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Community Inquiry and Digital Storytelling

Joan Oates Institute: Focused Course • June 26-28, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Don Belt, a former senior editor and writer for National Geographic magazine, will lead participants through elements of the community-based “slow journalism” curriculum he teaches in the University of Richmond Journalism department.

Participating educators will also work with PIA teaching artists to learn how to explore their communities through close observation and connect curricular content through arts integrated instructional practices. Educators will develop the knowledge and skills to engage their students in creating compelling narratives and a digital map of community stories by building skills in sketching, interviewing, photography, video and sound.

Don Belt’s course is based on Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk project, a 10-year, 21,000-mile walking journey in the pathways of ancient human migration, from Ethiopia in Africa to the tip of South America. As he slow-walks the world, Salopek is reporting on the individuals and communities he encounters, using the latest in digital technology to collect and share their stories.

Salopek’s journey and mapping of these stories provides an exciting resource for teachers of all subjects. His educational partner, Harvard’s Project Zero, has produced an Out of Eden Learn educational guide that will inform our community-based journey and its connection to this global project.


Noncredit registration (recertification point eligible)

  • PIA Consortium Member: $449
  • Non-PIA Consortium Member: $499

Graduate registration: $534

Cost includes all course materials and daily lunch in the UR dining hall. Participants who successfully complete the noncredit course (complete all required work with perfect attendance) will receive a 30-hour certificate of completion. Participants who successfully complete the graduate course will earn two semester hours of credit.

Exploring Art and Sound

In this two-part workshop series, participants will explore creative practices that use art and sound to help engage students in classroom content and connect to the world around them. The workshops are offered in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition, Topography of a Sound: Peaks & Valleys Series, New Work by Maria Chavez, in the University of Richmond Museums.

The workshops are free, but individual registration for each workshop is required. Dinner will be provided both nights.

Participants who attend both sessions can add new sounds created on March 21 to the ORO Visual App created on March 14. Therefore, attending both sessions is recommended but not required.

Workshop 1: Exploring Art, Sound & Programming in ORO Visual

March 14, 4:30-7 p.m. | Register for Workshop 1

Steve Van Dam, musician and founder of Light the Music, will lead programming in ORO Visual to explore combining visuals, sound, and music to create a looping music-making App.

Workshop 2: Exploring Arts, Sound & Turntablism with Maria Chavez

March 21, 4:30-7:30 p.m. | Register for Workshop 2

Maria Chavez, a sound artist and abstract turntablist, will use listening and sound art activities to develop active listening skills to help connect with the world around us and generate new sounds through abstract turntablism. 

Previous Workshops

Slow Storytelling in the Digital Age

A Hands-On Workshop for Educators

Saturday, November 4, 2017, 1-5 pm

University of Richmond Downtown
626 E. Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Hosted by the University of Richmond Journalism Department and Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Led by Don Belt, a veteran National Geographic writer and editor, this fast-paced, four-hour workshop is designed for secondary school and college educators seeking new ways to use multimedia storytelling in the classroom.

Belt will share the community-based “slow journalism” curriculum he teaches at the University of Richmond, which is modeled on Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk, a 10-year digital media project tracing the path of ancient human migration from Ethiopia to the tip of South America.

Salopek’s 21,000-mile foot journey provides an exciting resource for teachers of English, history, social studies, environmental science, and other subjects, and offers a connection to schools and classrooms across the U.S. and around the world.

Belt’s workshop will also feature other educators who have integrated the Walk into their classrooms and will provide practical tips on bringing a real-world perspective to students through Salopek’s dispatches, multimedia, and mapping.

Telling the Story of Learning

Performance-Based Assessment in Integrated Unit Design and Implementation

August 15-16, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. & October 21, 2017, 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

This professional development workshop provides K-12 educators with training that focuses on using the authentic assessment of student learning to guide and inform the development of an arts integrated unit plan.

This 3-session course begins with a two-day seminar, taking place August 15-16, 2017, that will be facilitated by professor, author, and theater artist Lisa Donovan, Ph.D.

A follow-up session will occur Saturday, October 21, at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. In the follow-up session participants will share implementation outcomes, receive feedback, and work hands-on in multiple studios at VisArts.

This process of implementation, reflection, exploration, and revision will foster sustainable pedagogies and a strong network of creative practitioners.

Museum Open House

Wednesday, March 8, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Harnett Museum of Art

The University of Richmond Museums is hosting a free open house for K-12 teachers and homeschool educators on Wednesday, March 8, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Harnett Museum of Art in conjunction with the exhibition Crooked Data: (Mis)Information in Contemporary Art. For more information contact Heather Campbell, Curator of Museum Programs, 804-287-6324 or

Aquatic Wild/Project Wild

Saturday, March 18, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

This workshop brings themes and ideas found in The Nile Project school matinee performance into the K-12 classroom by going outside. Aquatic WILD and Project WILD (Wildlife In Learning Design) are wildlife-focused conservation education programs. The goal of these programs is to help students develop awareness, knowledge, skills, and commitment to the world around them. This results in making informed decisions, responsible behavior, and constructive action concerning wildlife and the environment. Offered in coordination with the Modlin Center for the Arts.

Crooked Data Workshop

Monday, March 27, 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., Design Lab (room #213), Modlin Center
Monday, April 3, 4:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Print Studio (room #312), Modlin Center

In this two-part workshop series, K-12 teachers will explore integrating creative teaching practices in the classroom through collecting and mapping data, and printmaking. It is being offered in conjunction with the exhibition Crooked Data: (Mis)Information in Contemporary Art on view in the University of Richmond Museums.

In the first 90-minute workshop participants will examine databases and tools available through the University's Boatwright Library. This section will be taught by Samantha Guss, Social Sciences Librarian, Boatwright Library. In the second 2-hour workshop participants will be using the data gathered from the first workshop and screen-printing to create artwork. This section is taught by Brooke Inman, Part-time Instructor of Art, Department of Art and Art History.

Unit Plans

Each summer, the Joan Oates Institute for Partners in the Arts brings together local teachers to learn and practice how to create curricula and lesson plans that integrate arts into the preK-12 curriculum. In addition, Partners in the Arts funds the implementation of arts integrated projects through the Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards.

Partners in the Arts is proud to provide some of these unit plans and programs as a free resource to help teachers working to integrate the arts into the curriculum.

Joan Oates Institute Unit Plans

These electronic portfolios were created by the preK-12 teachers using Google Drive and Sites during the Joan Oates Institute (JOI). Teams of teachers work together to create these cross-curricular plans.

PIA Engaging Creative Thinkers Awards

Lesson plans for PIA ECT Awards are derived from unit plans developed for JOI or created during the conception, planning, and implementation of an ECT Award project.

Proposals will align with one of three framework categories based on successful projects throughout PIA’s history and recent successes. New (Emerging) projects are provided with exemplars from similar themed projects and can be paired with teacher leaders from successful previous projects for peer-to-peer best practices and planning assistance.

Community History These projects explore history, possibly of the school, local community or other defined area and utilize a variety of tools to research, explore and engage

  • Binford Middle – Centennial 2015-16
  • Carver (Chesterfield Community) High - Carver On Record 2014-15
  • Our Richmond – Sabot at Stony Point 2014-15
  • Armstrong High – Our Community 2011-12

Environmental Explorations Watersheds, Climate, Ecosystems

  • Designed by Nature – Steward School 2014-15
  • James River – Robious Middle 2011-12
  • Reedy Creek – Patrick Henry School for Science and Arts 2013-14
  • Our Richmond – Sabot at Stony Point 2014-14

Community Inquiry Explore, research problem solve a community issue

  • Food desert in east end/Henrico
  • Bridge Park RVA
  • Heritage/History
  • Baseball Stadium

Select an implementation level

Funding will be provided for one of three levels to assist schools that want to sustain/expand integrated practices and develop a network of PIA master teachers. * ALL funding amounts are sample estimates*

Emerging (First year of implementation)

  • $2,000-5,000 to school
  • $2,900 (in-kind) 2-4 teachers attend JOI (zero cost under JOI NC-below)
  • $2,000 (in-kind/supported) Coaching/planning with PIA staff and previous teacher leaders
  • $2,000 (in-kind/supported) workshops for full staff/team as needed

Sustaining (Second year of implementation)

  • $1,500-2,500 to school
  • $1,300 2 teachers (new) attend JOI
  • $2,000 coaching/planning
  • $500-1,000 stipends to teacher-leaders to plan with Emerging Awards


  • $1,500 to school
  • $1,300 2 teachers (new) attend JOI
  • $1,500 coaching/planning
  • $500-1,500 stipends to lead teachers to plan with awards and assist with providing workshops
Partnership Resources and Lessons

As our name indicates we are always pursuing partnerships, both within the University of Richmond and beyond, so that we are working with the people and organizations that are doing the best work in tranformative educational practices. Links to lessons and resources from these partnerships will be available soon.


Using the UR Digital Scholarship Lab project Visualizing Emancipation, Rita Driscoll and MaryLee Wetzel created lesson plans for grades 6-12 that allow students to explore the history and geography of this significant aspect of U.S. history.


Working with the Patrick Henry School for Science and Arts (PHSSA) and the Visual Art Center, PHSSA teacher and JOI 2012 alum, Amanda Medhurst adapted the JOI Unit plan she created with Lee LaPradd into four week-long intersession projects.

Modlin Center for the Arts

PIA works to enrich students’ experience of arts integration by partnering with the Modlin Center to offer master workshops in schools by performing artists, followed by students’ attendance at Modlin events presented by these artists.

University Museums

UR’s museums and galleries offer opportunities to connect PIA Award projects with exhibitions that center on fine arts, history, and the natural sciences. Museum visits and presentations by museum staff are developed in collaboration with teachers leading these projects.  

School Arts Coordinators

Chesterfield County
Michael Gettings, (804) 594-1776
Robin Yohe, (804) 594-1772

Hanover County
Jennifer Stackpole, (804) 365-4546
Barry Flowe, (804) 365-4563

Henrico County
Michael C. Kalafatis, (804) 652-3756
Rick Tinsley, (804) 652-3759

Powhatan County
Sandra Lynch, (804) 598-5700

Richmond City
Christie-Jo Adams, (804) 780-6837

Partners in the Arts
Phone: (804) 955-4012

Robert S. McAdams, MFA

Katie Fauth
Program Coordinator

UR Downtown
626 E. Broad St., Ste. 100
Richmond, VA 23219