Local Schools Adopt Art Program to Advance DEI and Understanding of Muslim Culture

The program reports an 88% increase in student comfort levels about Muslim people

PRINCETON, NJ; Young Audiences Arts for Learning (YANJEP) is proud to announce a new cohort of schools selected to participate in the United We Create program, a one of a kind educational program that allows Muslim artists to teach students about Muslim cultures, arts, and storytelling.

The United We Create program, which begins December 2022, promotes cultural understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim students by creating entry points for schools to increase positive perceptions of Muslim identities and build connected communities.

Queen Nur, YA Artist from United We Create Program, with Student teaching Muslim culture

Queen Nur, a YA artist, uses storytelling to teach students about Muslim culture. 

The selected schools range from Kindergarten through Grade 12, and include Chester Charter Scholars Academy in Chester, PA; FW Holbein Middle School in Mt. Holly, NJ; Lalor Elementary School in Hamilton Township, NJ; Penn Valley Elementary School in Levittown, PA; and Vare-Washington Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA.

“I am so excited for our school to be able to participate in this program,” said Arlene Johnson, school counselor at Penn Valley Elementary. “This program will provide lasting, life-long lessons for our students, staff, families, and community. I am humbled by the generosity of your organization and cannot wait to get started!”

This program will allow students to learn Muslim history and culture through the arts with professional teaching artists, while also recognizing and elevating Muslim traditions. In past programs, schools have seen an 88% increase in student comfort level when asked questions about Muslim people and culture.

YA Artist Karim Nagi

Music & Movement Where Muslims Live with Karim Nagi

YANJEP Program manager TAHIRA states, “As the project leader and teaching artist in this initiative, I have witnessed the transformative power of the arts. Students make discoveries and connections about the shared humanity of people from divergent backgrounds. Teachers report expanding their pedagogy to make their classrooms more culturally responsive.”

United We Create also provides professional development opportunities for educators to discover methods for promoting mutual respect, difference, and cultural understanding grounded in asset approach pedagogy and aligned with active learning practices. Through these professional development programs, we’ve seen a 120% increase in teachers who say they feel prepared to begin implementing strategies in the classroom that value Muslim cultures and experiences

“Lalor is honored to be selected by YANJEP to participate in the United We Create project!” Stated Jennifer Marinello, Principal at Lalor Elementary. “We are looking forward to working closely with the fabulous teaching-artists this school year to foster empathy, tolerance, and awareness of the Muslim community. We can’t wait to see what the program has to offer our students, families, and staff.”

United We Create is offered through Young Audiences Arts for Learning NJ & Eastern PA, the premier arts education organization in the region. It is made possible through funding from the Building Bridges program, the national grant-making arm of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Since 2007 the Building Bridges Program has supported national efforts, working with U.S.-Muslims, to increase mutual understanding and well-being among diverse populations for the benefit of building stronger, inclusive communities. The program is anchored in the conviction that strategic use of the arts and media can help provide an effective social prescription for achieving this vision. 

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.