Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Building Strong Connections: An Interview with Lynn Johnson - Part 1

by Sam Piha

Lynn Johnson
Lynn Johnson is a Bay Area entrepreneur and theater artist dedicated to building strong connections with creative & compassionate people to bring about positive social change. She is the Co-Founder & CEO of Glitter & Razz Productions. Lynn took some time between theater productions, to answer our questions. Lynn''s full bio is at the end of Part 2 of this conversation. 



Q: Can you offer us a brief description of Glitter & Razz, the organization that you co-founded?
A: Glitter & Razz Productions is a company that supports the social/emotional learning of kids and their families through theater and expressive arts-based programs and creative products.  In addition to leading school-break camps, afterschool classes, parties & events for girls and boys ages 4-11, we also design, create and deliver learning products and processes for parents, families, educators, and youth work professionals related to bringing more empathy, creativity, compassion, and connection to the places and spaces where kids live, work and play. Glitter & Razz also has a dynamic Youth Intern program where we work with young people ages 13-18 as stipend-based volunteers and paid employees who work alongside and learn from professional teaching artists supporting younger children.

Q: You are currently doing programs within the school day at Glenview school in Oakland. Can you describe the goals of this program and the strategies you are employing? 
A: We are currently in a multi-year partnership with Glenview Elementary School to implement and integrate our Go Girls! Theater Project into their school.  Based on our Make a Play Change the World Methodology, Go Girls! Theater Project is a program for elementary school-age girls that accesses theater and expressive arts to teach and reinforce key social/emotional challenges unique to the girl experience.  

Glitter & Razz has developed this program over the last 5 years from a strong background in arts education, youth development, drama and expressive arts therapies.  Up until this point, the program has been successfully implemented exclusively in out-of-school time settings (summer camp and afterschool) and has been specifically redesigned for this partnership as a whole-school intervention.
In its first year, the Glenview Go Girls! Project is focused on all girl students from grades K-5.  This choice was made due to the fact that Glenview’s data revealed that most of the challenging social/emotional issues were stemming from girl/girl friendships as well as girls lack of tools in navigating the pressures of girl/boy social dynamics.   Year 1 of Go Girls! is made up of in-school elective classes, afterschool classes, day-long retreats for girls to acquire and practice the necessary skills to address these issues.  Year 2 will begin to integrate boys into the programming.  

The Go Girls! Project expands even further as it includes professional development for staff in the form of classroom observations, coaching, and instructional tools for teachers as well as a 12-session parent education that bridges the art and science of raising girls today.  Systems are currently in place to measure the effectiveness of the program through pre and post-test assessments of the girls and their parents.  We plan to measure the changes in attitude and behavior as a result of participation in Go Girls!

The visual and performing arts skills that are taught in Go Girls! are specifically designed  to promote active listening, public speaking, literacy, empathy, reflecting on work, giving and receiving feedback, facing fears and overcoming challenges.  In addition to these process-based skills, the girls also learn key social/emotional skills through the content of the art itself.  Each session of Go Girls! is centered around a particular theme related to forming pro-social, peaceful, self-actualized ideas and action.  The major themes in this project are:
  • Facing and standing up to bullying and relational aggression
  • Overcoming perfectionism and feeling comfortable making mistakes and taking risks
  • Learning what it means to make and be a good friend

Q: Would you reflect on the Learning in Afterschool & Summer learning principles?

A: At Glitter & Razz, we are completely aligned with the 5 Learning Principles as defined by the Learning in Afterschool & Summer project.  I have been a teaching artist and youth worker leading arts-based experiences with children and youth for 20 years and I am passionate about the opportunity for kids to learn in creative and engaging ways during out-of-school time.  What I admire so much about the LIAS principles is that they simply breakdown the essential elements common to all high-quality out-of-school time learning experiences – it doesn’t matter the content.  So, although my programs are centered in the arts, I feel like our main responsibility is to provide an active learning environment that honors the diversity of learning styles and to help build the essential skills that young people need to create success in their own lives and contribute to something bigger than themselves.  The 5 principles very effectively express this idea and put us in the same boat as every other out-of-school time program focused on quality learning – from science to cooking to sports to leadership. As a result the LIAS principles help to create a common vocabulary amongst providers and ultimately strengthen the field.  

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