The Learning Edge Annual Administrator’s Conference took place at the Provo Marriott on November 14, with over 300 principals, administrators, and teacher leaders participating. This biennial conference alternates between focusing on the arts and gifted and talented every other year. The conference theme, The Arts: A Renaissance of Relevance, was chosen by the planning committee to demonstrate the importance of the arts in education and meet the objective of having quality arts experiences that engage students while also connecting to curricular standards. The conference is hosted by the BYU CITES program within the McKay School of Education.
Lois Hetland, coauthor of Studio Thinking 2: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education and research affiliate of Harvard’s Project Zero, was the keynote speaker. She introduced the Studio Thinking framework, which is the way learning experiences are organized, and suggested ways it can support hiring and evaluating arts and non-arts teachers. She also demonstrated ways that school leaders can use Studio Habits of Mind: cognitive dispositions natural to artists that can support learning in every discipline and enrich school communities.
The conference featured three breakout sessions, with 21 total classes, that offered participants more in-depth discussions, research, and resources to improve instruction and school culture in the arts. Classes covered a number of topics, including twenty-first century skills, arts integration, resources and strategies for arts implemention, arts skills, arts assessment, building school communities with the arts, and many more. Presenters included educators and artists from BYU and UVU; the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Art Learning Program; and principals, administrators, and teachers from various school districts.
Participants were also treated to a variety of performances by talented local artists, including One Voice Children’s Choir, former Utah poet laureate Lance Larsen, Brazilian dance and drumming group Samba Fogo, and singer and songwriter Lauryn Judd from TV’s The Voice.
The Learning Edge Conference is made possible each year by the Don and Mima Hicken Endowment at BYU. Mima Hicken was an elementary school teacher for most of her life and wanted children to have access to learning that included quality arts experiences. She also wanted to give teachers creative resources for improving instruction in their classrooms. To honor Mima, Don set up an endowment at BYU that would fulfill Mima’s vision through an annual conference. This year, the conference was also co-sponsored by Art Works for Kids, the Utah Film Center, and the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.