New Frontiers in Biography and History: Real Life Stories to Inspire Young Readers and Writers

Images of singers, painters, artists and writers are in bubbles.

Teachers and librarians gathered at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum April 1, 2015 to learn how to integrate the arts more deeply into their classrooms at a conference called "Sources of Inspiration: History through the Arts and Lives of Artists." A partnership project between the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site and John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the conference brought together a talented group of authors, illustrators, classroom teachers and arts professionals.

The morning began with a lively panel discussion with authors Robert Burleigh and Elizabeth Partridge and illustrator Bryan Collier moderated by Mary Ann Cappiello. Panelists talked about their creative process and shared with the audience pieces of art that have particular meaning to them. Highlights included Collier's story of taking a portfolio to publishing houses for seven years before his work was first accepted, and Elizabeth Partridge's stories of her family of photographers, including Dorothea Lange. Following the panel, Claudia Cornett took the stage for a lively presentation about the importance of fully integrating arts into the classroom.

After a lunch break, participants joined interactive workshops designed to introduce new techniques for bringing the arts into their classrooms. One group joined Theatre Espresso in a series of drama exercises that got everyone up and moving, while another joined Lesley University Professors Mary Ann Cappiello and Erika Thrulin Dawes to create sets of texts on the arts. In another workshop, attendees were captivated by student collage work created using the picture writing strategy as taught by Watertown teacher Maggie Matson. A fourth workshop focused on Visual Thinking Strategies, and how carefully "reading" images can help students develop critical thinking skills.

The day concluded with each author or illustrator presenting to a small group of teachers and librarians, followed by an opportunity for questions and discussion. One participant reflected on her session with Bryan Collier and responded, "Wow –he reminded me of so many things to consider in my teaching, my living, my creating, my participation in this complex society. He woke me up to my personal, creative, and social responsibility!" Following these sessions, authors participated in a book signing with attendees.

You can see images from the day below or to access resource materials, including a bibliography of great books on the arts, please click here.

We look forward to hosting another conference next year. Do you have a topic you would like to address or other questions about the conference? Email us!

To view topics of previous conferences, images and resource materials, please click here.


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