Fast Facts


Location [Graphic: Muti-Track Scheduling]
Leo Politi Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA (a multi-track, year-round school) Local District 4, Los Angeles Unified School District


Duration [Graphic: Evolution Chart]
Three years (FY2001-2004)

Grade Levels Served

Student Population Served

  • 96.4% Hispanic; 0.2% Al/Alsk; 2.5% Asian; 0.6% Black; 0.3% White
  • 83% qualify for Title I funding
  • 95% enrolled in the Free or Reduced Lunch Program
  • 80% Limited English Proficient. The majority of students' parents are recent immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America.
  • Total # of Students: 850
  • Total # of Teachers Participating: 25 (of 60 total teachers at Leo Politi)
  • Total # of Artist/Educators: 10 (6-7 each year)

Content Areas

  • Media Literacy (critical thinking, viewing and creating media) integrated into other subjects,
    with emphasis on Language Arts (reading, writing, speaking, listening).
  • Four Visual and Performing Arts Disciplines: Dance, Theatre (storytelling), Music, and Visual Art
  • Technology: Animation

Instructional Standards

  • McRel K-12 Language Arts with Benchmarks for "Viewing" and "Media"
  • California Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA)
  • California History-Social Science
  • California English Language Development (added Year 3)

Professional Development
The SMARTArt teaching team, comprised of participating K-5 teachers at Leo Politi Elementary School and MCED artist/educators, received in-service training and coaching in:

  • Media Literacy
  • Cross-curricular integration of standards-based Media Literacy, Visual and Performing Arts, and Language Arts. Year 3 included English Language Development standards.
  • Animation techniques and production

Underlying Educational Pedagogy
Project SMARTArt's media literacy instruction for teachers, artists, and students is based on developing and strengthening the thinking process abilities to access, analyze, evaluate, and create information. These basic process skills are derived from the four steps of awareness, analyses, reflection, and action, outlined in The Empowerment Spiral. The Spiral model, also called "action learning," incorporates such theoretical approaches as experiential education, constructivist learning, critical thinking, and communication pedagogy.

SMARTArt's integrated media literacy, arts, and technology curriculum is taught simultaneously with traditional academic content. Structured on a framework comprised of the Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions in the CML MediaLit Kit™,[4] the Project uses an "inquiry process" teaching approach. (Key Questions to Guide Young Children, based on the Five Key Questions, were used to reach these elementary school students.) The process involves students in media analysis and production to help them build and apply critical thinking competencies. Described in Bloom's Taxonomy, such competencies include: knowledge, analysis, comprehension, application, synthesis and evaluation (outlined at Learning objectives also include the thinking standards of California State University at Sonoma's Critical Thinking Consortium, described at

Project activities in the classroom encourage children to learn and express themselves through multiple intelligences, as defined in Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind. Classroom teaching strategies, modeled in the SMARTArt professional development workshops, are based on the "best practices" defined in Best Practice: New Standards for Teaching and Learning in America's Schools, Zemelman, Daniels, and Hyde; and in "The Foxfire Approach: Perspectives and Core Practices, Spring/Summer 1990 (

Participating Partners [Graphic: Organizational Chart]

  • Leo Politi Elementary School, Los Angeles, CA
  • Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Local District 4 (lead education agency)
  • Center for Media Literacy, Santa Monica, CA (CML)
  • Los Angeles Music Center Education Division (MCED)
  • AnimAction, Inc., Hollywood, CA

Funding Mechanisms

  • One of 17 media literacy demonstration grants funded in FY2001 by: U.S. Department of Education, and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • In-kind contributions from Participating Partners


  • FY2001: $127,000
  • FY2002: $147,000
  • FY2003: $162,000
  • In-kind Contributions: $639,000

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[4] Core Concepts and Key Questions, CML MediaLit Kit™ Orientation Guide, pp. 9 to 14. "Questions to Guide Young Children" and "Expanded Questions" for deeper inquiry, p. 22-23.