Students learn hip hop dance techniques from Ms. Tina
A student learns about graphic design at The Lab.
Students practice yoga at The Lab with intern and instructor, Geri.
A Lab student and his mentor, Eleanor.
Students, teachers and volunteers build and plant an organic garden.
A student shows off the pillow she made in a Sewing Group.
Students and volunteers writing poetry in the Writer’s Lab.
Students learn to use digital cameras and photo editing in the Tech Lab.
Volunteer fiber artists teach knitting, sewing, embroidery and felting.
The studio is a professional space for students to record their work.
A student explores beading in the Visual Lab.
High school students participate in a Morning Enrichment.
The Lab Store!
Youth-hosted Radio Show!
Episode 2: “Meet The Students”
Heavy Hearts: The LAB Comes to a Close
This Newsletter is one that comes to you with mixed feelings. We are celebrating our students and their work and we also have very sad news to pass on. The LAB will not be funded for the 2015-16 school year. It is with a heavy heart that we end a program that for the past 11 years has effectively served hundreds of special education students. We are thankful for the many social workers and teachers who support this work. This work has been a collaborative effort bringing together artist from many arenas as well as graduate interns, volunteers and paid LAB staff to support six primary objectives for youth. These objectives include:
• School Engagement
• Youth Empowerment
• Improving pre-literacy skills
•Healthy coping strategies
• Community Building
• Social Justice
It is with great pride that I give thanks to all those who made these objectives a reality in the lives of our students. There were thousands of hours committed, to intentional work that shined a light on the promise our students hold within. Though the students we work with are often burdened with the label “EBD” we know they are so much more. When we look beyond the behaviors and seek to uncover what is underneath we are reminded that all behavior has a purpose. It is often an affront to the trauma and pain experienced in their young lives, an affront to the feelings of being lost, neglected, frustrated, inferior, afraid or hopeless.
Art, Poetry, Yoga, and other forms of creative expression are the tools used for personal transformation. We have seen that transformation over and over again as youth are seen in their strengths. These forms of creative expression lift the human spirit, provide a voice and platform for students’ stories and move them towards possibility and hope. Creative expression has been a means for EBD students to develop confidence and competence that has led to improved school engagement. Those of us in education know that students labeled EBD already experience difficulties with engaging in school due to emotional or behavioral challenges.
The LAB views its work as an extension of all the important work Social Workers and Teachers carry out daily in Saint Paul Public Schools. The LAB has given hundreds of students, who are often marginalized and have limited support and resources, an opportunity to tap into their creativity. Mary Tinucci founded The LAB 11 years ago. I joined The LAB in 2008 and have been witness to the power of this work of social emotional support changing the school experience for hundreds of students. LAB staff believe that all youth have untapped value and capacity, and that this sort of creativespace must exist within the school walls and the school day. We believe in giving students an effective therapeutic means to understand and deal with the challenges of their lives. The work of The LAB has been trauma-informed from the beginning, long before doing trauma-informed work had the label, “Trauma informed”. This work also aligns with the district initiatives around racial equity.
Below a former LAB participant so beautifully captures the power of poetry as a tool for emotional regulation.
To write my feelings down is to relieve my stress.
To be here today I am truly blessed.
Yea I got stories to tell, stuff to confess
Instead of putting my business out there,
I write till there is nothing left
I know people with burdens so heavy it really hurts their chest
I sometimes try with all my might not to snap
But you can’t keep anger caged when it wants to take flight
Because then it turns to rage and you get in a fight
So instead I release it into a page
-T.F. 10th grade
As those in leadership make budgetary decisions we hope they invest in intentional ways to reach the heart of at-risk students in Saint Paul Public Schools. As one of our former students wrote about the hope she had of a future where she could do her part to make the world better, that is my hope for all of us in education!
POETRY MAKES ME FEEL
Poetry makes me feel like I’m the star
That no one is greater or lesser than me
When I write, I’m in control
My thoughts and feelings are my inspiration
Poetry makes me feel like I can achieve
Knowing in my heart that I’m doing my part
To make the world better
Never giving up on my dreams
Reaching as high as I can reach
Just going my best to keep the peace
Following my heart, and not people
Striving for the truth
Poetry makes me feel like I’m no less than you are,
I feel as equal as you
I know that when I speak I’m being heard,
Letting people know me
Poetry makes me feel like I’m on top of the world
I can go on many adventures
Anywhere Poetry takes me, I’m going to go
-C. 11th grade
To all the schools and staff that have partnered with us these 11 years a sincere, Thank You. We know you will continue your commitment to students in Saint Paul Public Schools!
Tess Pease, Program Coordinator, LICSW
The LAB @Saint Paul Public Schools
For the last 5 years we’ve had the distinct privilege of working with some incredible furry companions at Paws For Learning. the tools for social/emotional health that these incredible animals teach our students each week are pretty amazing. You can help us continue this work with some of our best friends on Give To The MAX Day which is November 16th. Click Here to contribute!
Paws for Learning partnership with The Lab will work empower urban at-risk 7-12th graders across St. Paul Public Schools to find healthy ways to express themselves, improve socialization and communication skills, develop positive coping strategies, improve self-esteem & increase school engagement & success. Additionally, youth who come to The Lab are inspired and encouraged to share their voices and the truth of their lives. The Lab is committed to providing creative and experiential learning opportunities that support the vision of long-term social and emotional health for urban youth.
Things at the LAB are off to a great start as we have gotten back to our roots! In the past few weeks we’ve served 7 schools and started 11 new groups focusing on Writing, Visual Art, Theater, Experiential Wellness and Animal-Assisted Education! We hosted enrichments with guest artist and resident all-star Tina Flewellyn of HYPE dance company. We’ve seen youth take risks, find their voice, and begin a process of self expression and exploration. We are expecting great things from these incredible young people and cannot wait to show the world what they create!
And that’s not all….. in the next few weeks we’ll be reaching even more students as we hope to begin groups at 4 more schools- bringing out total to 11 schools, 16 groups, and a handful of mentorships! But we can’t do it without your help! We need dedicated, experienced, enthusiastic, and energetic volunteers to help is co-facilitate groups at schools across St. Paul!
If you would like to find out more about volunteering at The Lab, please join us for a VOLUNTEER INFORMATION SESSION on Thursday, October 31st from 12:00-12:45pm at Journeys Secondary School (90 Western Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55102).
Can’t make it? Join us for a second VOLUNTEER INFORMATION SESSION on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 from 9:00-9:45am At Journeys Secondary School (90 Western Ave S, St. Paul, MN 55102).
WHAT TO EXPECT: We’ll update on you on what’s going on at The Lab this year! We’ll talk about current volunteer opportunities and opportunities that we’ll having coming up soon. We’ll also go over basic expectations for volunteers and what being a volunteer at The Lab means. We’ll walk you through the application and background check process. We’ll also have some light snacks and refreshments available.
*Right now our greatest need is for volunteers who can co-facilitate groups and can commit to a minimum of 9 weeks (1-2 hrs per week) of consistent volunteering. (an example volunteer description is attached for your reference)
WHAT TO BRING: We have opportunities starting right away, so we want to get your applications rolling! Please fill out the attached volunteer application. Please bring a current resume, your photo ID, $15 cash or check for your background check, and a good idea of what your availability is like. Additionally, please help us spread the word by sharing this with anyone you think might be interested in volunteering, and then bring a friend to the info session!
RSVP by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 651-207-9882.
In the past few weeks we’ve served 7 schools and started 11 new groups focusing on Writing, Visual Art, Theater, Experiential Wellness and Animal-Assisted Education! We hosted enrichments with guest artist and resident all-star Tina Flewellyn of HYPE dance company. We’ve seen youth take risks, find their voice, and begin a process of self expression and exploration. We are expecting great things from these incredible young people and cannot wait to show the world what they create!
And if that isn’t enough we launched a MOBILE LAB AP to boot! Check it out on your Android or iPhone now and experience The LAB’s latest from wherever and on the go!
Change. Transition. Transformation. Evolution.
As I write this piece for the LAB’s May E-newsletter, it is late April. It is spring. But sadly, the actual weather screams WINTER! This has certainly been a long winter in Minnesota, and so many of us are getting desperate for sunshine, warmer weather, outdoor activities. We are in transition, waiting for the certain transformation – from dreary skies and cold temperatures – to sun and warmth and blooming flowers. And of course, we hold on with confidence, that sometime soon, this change will happen, and it will be fabulous.
As we wait for the weather to turn, The LAB team members, our program and I are also in the midst of our own transformations. For the last two years, the LAB has been an integral resource at Journeys Secondary School, offering arts and wellness-based therapeutic services for our students. It has been an important two years, where each of us has grown heartily and learned much, working diligently to open the hearts and minds of our students to reach for these healthy coping strategies in the face of difficult life circumstances. Here we have had the chance to get to know students more deeply, supporting their evolution, as we march through each school day together. As we come to the end of the school year, we are also coming to an end to The LAB in this form. Next fall, we will be returning The LAB to a mobile service model, a model where we serve as many as 14 school-based programs serving hundreds of students in special education.
As The LAB leaves this embedded model at Journeys, there is a loss at hand here, leaving the chance to see our students every day. However, there is also excitement at hand, as we look ahead to next fall, knowing we will have the chance to meet and touch the lives of hundreds of students every week
In addition to program service model changes, I will be leaving my work at The LAB and moving onto another role in our school district. I started The LAB in March of 2004. The LAB has existed in several forms since then. First, it was a mobile program, serving EBD programs in their schools. Next, The LAB became a field trip destination welcoming EBD programs to our site at Homecroft. For the last two years, The LAB became part of Journeys Secondary Schools. There is both sadness and excitement in this change for me.
Change. Transition. Transformation. Evolution. These are words that ring true for me and for my career right now. In these last months, I will work to stay present, staying open to what is evolving, and I will soak up the end of this particular road I have traveled for the last 9 years. I am passing the torch to my team members who have been a part of The LAB for as many as the last 5 years. I am confident that they will carry the mission forward, no question, and it will be fabulous.
I wish you well on your own road of change, transition, transformation and evolution. and like these students, I hope you will reach for the healing tools of poetry, art, creativity and experiential wellness along the way.
The year is quickly drawing to a close after what seemed like an endless winter and we are now enjoying the beauty of the changing season. There is such anticipation in the air!! Anticipation for what summer may bring, outdoor fun, time with family and friends, opportunities for indulgent self-care, time for getting lost in reading just for pleasure, and then there’s gardening, travel… the possibilities are endless.
Before I fully immerse myself in summer I will be embracing endings, transition and change. It’s with a heart full of love and gratitude that I wish my colleague Mary Tinucci a fond farewell and best wishes as she enters a new work life with Fostering Connections.
For the past five years I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with Mary at The LAB. In those 5 years I’ve been challenged, inspired, supported and embraced by the passion Mary brings into this work. There’s been laughter…tears… celebration…shared successes! Mary has led our team with a clear vision. That vision shapes the work that happens in The LAB each day. The work allows students to be seen, to be supported, to find their voice, their connection to creative expression and to improve their school engagement leading to greater investment in defining their future.
As The LAB transitions to a mobile model we will hold close the foundational principles Mary has established. This foundation has been the framework and launching pad for work that has had a positive, lasting impact on the lives of our students. So many memories… students who have experienced multiple adversities finding the courage to trust, to take risk, to express their realities, their dreams and their fears. I think about students performing on stage at Homecroft… students would come in saying I’m not a poet, artist, dancer….. and within a short time they are naming themselves poet, artist, dancer, musician and showcasing their talent. Students performed pieces produced from the stories of their lives. I’ve witnessed students finding their way to supporting peers, to restoring broken relationships, to believing that they can manage the hardest things in life with the tools of writing, creating art, yoga, mindfulness, Animal Assisted Education, Drumming, and even bike repair and maintenance. In each of these arenas, students experience mastery and success in ways they never imagined possible. Students have found connection in mentorships where they get individual attention and support in reaching goals.
Mary Tinucci established the LAB in St. Paul Public Schools 9 years ago. Her legacy will continue on and allow hundreds more St. Paul Public School students to develop new means of healthy self-expression.
I’m excited about stepping into the role of program co-coordinator for The LAB. Mary has left a clear roadmap for moving The LAB into this next phase.
THANK YOU MARY.. You will be dearly missed by all of us…Just know your wisdom, insight, laughter and big heart will stay with us as we journey forward.
Tess Pease, MSW, LICSW
The LAB, St. Paul Public Schools
Here in the Visual Art LAB Pathway, we’ve been hard at work expressing ourselves through explosions of color, line, and our collective practice. Students got a chance to be recognized for their hard work at a local gallery called Driftwood Community Arts.
They hosted a fantastic exhibition complete with fresh sounds from DJ Huh? What?? as well as some delicious food.
Students raised over $300.00 dollars on the sale of their artwork and had a chance to see what is possible with hard work and creativity.
We are so proud of our students hard work, and for their devotion to this practice of making art together.
As we often say in The LAB, “creativity is imagining something and making it reality.”
We’ve been busy making dreams, community, democracy, and truth all the more real each day.
Please enjoy these images of our success, and stop back soon to see our latest mural, based on Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”
As the end of school gets near, it’s natural for everyone including staff & students to start reflecting on everything that has happened throughout the year. In fact, The LAB does this in very distinct and concrete ways through our CD releases and our annual Poetry LAB Anthologies. These products are a chance for us to highlight and celebrate of all the achievements and success the students have created for themselves. Last week, we delivered our CD that includes work from those students involved in the Poetry LAB Pathway in the Fall semester.
The CDs we create contain recordings of some of those writings from the book, as well as songs and poems written and recorded by students throughout the school year.
One of those songs from Fall 2012, “Use2Be”, finds one of our students struggling with the difficulties of the street life and the challenge of choices. In the end, this student decides that he doesn’t want to be what he use to be – and chooses to start making better decisions for life. Click on the following link to hear this piece. Enjoy. Use2Be
Stay tuned, also, for our Poetry Anthology. The book contains the writings from students who participated in writing groups, 1-on-1 writing sessions, and other pieces that they’ve written outside of school. This year’s book will be released the first week of June.
This week some of the young poets in The Poetry LAB took a field trip to the Brewhouse Recording Studio. This trip has been one of many thanks to our awesome collaboration with Courtney Yasmineh, a local singer and songwriter. At the studio, students laid down tracks for a collaborative piece. Be sure to look for The LAB’s Spring CD so you can hear these professionally-mixed projects. The students stepped up to write their own parts and learned the “hook” of the song on the spot. They all stepped up and did AMAZING WORK!! Congrats! And a super shout out to Ms. Courtney for making it all happen!!
This week the Poetry LAB Pathway visited The Canvas, a teen art space on Snelling Ave, near Hamline University in the Midway neighborhood. The Canvas offers free after-school programs in writing, music, photography, graphic design, making music videos and more. The last Thursday of every month the Canvas hosts a high school open mic, plus teens can reserve a dance room for free.
During our field trip we made a zine, a home-made magazine of poetry and art. Our group wrote about Who Am I? and made word art using scratch-off letters that were popular before computers were around.
I am:musiclouddaddy’s girlTauruswriterMexicanlistener