Arts Education in Rural Communities

Mono County

Name of County: Mono County Office of Education
Region: 10
County Superintendent: Dr. Stacey Adler, Mono County Superintendent of Schools
Cohort Lead: Dr. Stacey Adler
County Arts Lead: Tammy Nguyen

Mono County is situated between the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the California/Nevada border.

About Mono County

Within a land area of 3,030 square miles and with a population of 14,202, it offers a rural, geographically remote setting with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the state.

Mono County is situated between the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the California/Nevada border. Mammoth Lakes is the economic and governmental center of the county, mainly due to the tourist industry fueled by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and other outdoor recreation opportunities.  

Mono County is situated between the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the California/Nevada border. Within a land area of 3,030 square miles and with a population of 14,202, it offers a rural, geographically remote setting with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the state. Mammoth Lakes is the economic and governmental center of the county, mainly due to the tourist industry fueled by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and other outdoor recreation opportunities.  

Unique Characteristics

The county includes two school districts. Mammoth Unified School District is a TK-12th¬†grade district that serves approximately 1,200 students. The elementary, middle, and high schools are located in close proximity to one another. The Eastern Sierra Unified School district serves four smaller communities in Mono County and has just under 400 students.¬†Each community is rather isolated, and each has its own distinct ‚Äúpersonality.‚Ä̬† It takes an hour (if the weather is good) to drive from one elementary school with 20 students to another one with 60 students.¬†Antelope Elementary School (K-8, 125 students) is located close to the Nevada state line and Coleville High School, with 65 students, has a large, transient population due to serving the Pickle Meadows Marine Warfare Training Base.

Key Goals of County Strategic Arts Plan

The strategic arts planning recognized the lack of arts courses and lack of arts integration in both school districts. The goal, therefore, was to provide professional development for TK-12 teachers in arts integration across the arts disciplines and the California Common Core curriculum.

Strategic Goals

  1. Content: Facilitate a systematic and diverse, accessible Arts Program TK-14 that includes integrated arts education and dedicated arts curriculum and instruction.
  2. Infrastructure: Identify and build capacity for teaching staff, facilities and partnerships supporting Arts Education programs countywide.
  3. Sustainability: Explore and promote opportunities for ongoing funding support. Sustain outreach and communications to make the case for the value of arts education.

Highlights and Strategic Directions Taken in the Implementation of Strategic Arts Plan

Emerging leader, LA Based-theatre teaching artist Kellen Law, brought best practices around cultural sensitivity as she led the teachers through an exploration of the story: Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman.

Implementation Goals
Worked with the stakeholders in our region is increased and regular arts integration in the K-12 classrooms. This integration included identifying the connections between the Visual and Performing Arts Standards for
the State of California, the Common Core, and content standards throughout the curriculum.

Provided all-day professional development for both districts to focus on arts integration across the art disciplines and California Common Core curriculum. (Strategic Direction #1, Curriculum and Instruction, Strategic Direction #3, Making the Case) Last week of October/first week of November, we invited teachers from each K-8 site (6 in county), covered the cost of up to two substitutes per site. The intent was to provide access to the TEAL Scale Up modules prior to the professional development.

Provided ESUSD with ongoing Arts Integrated Distance Learning opportunities, aligned to Common Core Instruction.
(Strategic Direction #1, Curriculum and Instruction) Congo Kids ‚Äėfield test‚Äô their training to follow up with their distance lessons. The goal is to train classroom teachers, PE teacher and teaching artist. This program will deliver 18 lessons in writing, video support.

Provided a 2-day integrated arts education program for teachers in June, 2020 via the Create Eastern Sierra Summer Arts Institute (Strategic Direction #2, Partnerships). This will be free to all Mono County teachers.


Mono County has continued the Meet the Masters Program for Visual Arts.  This has been implemented for the past ten years in partnership with the Mono Arts Council. All K-8 students receive one class a month through this program.  

The professional development implemented by MCOE and partners in arts integration has been a great accomplishment. It has opened the teacher’s eyes to many possibilities. MCOE and partners offered six different professional development sessions for 25  teachers (grades K-12),  one counselor, two PE teachers, and one  high school art and math teacher. The integration professional learning provided opportunities for educators to review their content areas and make decisions about how they can include the arts. They are also embarking on arts integration because of the positive effect it has on social emotional learning. Because of the rural setting and small schools students often get instruction in the arts.  

When educators  integrate the arts first through visual arts  and also dance curriculum, they see how effective it is and begin to explore other opportunities to integrate the arts into the curriculum. In the PD day they had half a day with CA Arts Now, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and the TEAL modules and the other half on arts integration. An actress came and taught acting skills and  talked about how theatre can be integrated into other subjects. The consensus was that it was a great Professional Development. 

Greatest Advances

The Arts Master Plan has provided a compass to guide our work in the arts. As programs, projects, and initiatives come along, the Strategic Directions of the plan function as our North Star and help us to stay focused. Although that sounds as if the plan might limit the scope and scale of potential programming, it actually opens the door for connections with non-traditional partners. The plan is focused in its vision, but expansive in its paths to get there. Designed as a true cross-sector collaboration, the goals in the AMP enable work beyond the classroom and into the community.

Summer oil painting landscape, impressionism

The change is the fact that teachers have a new understanding and appreciation of how the arts can be integrated into the curriculum and they understand the role that the arts play in engaging kids in learning.

We have a stronger partnership with the Arts Council, with the town of Mammoth, and with the County Library. 

We have also built great relationships with The California Arts Project(TCAP). TCAP is a great partner. They helped us write the plan and think things through. They are a huge source of wisdom and guidance and they did some of the Professional Development.  

What Lessons Are You Learning Through the Implementation of Your Strategic Arts Plan?

Content: We are learning that teaching and learning in and through the arts provides powerful opportunities for teachers to integrate the arts into their classroom and increase student achievement and engagement. Professional development helped to expand opportunities for teachers and administrators. We are all learning how the arts integrate into the curriculum.

Infrastructure: We continue to build capacity of our teaching staff and investigate ways we can develop and curate resources that will be useful to our K-12 educators.

A diverse preschool class learns how to play the recorder. Their teacher of african descent smiles at them.

Collaborations/Partnerships: We continue to expand our involvement in networks and engage in cross-county collaborations. Also our partnership with other arts and education organizations helps us implement our strategic plan and expand interdisciplinary programs/efforts.

Sustainability: We continue to seek funding opportunities to support professional learning and aid us in effective implementation of arts. We adopted the The Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning

Technology to support Arts Learning: We always used technology and are now seeing how it can support learning in the arts, especially when there is a greater emphasis on distance learning.

Value Statement ‚Äď How Has This Work Been Valuable for Your County?

This has been valuable in bringing all the communities together with a common interest in learning through the arts and engaging their students.


The implementation of arts into any curriculum is extremely important because all facets of students may be reached on any given day. There are students who have not had the exposure of working with various tactical materials and become fascinated with them as they learn to form science experiments, math projects as well as understanding geographical maps. The integration of performing arts into any subject encourages movement and intonation that inspires unlikely students to mimic or act outside of their comfort zone. In turn, I have witnessed some incredible changes in students academically as well socially when they are introduced to the different types of arts and hope that the county plans to support various arts into our professional development in the future.
‚Äď Gina Anderson, 8th grade teacher, Mammoth Middle School

I have attended several professional development in the past two years focusing on integrating arts in the regular classroom and social-emotional learning competencies. I now understand the importance of integrating these strategies into the regular classroom. First, all people have multiple intelligences they use to understand the new curriculum. By integrating arts, we are adding to the intelligences they use to learn, process and show understanding. Integrating arts helps to include all students in the learning. Integrating arts helps to build confidence and meet the needs of all students where they are. I only wish that training had been included when I earned my credentials over twenty years ago.
‚Äď From Shana Stapp, Mono County Adult Education Coordinator