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"Disability Issues" Publishes "VSA MA's COOL Schools Program" by Nicole Agois Hurel

Posted Wednesday July 12 2017 at 3:08 pm.
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Student holding his clock artwork

VSA Mass. COOL Schools Director Nicole Agois Hurel recently wrote a piece for Disability Issues which discusses our Creative Outlook On Learning program.  The full article is reproduced below and you can find the full issue here.  Disability Issues is a publication of Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and archived issues going back to 2007 are available here.

Ever think about what role the arts can play in supporting learning and inclusion?  Recently, a third grader named Shantel told us all about how she experienced this while learning how to make a clock.  A teaching artist had worked alongside her teacher to help her and her classmates with and without disabilities engage with their math curriculum through the visual arts.  As she worked on measuring, estimating and calculating to build this clock with her own hands, she experienced a new sense of accomplishment, creativity and a new appreciation for how math is a part of her everyday life.

Shantel is just one of approximately 1,600 children and youth who participate in the VSA Massachusetts' COOL Schools program each year.  Essentially, COOL Schools transforms classrooms into creative spaces with increased opportunities for imagination, physical engagement, and play within in the learning process.  COOL has brought schools a Creative Outlook On Learning for over 35 years.  By supporting partnerships where teaching artists and classroom teachers teach together using the arts, COOL creates opportunities for children with a wide range of abilities to learn and thrive in school.

At the core of what we do is the belief that all children have the ability to learn when provided with flexibility and creativity in the learning process.  Because they engage all the senses and employ a variety of tools and processes, the arts give students multiple ways to learn and understand new information, to show what they know, and to care about learning.  Imagine what can happen when kindergartners are asked to show the life cycle of a butterfly by creating an original dance, or when high schoolers investigate environmental issues in their community and build a real-life "parklet" that reflects a solution to those problems, or when students with significant disabilities tell stories by creating texture books.  The possibilities for connection, expression and meaning-making are endless!

VSA Massachusetts (VSA MA) is a leader in the international VSA movement, promoting the involvement of people of all abilities in the cultural life of their communities.  Formerly Very Special Arts, VSA was founded by President Kennedy's sister, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, to honor her brother's legacy of commitment to both the arts and to people with disabilities.  For people with disabilities, the arts represent a world of resources and opportunities.  Artistic expression provides an outlet for creative voice and unlimited possibilities for personal, academic and professional success.  By engaging in the arts, people with disabilities contribute substantially to our workplaces and communities, extinguish false stereotypes, and create a global culture that truly represents all people.

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