April 13, 2021 — Today CLARA announced that its new virtual teaching artist residency program, CLARA Classroom, is being provided to all Sacramento County public schools for free through September 1. Lead funding from Sacramento Region Community Foundation and Sierra Health Foundation allowed CLARA to meet the ambitious goal of bringing CLARA Classroom to all students in Sacramento County, with additional support from California Arts Council, the City of Sacramento Creative Economy Recovery Fund, Arata Brothers Trust, the Rancho Cordova Community Enhancement Fund, and Friends of Sacramento Arts, as well as generous community members.
“After a year of distance-learning, students need arts engagement more than ever,” explains Executive Director Megan Wygant. “Research shows that participation in the arts is an essential part of social-emotional learning, and improves students’ adaptability, flexibility, and comfort with uncertainty. At a time when the mental health impacts of the pandemic are just becoming clear, increased opportunities for arts learning provides a direct response to students’ needs.”
“Access to the arts is an equity issue,” adds Education Outreach Director Emili Danz. “There’s a dramatic correlation between arts learning in the classroom and student success, and you particularly see these benefits — including increased grades and improved graduation rates — among students from low-income households. Every child deserves access to the tools that help them to thrive.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, just 35% of Sacramento County’s 250,000 students received state-mandated access to dance, music, and theatre; CLARA Classroom meets that need for all students with age-appropriate modules in dance, music, and theatre for students from T-Kindergarten through 12th grade.
Like other CLARA education programs, CLARA Classroom modules prioritize social and emotional learning; all courses include tools and resources for students to rebuild a sense of community, belonging, and togetherness that will support them as local schools begin their slow transition out of the pandemic.
Teachers are provided with study guides that allow them to integrate lesson plans into existing synchronous learning or to assign arts modules to be completed at home. Online course content is deliberately created to be active, engaging, and ultimately to send the student away from the computer screen while they experiment with and experience the art form firsthand.
While CLARA Classroom was inspired by the challenges of distance learning, it is intended to offer a long-term solution to many identified barriers to bringing performing arts instruction to arts-poor communities, including access to artists and cost. With prices starting as low as $0.99/child, CLARA Classroom is significantly more affordable than bringing a live artist to a school, while providing many of the positive student engagement benefits that make the arts an essential part of school-day learning.
CLARA Classroom was launched at schoolsites throughout Sacramento City Unified School District in the fall and spring before funding was secured to offer it county-wide, and response has been strongly positive. Roll-out of CLARA Classroom varies by school district; teachers interested in bringing CLARA Classroom to their classroom should speak to their district’s Visual and Performing Arts lead. Everyone can learn more at claraclassroomsacramento.org