Arts education inspires creativity and innovation in every student who learns through the arts. Here are just a few highlights from the recent impact of Burbank Arts for All Foundation’s investments in the arts for the students, teachers and administration in BUSD!

For more stories about our impact, please click here!

Enjoy these highlights!

Bret Harte Elementary School | Funded Spring 2016

“Teaching dance as part of the well-rounded arts curriculum is a joy and a challenge. Students come to school with young bodies that already have lost flexibility. Futhermore, as they attempt to learn to shape movement with precision, they cannot compare the look of their own positions with that of the instructor.” With help from funding from the Foundation, Bret Harte was able to remedy this issue by investing in dance barres and mirrors to incorporate into their students’ physical education instruction. Students learned how to prepare their bodies for dance and simple choreography.

The dance barres and mirrors not only provided students with physical benefits that helped to improve their dance knowledge and skills, but teachers were also able to use the equipment to introduce new vocabulary and spelling words to their classes, discuss safety and proper care of such equipment, and even add in a little geography by showing where words such as “barre” originated from on a world map! One teachers provided professional development to her colleagues by providing training sessions to teach them how to use the barres with their students and “to learn to use stretching and dance to de-stress, relax, improve flexibility, and practice basic ballet moves and positions.”

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“All of the students loved the percussive, melodic, and sometimes dramatic art of tap dancing. However, one student in particular benefited from the tapping from the Harte program in a special way. At first, Jayden resisted tap dance. He was unsure of this new rhythm. But after a few weeks, after he performed some toe tapping, shuffling, and hopping warm-ups at the dance barre, he gazed in the mirror at a dancer. As he stood center stage, he noticed that his mind had adopted the steps, the beat, the rhythm, the percussion, and the marvelous musicality of tap! He looked great! What a confidence builder this art form is for Jayden and many others.”
-Jennifer Niwa, 2nd Grade Teacher, and Martha Walter, Principal

John Burroughs High School | Funded Spring 2015

In order to incorporate storytelling and theatre techniques into the John Burroughs High School American Sign Language (ASL) class, teacher Thalia Rincon partnered with Deaf West Theater to bring in guest artists to work with the students. The guest artists –both Deaf actors – provided students with techniques and tools to help them in their performances, “focusing on key concepts such as role shifting, facial expressions and using the appropriate signing space when presenting in front of an audience.” The ASL students each created an original ABC Story, which is a storytelling method in Deaf culture that uses the handshapes for each letter of the alphabet to create a story. They then presented their stories to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) students at John Muir Middle School. According to Ms. Rincon, “The outcome exceeded my expectations. The most successful part of this project was definitely seeing the JBHS students authentically interacting with the students at John Muir Middle School. Seeing their confidence using ASL boost as they told their stories was rewarding not only for them, but myself as their teacher.”

Sidney G. Letter

“In my classroom, I express the importance of interacting with the local Burbank Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) community. After having this opportunity, so many students expressed their gratitude and saw the benefits of being involved with the Deaf community as ASL students. Students were able to see, first-hand, what a DHH classroom looks like and how native ASL users interact. One student even expressed, ‘This was the most rewarding experience I’ve had in high school!’ after presenting her story and interacting with the students at John Muir Middle School.”
-Thalia Rincon, ASL Teacher

David Starr Jordan Middle School | Funded Spring 2015

Using the work of Leonardo da Vinci as inspiration, students in Danielle Fox’s 6th grade math classes at Jordan Middle School used what they had learned about the scientific method and applied it to building and modifying different machines like land yachts, boats, and gliders with materials such as wooden dowels, Styrofoam, and sandpaper. Math and science concepts were integrated into the creation and artistry of their machines, including: angles, lines, shapes, friction, velocity, mass, drag, and buoyancy. According to Ms. Fox, students were challenged to “use their prior knowledge and make adjustments to their design as the project progressed. Some students who do not necessarily achieve academic success on a regular basis really excelled as leaders and engineers. It was wonderful to watch their creative minds in action!”

Teacher Quote

Bret Harte Elementary School | Funded Fall 2016

In order to make math more accessible and engaging for her students, 4th Grade Bret Harte Teacher, Alicia Boylan, incorporated creativity into her lessons. Each student was provided with a sketchbook “to teach students to perform creatively and to see math as a beautiful and creative place, rather than a performance subject.” Through this project, students were able to identify the connections between math and art, learning that math is all around them.

According to Ms. Boylan, the most successful part of the project was, “the excitement on [the students’] faces when it was sketch time. How excited the kids were to share their ideas and their creations and how it made them less daunted by math made me happy I did this. The children truly felt proud of their work and when they had difficulty with being a perfectionist, they found that the mishaps in their sketching created unique art work. I loved seeing them carry their sketchbooks to and from each day and how they used it for all ideas, not just sketching.”


“On behalf of my students, the parents, and my school, I want to thank the Burbank Arts for All Foundation for the generous contribution this year. I was so tired of seeing students fear math, yet love art, and I wanted them to see that the two are intertwined. Once my students began learning this, I saw instant interest in mathematical concepts. Teaching them that they can learn new and challenging concepts, and that they can do this through art, was mind-blowing to my students…This is a project I hope to continue and has opened the eyes to other teachers about how they can incorporate this in their own classroom, which has begun a conversation about how to incorporate this into the school.”
-Alicia Boylan, 4th Grade Bret Harte Teacher

Burbank High School | Funded Spring 2016

In 2012, the Burbank High School Instrumental Music department applied for a Foundation grant to fund a computer and software for the sole purpose of allowing AP Music Theory students to strengthen knowledge and skills, by helping them to identify music by ear, transcribe it, write it out, compose their own music, and use the technology to notate music efficiently. With increased enrollment in the Instrumental Music classes over the years, one computer station was not enough to accommodate all of the students who wanted to use the equipment to enhance their learning. In 2016, BHS applied for another Foundation grant to fund a second computer station, giving not only the AP Music Theory students greater access, but also letting Band, Orchestra, and Jazz students use the computer station to reinforce the fundamentals they have learned in class.



Luther Burbank Middle School | Funded Fall 2016

In order to provide her students with a deeper knowledge of poetry, Luther English Teacher, Amy Clarke, incorporated an artistic element into her class’ poetry unit. Students not only learned about writing different styles of poetry, but also “created original works of art that included canvas painting and self-portraits with chalk pastels” and were each given the opportunity to create their own published poetry books using “online software to design books while learning necessary [publishing] elements (copyright, dedication, etc).” The project culminated in a Book Reveal Event, where the students, their families, District personnel, and community members were invited to see the students’ work and hear some of the students read their poems aloud.

“First, I (along with parents and colleagues) noticed that because of this program, students became more confident with their writing abilities and more comfortable expressing themselves. Second, a specific student shared with me how being able to do this project and write about his feelings kept him wanting to come to school and also contributed to some healing over certain traumatic situations taking place in his life. Finally, as their classroom teacher, it was clear how much they enjoyed having autonomy and control over creative decisions in their work, which I feel contributed to a better product from each of them. They felt acknowledged, worthy, proud, and confident as a result of this project.”
-Amy Clarke, 7th Grade English Teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School


Sonya D Letter to use

John Muir Middle School | Funded Spring 2017

Due to there not being enough  instruments to accommodate the number of students enrolled in instrumental music classes, students often have to share instruments. This results in students being unable to take instruments home to practice, thus preventing them from improving their skills as steadily as they would if they had regular access. This was the case for the John Muir Middle School tuba students. However, thanks to funding from the Foundation and from the Muir Instrumental Music Association Booster Club, the Muir Band was able to purchase additional tubas, thus allowing all of the tuba players to have their own instrument to use. This resulted in not only the tuba players growing their playing skills, but also allowed the band as a whole to play better.

Student with Tuba

“Now we have enough working tubas for all of our tuba players to use so they do not need to share anymore. This has made the tuba players much happier in class. The students are happy and excited to be able to play a new instrument that has better sound quality. This has increased student practicing which in turn has increased sound quality and strengthened the musicality of the performing groups. Grants given through the generosity of organizations like the Burbank Arts for All Foundation are extremely important to help keep our music program thriving and we are grateful for your help.”
-Suzanne Snell, John Muir Middle School  Instrumental Music Director

John Muir Middle School | Funded Fall 2016

For students in Academic Intervention courses, electives are not a possibility – including electives in the arts. To expose her students to an arts education, John Muir Middle School Math teacher, Julie Van Lohn, applied for a Foundation grant to purchase artist-grade materials to use in a professional drawing series in her Math Intervention class. With these materials, her students were given in-class drawing lessons, where they did exercises on line and shading, learned about abstract drawing, self-reflection, and other drawing styles and techniques. Students grew in their drawing skills and grew confident in their abilities. According to Ms. Van Lohn, “at the end of the project, students were surprised and impressed with their skills. Most students didn’t recognize their own work because it was so well done.”

“From an emotional standpoint, I feel this project also brought me closer to my at risk students and also helped build trust within the classroom. It showed them that I really care about them because this is something extra that I invested in them. It also brought the class closer because they felt like they were allowed to feel deficient in artistic ability and be vulnerable in front of each other. This made my students less afraid to ask me ‘dumb’ math questions. For example, an eighth grade student found the courage to ask me how to round to the nearest tenth, which is a third grade math standard. In a less trusting environment, this student would just stay quiet.”
-Julie Van Lohn, Math Teacher at John Muir Middle School

Cesar H Thank You Card

Bret Harte Elementary School | Funded Spring 2016

As there are no discrete Visual Arts classes offered at the elementary level, 5th Grade Bret Harte teacher, Mary Edmundson, strives to infuse art into her class’ weekly lessons. In order to offer the students a more engaging arts experience, Ms. Edmundson requested funds from the Foundation to purchase specific art supplies that the school site is unable to provide a budget for, such as oil pastels, graphite, watercolors, watercolor paper, and special crayons.

Initially, Ms. Edmundson planned to only provide art lessons to her class; however, the entire 5th grade teaching team decided to develop four Arts Rotation Days, impacting all 122 5th grade students at Bret Harte. During these sessions, students rotated to a different teacher for a 1.5 hour lesson on different topics: theatre games & activities, tessellations, mandalas, and Cubist compositions. By the end of the project, each students had experienced all four lessons. In addition, Ms. Edmundson was also able to give her own class extra time to work on their projects, allowing them to be able “to re-do, slow down, try again, play with ideas, or make [another project].”


“Eliza, a student who is always sneaking in time to draw in between assignments and produces paper after paper of work, has taken this project further by using the technique of blending the oil pastel material to create a gradation of color. She took a lot of time to finish and appeared to have great pride in her work. Near the end of the project, she spontaneously shared with the class that she used to not think she was a good artist, but after practicing a lot she is so proud of how she has improved. She encouraged anyone who doesn’t believe in his or her artwork to practice! She is normally a quiet and reserved student, but this project brought out a leadership quality in her. This story warms my heart as an example of the transformative power of Visual Art.”
-Mary Edmundson, 5th Grade Teacher at Bret Harte Elementary


Burbank High School | Funded Fall 2016

Each year, the Burbank High Choir Department works hard to bring in guest artists to work with all of the students enrolled in choir classes. One of the artists they brought in was choreographer Damon Brown, who worked with the choir classes over four days in early February 2017, during which time he “exposed [students] to new and innovative choreography, introducing different styles and upcoming dance trends.” As a result of the training the students received from Mr. Brown, “all students, whatever level they started at, gained new confidence and performance skills that advanced their stage technique considerably.”


John Burroughs High School | Funded Fall 2016

There is a beauty to computer programming and coding, and JBHS Computer Programming teacher, David Hedin-Abreu, challenged his students to use their coding skills to show this beauty by producing unique and personal light and music shows. The resulting project was a 55-minute show in the JBHS main entrance, featuring 17 different light shows set to songs of the students’ choosing. The light show ran twice daily for two weeks in late November 2016 and was visible to anyone passing through, including students, teachers, school staff, and community members.

According to Mr. Hedin-Abreu, the most successful part of the project was “having students take a coding project from concept, to design, to implementation, to installation!”


Burbank Unified School District | Funded Spring 2016

In the summer of 2016, 14 BUSD teachers participated in the Design Based Learning Summer Institute, a five-day professional development series at The Art Center. The Design Based Learning training focused on “practical techniques used to inspire, involve, and energize students to develop reasoning and problem solving skills. Teachers participated in collaborative planning, project development and various instructional methods that have a direct impact on student achievement.” The 14 teachers who participated were enthusiastic and excited to utilize the Design Based learning strategies in their classrooms to support student learning. BUSD hopes to be able to send more teachers to The Art Center’s Design Based Learning training in the future.


“The training empowered me to let the kids use their creativity to represent their knowledge without me having to create menus, and other tools that took time to create. The kids are more involved in the whole process from creating a rubric, to assessing whether or not they followed the criteria list. They are so engaged!”
-BUSD Teacher


Burbank Unified School District| Funded Winter 2016

Beginning in January 2016, BUSD Arts for All assembled a Community Arts Team to review and refresh the District’s Arts for All Plan. The Team met over several months to provide insight and feedback on the Plan. On June 2, 2016, the BUSD Board of Education adopted these updates. BUSD Arts for All staff is currently developing options for the Board to consider in determining what priorities will be focused on over the next 3 years. This 3-year Action Plan will be presented to the Board of Education in June 2017.

John Burroughs High School | Funded Fall 2014

By integrating an art project into their studies, JBHS teacher, Justin Lee, has been able make history more accessible for his AP European History students. Students groups are assigned different countries, which they then research and study, learning about the country’s unique history, culture, and people. In addition to writing a paper, each group also creates a mural panel piece, depicting images, symbols, locations, and other elements relevant to the diverse historical landscape of that country. They then present their artwork to their classmates and an invited panel of guests.

In addition to taking a deep dive into history, students also learned other valuable skills that will aid them not only in their academic careers, but in life, including: collaboration in groups, compromise, time management, meeting deadlines, and the importance of hard work.

According to Mr. Lee, the main impact of the project “is helping students gain a better understanding of the facts through the arts. Each piece of their art work represents thorough research and in-depth thought. This projects allows me to get to know my students better by being closely involved with the process of making the project and hearing their perspective and understanding of history.”

Molly S Letter

Joaquin Miller Elementary School | Funded Spring 2016

From building some staple set and costume pieces, to acquiring lighting instruments and sound equipment, teachers at Joaquin Miller Elementary are constantly looking for ways to foster and enhance their growing performing arts programs. With the help of grants from Burbank Arts for All Foundation, they have been able to achieve many of their goals, including the recent purchase of a digital piano to be used in a variety of performances in their auditorium. According to Miller teachers, the new keyboard’s presence will “be the keystone in providing live music at all Miller Theatre productions [and] enhance the capabilities of the Miller Chorus. As more students perform on the keyboard, more will become interested in performing.”

“The grant from the Burbank Arts for All Foundation awarded to Miller Elementary School allowed for the purchase of a digital piano. It is exciting to see the impact this purchase has had already at our school as it has been the catalyst for our plans to create an audio/video area for teachers and students. I look forward to seeing and hearing the many ways in which the digital piano will be used to enhance the theatre arts and music programs as well as the incorporation of music into lessons for our English Language Learner students at Miller.”
-Judy Hession, Miller Elementary Principal

Tech Students with Piano

John Burroughs High School | Funded Spring 2016

John Burroughs High School Visual Arts Teacher, Lauren Masters, has spent the last few years building a sculpture program at her site and – with the help of funding from Burbank Arts for All Foundation – has been able to acquire supplies, a kiln, and now a pottery wheel. The pottery wheel has added a new element to her lessons and a new energy to her classroom. Her students are not only learning to use the wheel to create three-dimensional art pieces on it, but are also learning the importance of “working through failures, asking questions, helping each other, and building their self-esteem…They think [the wheel] is cool. It’s new. It’s exciting. Having professional grade tools like the wheel show the kids that art is more than crayons and construction paper, and how valued they are as art students.”

“What I am really enjoying (even though it sounds terrible!) is the students’ failures. The potter’s wheel is NOT an easy thing for them, but unlike other projects where maybe it is less fun and exciting, the kids are sticking with it, asking for help, learning from their mistakes and hopping right back in to figure it out. It has taken out the spoon fed lessons and transformed the classroom into a place where the kids are willing and excited to learn how to fix their mistakes. The way I teach it is in small batches with a demo, and then the student gets to use the wheel for the rest of the period with me checking in and sitting next to them and verbally coaching them through it. If a pot is ruined, I ask them what they felt with their hands as it was happening, and how they might be able to change it the next time. Every time, they are able to figure it out. Sometimes kids sitting by the wheel chime in and say, ‘Keep your arm steady!’ or ‘Add more water!’ which just makes class such a fun little family of kids helping each other out. They are all genuinely excited about it, they are interested, engaged, and figuring things out on their own.”
-Lauren Masters, JBHS Visual Arts Teacher

Visit The Burbank Leader for their wonderful article on Ms. Masters’ sculpture program here:

Pottery Wheel Collage


Burbank High School | Funded Fall 2015

To accommodate an increase in orchestra enrollment, Burbank High School added another orchestra class to its schedule, which gave the opportunity to divide the existing orchestra into two groups by playing level, thus better meeting the needs of students at both beginning and advanced levels. To be able to provide more individualized attention for students in both orchestras, Burbank High School’s Instrumental Music Program brought in five professional orchestra coaches for weekly, small group instruction. The coaches were able to give students lessons that “addressed their specific needs at an appropriate pace, whether it be teaching fundamentals to younger players or challenging more advanced players. This resulted in a stronger advanced group that will be able to compete at higher levels and continued growth for the string orchestra program as a whole by having more space to accommodate more students no matter what level they are at.”

The impact was evident on students at all levels. The coaches noted that they felt  “more motivation from students in both groups. The students in the advanced group were getting more advanced techniques and were challenged to play at a higher level. The younger group students did not feel as intimidated to play and received a stronger foundation.” Being in the advanced group also gave younger students a goal to aspire to, motivating them to work hard through continued practice.

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Luther Burbank Middle School | Funded Fall 2016

As the new Instrumental Music Teacher at Luther Middle School, Natalie Buresch had to prioritize her needs for Luther’s ever-growing band program. A gap in the band’s percussion section presented itself, as the percussion students did not have instruments to take home to practice. Without the ability to practice at home, her students were unable to improve their skills and class time had to be utilized to repeat concepts.  With funds from the Foundation, Ms. Buresch purchased drum pads, a drum set, and traveling drum kits for learners to take home, allowing them to grow their skills and become stronger musicians. According to Ms. Buresch, “By having percussion instruments for my learners to take home, I have noticed that my students are more engaged during class, they are more serious about their musical craft, and they are much more willing and able to help their peers. My percussionists are much more excited about participating in class and their scales have improved immensely.”

“Thank you so much for donating a grant for us to purchase percussion instruments. That was so generous for you to do for us. When Ms. Buresch first told we all ‘jumped for joy.’ The feeling was/is so grateful, like when you get extra guacamole for tacos, but with percussion.”
-Ashley M, Luther Burbank Middle School Band Student

Luther Band Collage

John Burroughs High School | Funded Fall 2014

In his first year as Director of Bands at JBHS, Taylor Arakelian saw that there was a need to repair and replace the existing drumline heads and equipment. With the help of a grant from the Foundation, he was able to purchase a variety of drumline equipment for his students, allowing them to take more pride in their work and in their equipment.

“Any and every marching band performance requires the drumline to be polished…this new equipment made it so much easier for the drumline to play better, which trickled down to the rest of the marching band.”
-Taylor Arakelian, JBHS Director of Bands



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