RPS Arts Integrated Learning Certificate

Richmond Public Schools logoRichmond Public Schools, in partnership with the University of Richmond’s Partners in the Arts program, was awarded a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education in 2018 to support our commitment to transform instruction in schools through arts integration. The grant funds the pilot Arts Integrated Learning Certificate program, which allows a select group of RPS educators to earn a professional certificate in arts integrated learning from the University of Richmond.

We are excited to celebrate teachers in the inaugural cohorts when they receive their certificates this spring!

Certificate Requirements

The Arts Integrated Learning Certificate uses the Partners in the Arts instructional framework to build competencies in integrated learning and teaching. The certificate requires three courses, three workshops and ongoing instructional coaching.

Courses focus on how we learn, how we assess and how we experience. Workshops connect community expertise and resources to your classroom and students. And coaching refines and expands teachers’ expertise. 

  • 3 Courses

    Foundations of Arts Integration

    In this foundational course, teachers develop the tools to:

    • Build a learning community based on equity, trust, and candor.
    • Understand and communicate the research supporting arts integration.
    • Align arts and non-arts standards through content, modalities, and evidence.
    • Name their expertise and begin connecting with arts experts in the community.
    • Implement strategies to build a student-centered learning community through culturally responsive teaching and learning.

    This skill development is facilitated through a week-long course, and sessions have included Soundscapes: Music and Reading Comprehension with Imani Gonzalez, Shadow Journeys: Exploring Content through Shadow Puppetry with Daniel Barash, The Connected Classroom: Using Trauma Informed Principles to Enhance Learning with Dr. Lisa Jobe-Shields, and much more.

    • Summer 2021: June 28–July 27
    • Cohort 1: August 2018
    • Cohort 2: August 2019

    Telling the Story of Learning: Performance Based Assessment

    Learning side-by-side with teaching artists, teachers are guided through the process of:

    • Empowering students to construct and demonstrate understanding of curricular content through an art form.
    • Using the arts as creative assessment strategies to facilitate deep and experiential learning.
    • Partnering with teaching artists to bring arts expertise into the classroom.
    • Applying the teacher as curator model to provide evidence of learning through documentation.

    Sessions for this second course have included DJs and Teaching: Breaking it Down with DJ Thomas Brownell and Using Spoken Word to Convey Understand Historic Texts with RVA Poet Laureate Roscoe Burnems.

    • Cohort 1: January – April 2019
    • Cohort 2: January – May 2020

    AILC teachers and teaching artists have worked with arts integration expert Lisa Donovan throughout this second course, and Donovan’s new book, Teacher as Curator, heavily features participants, outcomes, and impacts of the pilot AILC program.

    Making the Connections: Collaborative Unit Planning

    Teachers bring together everything they’ve learned and experienced to plan and implement collaborative and project-based lessons with community partners. Through this third course, teachers:

    • Develop collaborative relationships with community expertise and learn to navigate Richmond’s rich regional arts and culture resources.
    • Connect students to their local and global communities and establish connections between real-world experiences and curricular content.
    • Plan, implement, and reflect upon an integrated unit with a community partner.
    • Explore content through the lenses of multiple disciplines for improved student engagement and understanding. 

    The course has included face-to-face connection building with the Poe Museum and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and with teaching artists, including DJ Lonnie B and Black Liquid. In 2020, as teachers navigated the shift to remote learning, this course also shifted and expanded to include virtual experiences such as exploring tap dance as a radical and resilient practice against oppression with Dorrance Dance.

    • Cohort 1: August-November 2019
    • Cohort 2: August-November 2020
  • 3 Workshops

    Community Inquiry and Digital Storytelling

    In this multi-part workshop, participants work with Don Belt, Mason Mills, and the HomeStories project to apply observation skills and build compelling narratives about the people and places in their community using a full range of skills: story development, research, interviewing, and writing. Participants have created short documentaries, built StoryMaps that integrate community and personal history, and are now contributing to the global HomeStories project with their students.

    Culturally Situated Design Tools

    Culturally Situated Design Tools can simultaneously teach math concepts, introduce computer science, and empower students by eliminating misconceptions about race and gender in STEM+C. Participants learn hands-on from African fractals expert Dr. Ron Eglash and graphic design scholar Dr. Audrey Bennett how to integrate design tools into lessons and engage students in real-world connections between culture and STEM. From Native beadwork to urban graffiti, students can find the "heritage algorithms" of their interest, learn their connection to STEM principles, and use computer science to develop and create their own designs.

    Hearing Segregation – Creating Community Sounds

    Participants learn from the research and expertise of Dr. Andy McGraw about sound in our communities and explore how sound/music can be used in a social justice context and to deepen understanding of histories and cultures. This knowledge is then applied in a creative practice of sound/music making, in partnership with Spacebomb Studios and with teaching artists, including DJ Lonnie B, Danja Mowf, and Plunky Branch. Like all of our workshops, collaboration, feedback, and reflection amongst participants and with experts is woven in throughout.


    In partnership with 1708 Gallery and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, AILC teachers were invited to spark inquiry and explore STEAM connections through InLight Richmond, an annual light-inspired public event that features performances, sculpture, video, and interactive projects that illuminate the community. 1708 Gallery’s Executive Director, Emily Smith, guided participants through the what, why, and how of exhibit works’ proposal, selection, and creation to spark connections with curricular content in STEAM, career and technical education, and the humanities.

    Urban Bush Women: “Hair & Other Stories”

    In 2018, AILC teachers took part in a performance and workshop by Urban Bush Women, an artistic ensemble that projects the voices and stories of the under-heard and people of color through contemporary dance, music, and drama. In experiencing and examining “Hair & Other Stories,” participants discovered the strength and power of storytelling that weaves personal histories, culture, and tradition with the performing arts and considered the impact of artistic choices and representation. The resonant and empowering performance was also brought to RPS’s Binford Middle School in a demonstration, lecture, and dance master class for students.

  • Coaching

    AILC-trained coaches support participants throughout their program through classroom observations, group coaching, one-on-one coaching sessions, and contributing to the continual refinement and expansion of teachers’ expertise.