engage teachers in the creative strategies they will use with their students. The program has developed into an online innovation hub with teachers from across the state publishing their own action research studies and results on how creative engagement affects student learning and transforms their teaching. Growing teacher agency in facilitation of creative engagement in the classroom has been a primary goal of the project. Teachers are innovators, and when supported, can completely shift their practice to align with their intentions. As one Klamath County high school teacher stated “…makeSPACE has shown me a practical, real-world approach to putting my educational philosophies to practice in the classroom in a way that significantly benefits students.”

Research from the makeSPACE project has yielded promising results. Prior to the pandemic, teachers demonstrated large gains in their skills and self-perceptions related to integrating the arts. During the pandemic, research showed a new cohort of teachers demonstrated the same progress but also experienced a substantial increase in their joy and resilience in the classroom as well as a decrease in their stress. These results are impressive given research showing high rates of stress and depression experienced by teachers during the pandemic at two to three times the average of other U.S. professionals. Some teachers suggested the experience was a pivotal reason they didn’t leave the profession.

Now, with the first federal grant entering its final year, Creative Engagement Lab and the makeSPACE program have teamed up with Children First PA and the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to broaden the reach of this innovative professional development system. This new initiative will expand creative learning opportunities for students and support ongoing research to evaluate the approach at a larger scale and understand how best to cultivate creative schools for students and teachers. Funded by a competitive $4 million dollar U.S. Department of Education grant in the Education Innovation and Research program, makeSPACE for Agency and Readiness will reach Philadelphia middle school students and work to build on the existing commitments the district has made to provide access to quality arts-integrated instruction.

Over the next 5 years, 240 7th and 8th grade SDP teachers will engage in makeSPACE online and in-person trainings and bring research-driven, drama-based strategies to more than 3,500 students. This new extension of makeSPACE will study the effects that arts integration has on students as they transition into high schools across the district when common creative strategies become adopted practice across whole-grade teams.

The future work with Philadelphia teachers and students and continued work with Oregon teachers sets the foundation for makeSPACE to become a networked professional learning community, accessible to teachers all over the country. If successful, this program can grow into a teacher-centered space for creative innovation in education centered on engaging students through the arts.

We would like to give a special thanks to project partners for unique and important contributions, including Inflexion, the University of Oregon, Dane Ramshaw, Drexel University, Trifoia, and Jordan Bentz.

Read More from the makeSPACE Team

Creative Routines: a Primer

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.

A Second Post on Reflection

Arts integrated reflection is a core practice in makeSPACE. Check out this blog post for examples of how regular engagement in reflection helps students own their learning and grow their creative resources.

How Are You Creative?

Societally, we have come to believe that only some people are capable of creativity. From this vantage, you’re either born with creative traits and talents or not. But are things a bit more nuanced? Let’s explore this idea further!

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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.