Adapting S.A.F.E. Principles

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Hi, my name is Rhynna, and I’m a teaching artist in photography and a creative aging trainer with Lifetime Arts.

In today’s lesson, we will review the creative aging program design principles that we call “S.A.F.E Planning,” and learn ways to adapt the recommended in-person program components to online or other remote delivery formats.

Mastery and Social Engagement (00:26)

A group of four older adults work on beading projects with teaching artist, Big Chief Darryl Montana, at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. Credit: Sara Lowenburg

In an online or other alternative format, some creative aging program elements will more than likely need to be altered, but the overall best practice goals of developing mastery and forming community through the artmaking experience should remain the same. To review, mastery of skills is learning an artform in depth and having the opportunity to practice the art and become better at it over time. Social engagement and building community between participants should be connected to the artmaking and learning.

S.A.F.E. Planning Components (01:01)

As we’ve stated elsewhere at Lifetime Arts, we like to use the acronym S.A.F.E. to denote all the elements of a quality creative aging class. You may need to do some extra planning to make sure that these elements are present in an online or other remote delivery program. To review, these elements are Skills, Assessment, Feedback and Engaging Socially.

“Skills” Component (01:29)

A participant drawing during a program offered at PSS Harlem Pelham Fritz Center in NYC. Credit: Jeremy Amar

“Skills” means one skill builds onto the next skill. It may be difficult to insure skill building in an online format. So think about: what are some ways to make sure that skill building and practice is happening in remote program design?

“Assessment” Component (01:46)

A participant with a teaching artist during a painting program held at the Pullen Arts Center in Raleigh, NC. Credit: Teresa Moore

“Assessment” refers to the process of evaluating students to tailor the instruction to match the needs of the learners. A challenge might be: Online, a teaching artist cannot circulate around the class as students are working. So think about: “how can teaching artists make sure that they are assessing their students in online or other remote delivery formats?”

“Feedback” Component (02:11)

Participants converse during a theatre program offered at Concourse Plaza in Bronx, NY. Credit: Jeremy Amar

“Feedback.” Talk about the work and process. Challenge: In an online format, it may be difficult for learners to view, hear or share their work with one another. Think about: how can a teaching artist facilitate the process of community sharing online, followed by the opportunity for feedback?

“Engagement” Component (02:31)

Participants and teaching artist, Mariangelica Ayala (pictured in floral shirt), during a theatre program held at Hope of Israel Neighborhood Senior Center in Bronx, NY. Credit: Jeremy Amar

And finally, “Engaging Socially;” intentional social engagement specifically tied to the artmaking to build community. The challenge online might be: Connecting and building relationships through screens may be far more difficult than in-person. How can teaching artists support the development of social engagement in their creative aging classes in these remote delivery formats? We will be offering suggestions for answers to these questions on how to ensure these elements are present in online classes. But be sure to apply your own creativity in addressing these goals.

Remote Programming Adaptation Example (03:09)

Teaching Artist, Spark LeoNimm, (top right) leads their students through warm-ups during an online class. Spark is cleverly using their iPad to allow one student who couldn’t log on to Zoom to participate in the session.

Teaching artists and organizations across the country adapted their older adults arts programs quickly when COVID hit. Spark LeoNimm in a Brooklyn Arts Council teaching artist, was one month into teaching clown and comedy skills to older adults in person at the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island when the senior center closed due to COVID-19. They focused on how to adjust their curriculum to the new format of Zoom.

Applying S.A.F.E. Planning to Remote Programs (03:40)

During sessions, students did physical warm-ups together following each other’s improvised movements via their web cameras. In this way, Spark could assess how their students were doing that day and who needed some special attention or help during the session. They were also upfront with their students that this was an “experiment,” and constantly collecting feedback during the course of the session on what was working and not working, and whether everyone could adequately see and hear them and the rest of the students — another direct assessment of how they were doing.

One assignment during a Zoom class was for each person to pick an object in their house to personify — slippers, a package of playing cards, the couch — and then rant about their new life during quarantine. The exercise not only built skills in clown and comedy, but allowed each participant to share what it feels like to be cooped up right now. This was a social engagement opportunity and served as a great assessment of comedy skills and social emotional connections.

For more information about Spark LeoNimm’s comedy program, read our blog post, “Teaching Creative Aging Classes Online: 1. Troubleshoot, 2. Don’t Sweat the Details.”

Each section of Creative Aging Foundations features worksheets for your own use when planning creative aging programming and writing grants for program funding. A complete set of Creative Aging Foundations worksheets will provide you with a shortcut to an organizational strategy to better serve older adults through anti-ageist approaches, best practices, and key insights on program funding and sustainability.

Access the worksheet for this topic:

Section 6 Worksheet: Remote Programming Challenges and Opportunities (PDF)

Review the selected resource for this topic:

Teaching Creative Aging Classes Online: 1. Troubleshoot, 2. Don’t Sweat the Details