What is BRAINworks?

BRAINworks (Berkshire Regional Arts Integration Network) is a collaboration between the

North Adams Public Schools and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ Arts Management Program. The initiative offers professional development and support to Berkshire County educators to help them integrate the arts to engage all students and enrich academic offerings.

Cohort 2 educators create rainsitcks as part of the 2019 BRAINworks Summer Institute

Our vision

Our vision is to grow and expand arts integration practices across the curriculum and county to deepen student learning, and to document the process and its impact on student learning. By offering free professional development to Berkshire County teachers, we hope to enrich pedagogical practice using arts integration and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge strategies.

We believe that through the arts and arts integration we will build creative capacity leading to increased academic achievement and schools that reflect the arts and culture for which Berkshire County is known. This work will build towards workforce development skills, leading to a stronger economy and community as we focus on enriching the educational foundation local students receive.

Our goals

To increase the use of arts-based strategies in teaching and learning

To align Berkshire County arts and culture organizations’ offerings with area schools, and deepen collaboration between schools and these institutions

To provide ongoing high-quality professional development for educators who want to integrate the arts across the curriculum to deepen practice, improve student engagement, and increase student understanding

To build a digital portal which connects educators to resources and arts-integrated curriculum across Berkshire County

To study this approach and document its impact on student learning and teacher practice


BRAINworks is made possible the Professional Development for Arts Educators grant, a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement in the amount of $739,780

Cohort 1 educators enjoy drama strategies as part of the 2019 BRAINworks Summer Institute


What is BRAINworks?

BRAINworks (Berkshire Regional Arts Integration Network), a federally-funded 4-year grant program, brings together school districts, organizations, local experts and higher education to collaborate and create a regional vision for arts integration. Our vision is to grow and expand arts integration practices across the curriculum and county to deepen student learning, and to document the process and its impact on student learning. BRAINworks offers free professional development to Berkshire County educators to deepen pedagogical practice using arts integration and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge strategies.

  • Year 1: Planning and launch of arts integration professional development

  • Years 2 & 3: Implementation of arts integrated lesson plans, collaborative programming, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and program

  • Year 4: Analyzing the data and planning for next steps

What does the program cost?

The program is free to participate for all Berkshire County educators

Where is this program taking place?

BRAINworks takes place at various locations and arts organizations across Berkshire County.

Who can participate?

All educators employed in Berkshire County school districts are eligible to participate in BRAINworks.

When do I need to submit my application?

At this time, BRAINworks has completed its third year of programming and is not accepting applications for new participants.

Is there a stipend for my participation?

Qualifying accepted participants are eligible to receive a stipend. Federal grant stipulations require that accepted participants meet the following two combined criteria to qualify:
–  the participant must be employed in a Berkshire County Title I district, AND
– the percentage of socioeconomically disadvantaged students there meets or exceeds 50%. 
Currently the school districts that meet both criteria are North Adams Public Schools, Pittsfield Public Schools, Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, and BART Charter School.

What's involved in the Summer Institute?

The Summer Institute is the prerequisite course for all BRAINworks programming. Educations gain flexible strategies in arts integration, aligned to DOK levels of rigor. For more information about the Summer Institute, visit our BRAINworks Programming page.

Are meals provided during grant programming?

Due to federal grant restrictions, the purchase of meals or refreshments as part of grant programming is prohibited.

Will participating affect my MA Educator Evaluation?

You may you choose to use the work from this grant program as part of your goals connected to the MA Educator Evaluation. However, your participation and work with the BRAINworks grant program are not directly related to your MA Educator Evaluation.

Can I earn PDPs or professional credits for my participation?

Yes! BRAINworks courses are accredited by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and you can earn either in-service credits or graduate credits for your participation. The number of credits for each course each semester varies.
You can earn PDPs instead of credits for your participation in BRAINworks if you so choose. PDPs are awarded by North Adams Public Schools.

Arts Integration and Webb's Depth of Knowledge

BRAINworks provides arts integration strategies that incorporate Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. What are these concepts? They’re large ideas that encompass assessment, rigor, artistic techniques and the scaffolding of learning.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts offers a comprehensive interpretation of arts integration: defining it as “an approach to teaching in which student construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process which connects an art form with another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both” (Silverstein and Layne, 2010). This type of teaching strategy can take the form of using creative movement to teach and assess learning about the water cycle, or creating a collage to illustrate the main themes of a difficult piece of literature.

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (or, DOK) is a schema for understanding academic rigor, with four levels that help educators identify how rigorous a student task might be. Developed by educator Norman Webb, DOK categorizes the academic actions into four levels. Each subsequent level indicates increased rigor, and prompts educators to consider the cognitive effort required by a student to complete a task. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge is often illustrated by a wheel with a section for each of the four levels.

Related work

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The C4 Initiative

The Creative Compact for Collective Impact and is a collaborative effort between Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF) and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. C4 will bring together a network of cultural organizations, public school educators and administrators and private employers to create a K-12 arts education blueprint for Berkshire County that provides public school students with regular opportunities to participate in creating art and to experience Berkshire County's many cultural institutions. The C4 Initiative is made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Compact for Collective Impact (MCLA) and the Barr Foundation’s Creative Commonwealth Initiative (BTCF). Click the left-hand photo to visit the C4 webpage for more information.

Leveraging Change: Increasing Access to Arts Education in Rural Areas

Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, this report was co-authored by Dr. Lisa Donovan, Ph.D. and Maren Brown, M.B.A. in 2017 to highlight the challenges and opportunities of increasing access to arts education in rural areas. The report also showcases effective practices, including creating collaborative rural networks and using technology to bridge physical barriers. Suggestions from a cross-sectoral convening in Berkshire County are featured. You can watch Dr. Donovan discuss this reserach in her talk from the TEDxNorthAdams event.

Mindful Living Program


Improving Teacher Quality Grant Program

This federally-funded project serves preschool through second grade teachers in Berkshire County schools, including those in the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, Child Care of the Berkshires, Head Start, North Adams Public Schools, North Berkshire School Union, and Pittsfield Public Schools. Since its inception in 2014, the program has emphasized the STEAM education model and the benefits of arts integrated curriculum. Professional development opportunities include workshops, summer classes, and in-classroom coaching.

MCLA Institute for Arts and Humanities

The MCLA Institute for the Arts and Humanities (MCLA-IAH) is a grant-funded initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which works to strategically promote equity-centered change on campus and in the community by (1) expanding access to area arts and humanities resources, (2) catalyzing opportunities for interdisciplinary engagements, and (3) advancing experiential teaching and learning practices in higher education. 


MCLA-IAH creates experiential spaces for anti-racist education, dialogue, and action.

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