Hitchcock Center to Receive 2015 Commonwealth Award

February 12, 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: Julie Johnson, Executive Director

Amherst, MA – The Hitchcock Center for the Environment (HCE), in partnership with Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT), announces that on February 24, 2015 it will be receiving a prestigious 2015 Commonwealth Award. Presented every two years by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), the Commonwealth Awards shine a spotlight on the extraordinary contributions made by the arts, sciences, and humanities to education, economic vitality, and quality of life in communities across the state. The Hitchcock Center in partnership with the ECT won the award for an individual, school, or cultural organization that has successfully fused learning in the arts with science, technology, engineering, and math – STEM to STEAM (the addition of the ”A” stands for arts). The award honors a unique collaboration between Hitchcock and ECT to deepen students’ understanding of science and the arts in the Holyoke Public Schools.

MCC Executive Director Anita Walker said of all award recipients,

“Their achievements remind us that expanding the quality and availability of arts and cultural experiences to our citizens doesn’t happen by accident. It takes leadership, generosity, and a commitment to excellence.”

“We are thrilled to receive this top honor from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Our long-­‐standing partnership with the Enchanted Circle Theater and the Holyoke Public School District has grown into a new model of teaching that taps the innate creativity and questioning minds of children while making learning fun and memorable,” said Hitchcock Center Executive Director Julie Johnson.

The Commonwealth Awards ceremony, held at the Statehouse in Boston on February 24 from 1-­‐4pm with elected officials is a chance for the Massachusetts nonprofit cultural sector to come together, assert its value, and make the case for continued public investment. The event is free and open to the public.

Award Background

Hitchcock Center and ECT developed a unique collaboration aimed at deepening students’ understanding of science and the arts in the Holyoke Public Schools. This past year, both organizations facilitated an 11-­‐day integrated science and arts program for all 5th grade classrooms in Holyoke. Over 300 students from 16 classrooms in 6 schools throughout the city participated in hands-­‐on science lessons to explore the water cycle, groundwater, and the Connecticut River watershed with Hitchcock educator Patty O’Donnell and other collaborators including the Connecticut River Watershed Council, United Water, and the City of Holyoke.

The culminating project was the design of Storm Drain Art, taking the program beyond the classroom, into an ongoing community-­‐wide citizen science project. The eight most visually effective student designs were chosen through a juried art contest, and are in the process of being rendered and installed by a professional artist on storm drains at various locations in the City of Holyoke. The first installation was installed at Holyoke City Hall.

An official unveiling of the installations and student poetry took place during a community-­‐wide festival, The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration on November 8, 2014. Students, parents, and community leaders including Mayor Alex Morse were on hand to celebrate and honor the importance of art, combined with science in Holyoke and along the Connecticut River.

Hitchcock Center and ECT, with help from Carol Berner of the Education and Child Study Department at Smith College, have extended the STEM to STEAM model to professional development programs, training area teachers in this science and arts integration model. During the fall of 2014, fourteen teachers from Holyoke, Ludlow, Whately, Northampton and beyond, participated in a twelve-­‐hour training on the integration of science and arts to meet instructional goals and standards identified for teachers in grades K-­‐8. The training, funded in part by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, introduced teachers to the steps in the engineering design process, something that carries a high profile in the new 2013 MA Science and Technology/Engineering Standards.

About the Commonwealth Awards

Presented biennially since 1993, the Commonwealth Awards honor the extraordinary contributions made by the arts, humanities, and sciences to education, economic vitality, and quality of life in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth Awards ceremony also brings leaders from the nonprofit cultural sector together to assert the sector’s value and make the case for public investment in its work. Past winners include leading artists and scholars such as Yo­‐Yo Ma, Olympia Dukakis, and David McCullough; world­‐renowned institutions like Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the Peabody Essex Museum; and communities like Pittsfield, Barnstable, and Lowell that have made arts and culture central to their revitalization efforts. Learn more about the 2015 Commonwealth Awards.

About Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC)

The MCC is a state agency supporting the arts, sciences, and humanities, to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts and its communities. It pursues its mission through grants, services, and advocacy for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists. MCC’s total budget for this fiscal year is $13.5 million, which includes a $12 million state appropriation and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. MCC also runs the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund in partnership with MassDevelopment. To learn more please visit MCC.

About Hitchcock Center for the Environment

The Hitchcock Center for the Environment is an independent nonprofit environmental learning center serving the communities of Western Massachusetts. Founded in 1962, The Hitchcock Center’s mission is to foster a greater awareness and understanding of our environment and to develop environmentally literate citizens. The Center serves 8,500 children, youth, and adults each year across all of western Massachusetts. For more information please visit the Center.

About Enchanted Circle Theater

Founded in 1976, Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT) is a non-­‐profit, educational theater company that engages, enhances, and inspires learning through the arts. ECT is the regional leader in the field of arts integration, using theater arts as a dynamic teaching tool on the stage, in the classroom, and in the community. Enchanted Circle serves an essential need in education today by fostering creativity and bringing the “joy back into learning.” ECT’s arts integration programs integrate theater arts – theater, dance, music, visual, media and literary arts – with academic and social curricula to improve academic achievement and support the development of social and emotional health. ECT works in schools, professional theaters, community centers and human service agencies, with people of all ages and abilities. For more information please visit ECT.

Comments are closed.

Click here to return to full list of news entries.

Recent posts


Translate »
Hitchcock Center for the Environment