The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes (LMC) in Fort Scott, Kansas, has announced the inaugural cohort of ARTEFFECT Ambassadors, consisting of 28 K-12 educators to foster the visual arts across the country. This prestigious fellowship runs from October to June, during which the Ambassadors will participate in themed virtual professional development sessions, collaborate with and learn from other high-level practitioners, and complete a capstone project to be shared with their classrooms and communities.
This year’s Ambassadors come from 17 different states and work directly with K-12 students in various ways, be it through the visual arts, social studies, general education, special education, or nonprofit work. Throughout the fellowship’s duration, Ambassadors will engage with the Unsung Heroes project-based learning curriculum by examining the stories of Unsung Heroes— individuals whose extraordinary actions, widely unrecognized, have made a profound and positive impact on the course of history—by collaborating with other Ambassadors to deepen their instructional practices, and explore concrete lesson plans that provide step-by-step modeling to give educators and students alike. Each session, some of which are free and open to the public, is centered around several themes related to the Unsung Heroes.
The first public session, “Character and Values,” is an apt introduction to the Unsung Heroes and to the ARTEFFECT visual art competition. With a focus on character traits exemplified by the Unsung Heroes—compassion, courage, perseverance, responsibility, and others—Ambassadors will explore ways in which students can effectively connect with the values, traits, and stories of the heroes by developing historical empathy. The session will be led by Dr. Veronica Alvarez, current Wallis Annenberg Executive Director of Community Arts Partnership at the California Institute of the Arts, on November 15, 2023.
The following session, “Storytelling Through Art,” will take place on December 13, 2023, and will be led by Milken Educator and former LMC Fellow Brad Leduc. This module will outline steps in the creative process to support students in developing novel and effective approaches to storytelling through art with a distinct focus on the LMC Unsung Heroes. By examining cross-curricular connections in history, English Language Arts, and visual art, Ambassadors will deepen their understanding of how to work with students in investigating pathways from developing a storyline to a completed artwork.
Jennifer Braverman, a former LMC Fellow and current art teacher at Mapleshade High School in Maple Shade, New Jersey, will lead the third session, “Unsung Heroes and STEAM.” There are many LMC Unsung Heroes who excelled in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics, and impacted history by being innovators, educators, leaders, learners, and advocates. Integrating the stories of these Unsung Heroes in and beyond the classroom—as well as promoting experiential learning, problem solving skills, and creative and collaborative processes—will be put front and center for Ambassadors as they engage with STEAM educational design. This session will be held on January 24, 2024.
The final public session, “Remembering the Holocaust,” will be held on February 21, 2024, and led by 2020 Nebraska Teacher of the Year and former LMC Fellow Megan Helberg. Named a 2015 Museum Teacher Fellow for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Helberg will lead Ambassadors through an exploration of representations of the Holocaust. They will focus not only on understanding artwork created during the Holocaust, but also ways in which instructors can guide students into a better understanding of appropriate representations by engaging with Unsung Heroes from the Holocaust and previous ARTEFFECT artworks inspired by them.
In addition to participating in these professional development modules and completing a capstone project, ARTEFFECT Ambassadors receive an unrestricted stipend of $1,250, a $250 credit towards materials and a Certificate of Participation upon completion. The Ambassadors are also encouraged to invite and lead their students to participate in the annual ARTEFFECT Art Competition. Since 2016, the competition has received hundreds of submissions from middle and high school students celebrating an Unsung Hero of their choosing. Last year’s competition awarded $20,000 to teachers and students, and is now accepting submissions until May 1, 2024.