Santa Barbara Charter School: Articulated Fiber Arts Program « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Santa Barbara Charter School: Articulated Fiber Arts Program

Practice Area: Arts-Themed Education

Santa Barbara Charter School:
Articulated Fiber Arts Program

Santa Barbara Charter School

Goleta, California
Founded 1993
284 students
Grades K-8
65% White, 19% Hispanic, 8% Asian, 3% African-American, 5% Other
3% English language learners
8% Special needs
12% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit


Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

The mission of Santa Barbara Charter School is to teach academics through
the arts, and the Articulated Fiber Arts Program does so in an expansive,
cross-curricular manner.

Focused on grades K to 5 with some middle school offerings, the AFAP integrates all subjects in the fiber arts lessons, following a specific age-appropriate progression of skills and concepts: finger knitting, rope making, spool knitting, crocheting, knitting, weaving, and sewing. Each lesson incorporates literature and a culmination showcase of work at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

As the program spread throughout the school, the faculty and students embraced it. The AFAP has become part of the school’s identity, from the art shows to the astonishing number of grade-schoolers who knit. The children also develop self-esteem and self-confidence, a sense of community and cooperation, and a greater awareness of art and craftsmanship.


Early in the school’s history, a parent at Santa Barbara Charter School hired a fiber arts specialist to work with a class of students. As time progressed, the artist worked with the entire student body and developed the K-5 progression of skills.

All classroom teachers are trained in the Fiber Arts program and can link fiber arts study to all subjects taught. In language arts classes, they teach books with a fiber arts theme (“Mr. Nick’s Knitting” “The Seasons Sewn”), particularly books which concern multiculturalism as well.

Counting, symmetry and measurements are just the beginning of math skills necessary for Fiber Arts. In science, the students are required to learn where fibers come from and may also plant flowers to make dye for their fibers.

Fiber Arts lessons may discuss different cultures’ use of fibers throughout history (social studies); and require children to discuss pieces of art in class (oral skills).


As the founding fiber arts specialist brought her own materials, samples and ideas, little start-up and planning was required of the SBCS staff. When the program expanded, a budget and salary were required.

For the $2005-2006 school year, $1024 was budgeted for the fiber arts specialist’s salary: $32 an hour for 32 hours, 16 teaching hours and 16 prep hours (though she volunteers many more than that, she has said).

Another $200 covers materials. A small parent-teacher group that organizes fund-raisers for arts at SBCS added another $4500 (approximate) annually for AFAP.

Lessons Learned

The SBCS staff agrees that the budgetary constraint is the AFAP’s greatest challenge. Staff is looking for companies to donate supplies and for parental help.

The staff has also mentioned the necessity of outside funding, such as grants, and an increased need for parent help to sustain the program.

Hiring and training teachers in the AFAP and maintaining their interest in the program is another necessity.


The school’s staff has said that it’s difficult to link specific test score gains to AFAP participation — though SBCS improved its API from 706 in 2003-2004 to 755 in 2004-2005 — but has observed other gains in areas from fine-motor skills to respect for their peers to transference of their enthusiasm for Fiber Arts to academics as a whole.

Finally, they learn to achieve and appreciate art and craftsmanship. One teacher’s favorite validation for AFAP was overhearing one fifth-grade boy say to another, “Dude, let’s knit.”


Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
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Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
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