Learning Partners Encourages Youth to Flex Their Creative Muscle

“We need to give our youth the critical building blocks to go out and create,” says Laura Orange, Manager of Learning Partners. “We show students what community-based resources are at their fingertips.”


Learning Partners is a nationally recognized collaboration formed by community leaders as a way to provide high-quality arts and cultural activities to all Dallas ISD elementary students each year. The program unites Dallas ISD, the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, and numerous arts, science, and cultural organizations and teaching artists under the guidance of managing partner Big Thought.

“Learning Partners is a ‘socket’ of resources that schools can plug into,” Laura continues. “We bring the programming to educators and provide experiences for students that are not traditionally available in the classroom.” 

What started as solely an arts-based program, Learning Partners has evolved over time, uniting youth with art programming as well as enriching educational programs with elements of STEAM, visual and performing arts, language arts, and more. These programs include field trip opportunities, in-classroom experiences, as well as virtual programming to help youth master critical skills and engage interactively in the community, all while flexing their creative muscle. 

Learning Partners was born when the City of Dallas of Arts and Culture evaluated how few Dallas public school children were utilizing local, community-based programming. Originally named ArtsPartners, the program launched as a booking organization and acted as the connection point between local public schools and arts programming. The name has since changed as well as the volume of services available, expanding to other educational categories and adopting the name Learning Partners.


“Through our programming, DISD students from marginalized communities will encounter artists and creatives from diverse backgrounds and start to think ‘I can create too,’” says Orange. “It is not just about the facilities our youth visit, but the individuals they meet and find relatable, which helps accelerate their learning and broaden their imagination.” 

A McKinsey report on the impact of COVID-19 on learning loss finds that students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students. While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities will exit with the greatest learning loss. This makes supplemental programming even more important.

“Learning Partners immerses youth, many coming from marginalized communities, into new neighborhoods and spaces. These immersive, real-world experiences are critical to engage our students and help them flourish in a social environment,” says Orange.

“Our client is not the school or the educator alone. At the end of the day, our client is the child,” she concludes. 


Every DISD elementary school receives money for procurement of fine arts and art-infused programs experiences as well as science and social studies-infused programs provided by partners that are contracted through the Learning Partners program. The program is funded through Dallas ISD Visual & Performing Arts and Teaching & Learning departments. 

Educators within the DISD system can access readily available resources for their students apart from traditional school programming through Learning Partners and a Learning Partners Representative (LP Rep). Educators can learn more about taking advantage of these programs by visiting the comprehensive guide here.

Further, Learning Partners is eager to take on new Program Partners to continue on in its mission. A Program Partner can either be an individual or organization that provides hands-on learning experiences to students. 

For those interested in learning more about Learning Partners or joining as a Program Partner, visit here.