Holiday Spirit

First-grade students at Los Robles Dual Immersion work on masks, a project of the Menlo Park nonprofit Art in Action.

Posted Nov. 25, 2016

Keeping art in East Palo Alto schools
Art in Action uses Holiday Fund grant to bring art to young students

Story and photos by Anna Medina

As first-graders spilled into Amy Modrich's classroom, they marveled at masks set out on desks, picking them up and eagerly asking what they were going to do in class that day. Modrich called the students to a round table, where she introduced the art lesson by pointing out where Africa was on the map.

Modrich's first-grade art class is part of Los Robles Dual Immersion Magnet Academy, one of three schools in East Palo Alto that implement Art in Action's lessons with the support of a grant through the Palo Alto Weekly's Holiday Fund.

First-grade students at Los Robles Dual Immersion work on masks, a project of the Menlo Park nonprofit Art in Action.
The Weekly, which has been supporting Art in Action's initiatives since 2004, awarded the nonprofit a $5,000 grant this past year, which went toward facilitating Art in Action's year-long lessons and curriculum at Los Robles, East Palo Alto Charter School and Costaño Elementary School. Currently, Art in Action -- a national nonprofit headquartered in Menlo Park -- is in 40 classrooms that serve around 1,300 students in East Palo Alto alone.

Modrich's is one of those classrooms. Before the students arrived, she sat at a table reviewing the Art in Action lesson for the day on her laptop. The Art in Action online platform walks teachers through lessons and includes tips for how to adapt and integrate the various lessons.

As she talked, she set out a map of the world on one table and placed decorative Haitian masks around the room. She explained that she had brought the masks herself because they went with the lesson, in which students would be making African masks. She also brought examples of African artwork she's collected from her travels. She said she was excited to see the students' reactions.

"All kids love art -- it's natural -- it doesn't matter where you come from or what your demographic is," she said.

First-grade students at Los Robles Dual Immersion work on masks, a project of the Menlo Park nonprofit Art in Action.
The lesson was grounded in more than just making masks -- it was also about exploring and understanding geography and culture in an authentic, relevant and engaging way.

"Art is everywhere," Modrich said to the class during the lesson. "There are different kinds of art because there are different kinds of people."

The idea that art is everywhere resonates with Art in Action's mission to integrate art into the classroom -- even incorporating it into science and math lessons. This past year, Art in Action participated in a study through the Department of Education at Stanford University and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, which indicated that art has a positive impact on math and reading proficiency.

"There's a connection between art in terms of critical thinking and design thinking that actually increase those proficiency levels and test scores, and that's a fact," said Ken Toren, interim executive director at Art in Action, adding that it was all the more exciting to see STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) efforts in schools.

"The notion of being visual is a critical component to education today," he said.

Art in Action's lessons are designed around themes that touch on varying aspects of art history. The group offers year-long curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade that builds on itself. As part of this subscription, Art in Action ships the lesson materials to schools and relies on volunteers and businesses to help assemble and ship the boxes.

First-grade students at Los Robles Dual Immersion work on masks, a project of the Menlo Park nonprofit Art in Action.
The group also trains teachers and parents to teach the lessons, said Mara Grimes, development manager at Art in Action. In the case of East Palo Alto schools, the nonprofit used grant money to hire a designated art coordinator, who works with the schools to teach Art in Action in the classrooms.

"What we found out is that we could give this program to schools ... and sometimes they would teach it and sometimes they wouldn't because they just didn't have the resources to make that happen," Grimes said.

"So, a few years ago we realized that what they really needed was what we call an art coordinator," she said. "That's a person who goes into the schools and teaches them how to teach it and works with their volunteers and helps organize materials and helps them set up scheduling."

As East Palo Alto's art coordinator, Victoria Lau noted that teachers have appreciated how easy Art in Action's lessons were to integrate in the classroom, especially given their alignment with the Common Core standards. On a personal note, though, she said that she appreciates the rapport that she builds with teachers and students.

"One of the things I really love about seeing it in a work capacity, but also in a personal capacity, is when kids see me on the playground (for example), they'll say 'Oh, Mrs. Lau, when are you coming to teach?'" she said.

At the end of the class, Modrich's room of first-graders were so immersed in their mask-making that they didn't want to leave their seats. Modrich assured them they would be revisiting masks and many other interesting topics throughout the year -- a comment that left the kids visibly, and audibly, excited.

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2018 Grant Recipients

10 Books A Home
Expansion of in-home tutoring and literacy program helping parents prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten through age-appropriate books and reading exercises$15,000

49ers Academy
Consolidation and relocation to a single middle school of the reading intervention and academic support program at to help prepare Ravenswood middle school students for high school $5,000

Able Works
Financial literacy education for students at Menlo-Atherton High School and East Palo Alto charter high schools and for young families$5,000

Acterra
Energy audits and solar installations aimed at reducing utility costs for low income residents of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven$5,000

Ada's Café
Training and support of developmentally disabled employees and high school interns$5,000

Adolescent Counseling Services
Outlet Program providing support services and counseling for LGBTQ+ youth $7,500

All Students Matter
Launch of new literacy intervention program focused on 3rd-5th grade students in Ravenswood school district$10,000

Art in Action
Art education program serving more than 900 students in the Ravenswood school district$5,000

Art of Yoga
Yoga, creative art and other mindfulness activities for juvenile girls in the criminal justice system$5,000

Bayshore Christian Ministries
Academic "Create" summer camp providing multiple tracks for Ravenswood district middle school students$5,000

Buena Vista Homework Club
New homework center for elementary school aged youth living at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park$10,000

CASSY
School-based mental health services to students and families in six Ravenswood elementary and middle schools$10,000

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
Legal assistance to East Palo Alto residents facing eviction and other rental housing problems and conflicts$10,000

Downtown Streets Team
Stipends for homeless volunteers who perform community services in downtown Palo Alto as they transition to regular employment$7,500

DreamCatchers
New system to document student progress and improve communication among tutors of Palo Alto middle school students$10,000

East Palo Alto Kids Foundation
Educator Micro Grants Program, providing up to $600 grants to teachers in schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park$10,000

East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring
Literacy evaluations for first through eighth graders in Ravenswood schools to determine needed interventions$7,500

Environmental Volunteers
Monthly public environmental education programs for youth and adults$5,000

Family Connections
Early childhood education program for parents of preschoolers in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.$7,500

Foundation for a College Education
College Knowledge middle and high school program designed to prepare students and their families to pursue a college education$7,500

Friends of Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo
Science Outreach Program providing hands on science instruction at Willow Oaks Elementary School$5,000

Get Involved Palo Alto
Service-learning internship placement program for high school students wanting to work with low-income youth$10,000

Health Connected
Sexual health education instruction in Ravenswood middle schools$5,000

Hidden Villa
Summer camp scholarships $5,000

JLS Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

Jordan Middle School
Jordan Academic Wellness Support (JAWS) providing after-school study center for students three days a week$4,000

Kara
Spanish language peer grief support program$7,500

Live in Peace
"Gap Year Project" to guide and support at-risk high school graduates unprepared or uncertain about careers or college$5,000

Marine Science Institute
Environmental and marine science education program for low-income students$5,000

Music in the Schools Foundation
Music education in Ravenswood school district$5,000

New Creation Home Ministries
Parenting and life skills classes for teen mothers in East Palo Alto$5,000

New Voices for Youth
Video production equipment and training for middle school students at the Boys and Girls Club in East Palo Alto$3,000

Nuestra Casa
ESL classes for East Palo Alto adults$7,500

One East Palo Alto
Summer job and mentoring program for at-risk East Palo Alto youth$5,000

Palo Alto Art Center Foundation
Cultural Kaleidoscope, an arts-education program linking Palo Alto and East Palo Alto schools and using professional artists$5,000

Palo Alto Housing
Family Reading Club for parents and youth living in subsidized rental apartments managed by Palo Alto Housing $4,000

Peninsula Bridge
After school and summer academic support programs for low income middle and high school students with a goal of attending college$5,000

Peninsula HealthCare Connection
Health care supplies and services provided at the Opportunity Center clinic$5,000

Project WeHOPE
Classes and counseling to support the homeless in East Palo Alto$15,000

Quest Learning Center
Parent education workshops for parents of 2nd to 5th graders in East Palo Alto $5,000

Ravenswood Education Foundation
Purchase of washing machines at three district schools$10,000

Rosalie Rendu Center
ESL and life skills classes for East Palo Alto adults$3,500

Silicon Valley FACES
Scholarships for East Palo Alto teens to attend Camp Everytown youth diversity training weekend$5,000

Silicon Valley Urban Debate League
Summer debate camp for at-risk students in East Palo Alto$5,000

St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club
Meals for low-income third to fifth graders attending East Palo Alto after-school program$5,000

Stanford Jazz Workshop
Pilot of new after-school jazz music program for Ravenswood school district 6th graders$2,500

Terman Middle School
Homework Habitat after-school homework and tutoring program three days a week$4,000

YMCA East Palo Alto
Summer "Full STEAM Ahead" program for high school students, combining academic curriculum with recreational outings$7,500

YMCA Ross Road
Six-week summer enrichment camp for low-income students attending Barron Park Elementary School$5,000

Youth Community Service
Support of Summer of Service day camp scholarships, service clubs at local middle and high schools, service days and life skills programs for at-risk teens$15,000

Youth Speaks Out
Expressive arts program enabling teens whose voices may not be otherwise heard to collaborate on artistic projects with each other and supportive adults.$15,000

Child Care Facility Improvement Grants

Children's Center of the Stanford Community
New classroom tables and chairs and additional trikes$5,000

Children's Pre-School Center
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Friends of Preschool Family
Replacement of climbing structure$5,000

Grace Lutheran Preschool
New cabinets and counters$5,000

The Learning Center
Installation of new Nature Explore "Outdoor Classroom"$5,000

Palo Alto Community Child Care
Upgrade of outdoor play space at Barron Park Children's Center$10,000

Palo Alto Friends Nursery School
Replacement of single-pane windows$5,000

Parents Nursery School
Repavement of parking area$5,000

Peninsula Family Service
Repairs and improvements of outdoor play area at Haven Child Development Center$5,000

As of Dec. 12, 2018,
197 donors have contributed $198,275.
* indicates amount withheld

David Labaree300
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Debby Roth200
Phil Hanawalt & Garciela Spivak"1,000
Lani Freeman & Stephen Monismith100
Tom & Ellen Ehrlich350
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Kroymann Family250
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Ralph R. Wheeler300
Bert Fingerhut & Caroline Hicks250
Kaaren & John Antoun1,500
Richard Johnsson"7,000
Bruce Gee & Jane Gee250
Eric Hahn & Elaine Hahn"1,000
Bob & Dee Crawford*
Diane & Bob Simoni200
Jan Thomson & Roy Levin*
Donald & Adele Langendorf200
Irvin & Marilyn Yalom100
Brigid Barton500
Jerry & Bobbie Wagger*
John & Florine Galen*
H. Anton & Carolyn Tucher250
Phil Fernandez & Daniel Sternbergh*
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John Pavkovich500
Eileen Stolee100
Sallie Whaley*
Ann Burrell & Allen Smith*
Patti Yanklowitz150
Linda Selden*
Dena Hill500
Michael Patrick200
Bonnie Packer100
Romola Georgia*
Martha Shirk500
Christina Kenrick"1,000
Dawes Family250
Ken Bencala & Sally O'Neil200
Nina & Norman Kulgein*
Tom & Nancy Fiene*
Lee Zulman*
Merrill & Lee Newman250
Judy & Lee Shulman200
Donna & Jerry Silverberg100
Victor Befera100
Kay & Don Remsen*
Beth & Peter Rosenthal300
Robyn H. Crumly*
Charles & Barbara Stevens*
Amado Padilla & Deborah Farrington500
Jerry & Linda Elkind500
Donald & Virginia Fitton25
Don & Bonnie Miller100
Roger V. Smith300
In Memory Of

Er-Ying & Yen-Chen Yen250
Janet Hermsen200
Ray Bacchetti250
Nancy & Bob Lobdell*
Ruth & Chet Johnson*
Tracy & Alan Herrick100
Bob Fenster*
David, Zoe & Ken100
Mrs. Nancy Yih*
Thomas W. & Louise L. Phinney*
Leo & Sylvia Breidenbach*
Corrine Aulgur*
Duncan Matteson250
Pam Grady300
Elliot Eisner*
Nate Rosenberg200
Francine Mendlin250
Bob Donald*
Bill Land*
Emmett Lorey*
Ted Linden200
Marie & Don Snow150
Ben Barres100
Kathleen Morris*
Our Loving Parents Albert & Beverly Pellizzari*
August L. King*
In Honor Of

Melissa Baten Caswell*
Lucy Berman's clients"2,500
Jill200
Scott200
Polly200
Hayley200
Jake200
Garrett200
Gil200
Joe Simitian*
Businesses/Organizations

Alta Mesa Cemetery & Funeral Home2,000
Bleibler Properties1,000
Communications & Power Industries500
deLemos Properties200

Apply for a Holiday Fund Grant

Nonprofits serving children and families may apply for funds by downloading our Grant Application Guidelines and Grant Application Form. Application deadline: 11:59 p.m. on January 4, 2019.