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Art for Art's Sake

posted Feb 1, 2014, 10:23 AM by Kristina Fernandes   [ updated Feb 1, 2014, 10:24 AM ]

Published in the December 2013 Newsletter.

Written by Krissy Fernandes, PTO Co-President


Creativity is essential to student achievement and success. Extensive research demonstrates that students who are highly engaged in the arts, humanities, and sciences do better in school and are more involved in their communities. The arts are especially effective in reaching young people at risk of failure by giving them tools to explore and interpret their experiences in ways no other subjects can.

Unfortunately, schools do not always have the resources or time needed to provide an adequate education in the arts. A recent study by the Center on Education Policy indicates that the federal No Child Left Behind law, with its focus on standardized-test scores in math and reading, has led to a 16 percent decline in the time devoted to art and music instruction in public schools over the last six years. (Source: The Massachusetts Cultural Council)

To help off-set this decline, organizations have been established at the state, town and school levels to ensure that our students are exposed to the arts throughout their K-12 education. At Ben-Hem, the PTO funds a Cultural Arts committee that focuses on bringing in presentations and acts to the school that focus on everything from music and theater to dance and illustration.

This year, the PTO will spend over $13,000 on Cultural Arts. Already this year, students have enjoyed programs such as Fireseed Arts’ performance on environmentally conscious art, the States of Matter science presentation to the Fourth Grade by the Museum of Science, and an interactive performance of the Nutcracker by the Impulse Dance Center in Natick for the First Grade. These are just 3 of over 14 programs planned for Ben-Hem students this school year.

It takes more than funding for the PTO to provide such great exposure to the arts for our students. Each year, a committee of parent volunteers is put together to coordinate the programs that are brought into the school. The Cultural Arts committee is currently chaired by Kim Knowlton, parent of a Third Grader at Ben-Hem and a Fifth Grader at Wilson. Kim has volunteered on the Cultural Arts committee for several years and stated that their goal is to bring more art to the school “for art’s sake” and to reach out to kids that have an interest in performing arts.

The Cultural Arts committee is organized so that any parent that has an interest helping out can get involved. Every year, a parent volunteer is assigned to each grade to help coordinate with the teaching staff on which acts to bring in. In addition, there is a volunteer assigned to coordinate the all-school performances.

The first responsibility of the committee members is to identify which programs to bring to Ben-Hem each year. This decision making process is made easier due to the input from teachers and the town-wide and regional Cultural Arts groups. There is a monthly meeting in which all of the Natick Schools come together to discuss recommendations for performances, and feedback on programs that they have offered in the past. Ben-Hem is also a member of the West Suburban Cultural Arts Committee which puts on several events each year to showcase programs so that schools can preview the acts before making the decision to bring them into their school. The criteria that the Cultural Arts committee uses to evaluate new acts includes: the content of the program; the age appropriateness; and for the grade level programs, how well it ties into the curriculum. The committee also tries to bring in a wide variety of art forms throughout the year including musical acts, story tellers, theater, authors, illustrators, painters, dance and more.

Once the programs have been identified, one of the biggest responsibilities of the volunteers is juggling the schedules of the performers and the school. There are many things that need to be considered in the scheduling of an act including when the cafeteria is available, when classes have their specials, and how many performances are required to reach all students. After the schedule has been finalized, it is just a matter of having a volunteer at the school the day of the performance to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

While the Cultural Arts committee is far along in the planning for the programs to offer this year, there are still many opportunities available for parents to get involved and volunteer. If you would like to help out by evaluating programs, scheduling acts, or helping at the school the day of a performance, please contact Kim at culturalarts@benhempto.org.

Thank you to Kim and the rest of the Cultural Arts Committee (Kara Bettigole, Kathy Wick, Michelle Lieberman) for all of their efforts so far this year. Your can find out more about the programs being offered this year online at http://www.benhempto.org/getinvolved/cultural-arts. A few of the upcoming performances that your students can look forward to are: Tanglewood Marionettes on January 14 (Kindergarten), Illustrator Eujin Neilan at the end of January (Second Grade), and author and illustrator Suzy Kline in January/February.
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