Blog post by Obediah Thomas
We’d like to share some ideas that you can use to improve the school climate, improve learning, increase school pride, and help your school reach every one of its goals AND NOT ADD TO THE TEACHER WORKLOAD.
What about adding an arts program to your elementary school…for next to nothing…
We all have limitations. We can’t do it all. Budget, time, resources, volunteers- if you have any of these in short supply you’re vision is going to be tough to realize.
And we all, everyone last one of us, have ALL FOUR in short supply.
Mark and I perform school assemblies, every show we create we are all about maximizing our time and budget and effectiveness.
And as we go to school after school (2193 and counting) we see what so many schools are doing right and wrong. This blog series is about what we’ve learned through our travels.
Arts are our thing. It’s our living, our passion. We are musicians. I know that art of some sort played a big part of your education. In fact everywhere I go principals tell me that they KNOW art is ESSENTIAL to education. In fact, to be honest, I don’t even like talking about it anymore, because it’s just complaining and nobody seems to be DOING anything about it.
So let’s do something. Let’s add more art in your school.
But how to integrate it with time and budget concerns.
Bulletin boards and PA systems.
Have two bulletin boards dedicated to art. One for music and one for visual arts.
First, assign a Captain of the Arts Board. They will probably think they are in charge of a Board of art enthusiasts… which may or may not be a draw…
They are in charge of changing the bulletin boards once a month.
First task, pick an artist. One musician, one visual artist.
Count Basie, Mozart, Freddy Mercury, Picasso, Cab Calloway, Da Vinci, Pollock, Rockwell- cover all genres, cover all time periods. The idea is to stretch the kids range of what exists out there.
Then cover the bulletin board with pictures, explanations, and great life achievements of “The Artist of the Month”.
It literally doesn’t matter who it is. The lists are endless. Here’s a link that will hold you for 101 months…http://www.theartwolf.com/articles/most-important-painters.htm
And here’s 20 musicians… https://www.laweekly.com/music/top-20-musicians-of-all-time-in-any-genre-the-complete-list-2401986
I would recommend NOT using anyone currently on the pop charts. Although the kids will love seeing their favs up there, they won’t be growing, and others will have hard negative opinions about the current artist. And they all will be unhappy you pick this artist over that artist.
However, listing the artists that were inspired by the musician of the month is perfect. These kids need to understand that art doesn’t happen in a vacuum. How awesome if they knew That the greats learn from others, just like your students learn from the teachers. Like how Lady Gaga borrowed the melody from Csárdás – Vittorio Monti https://youtu.be/IPYHy8k9Z34
Another pro tip. When choosing pictures you MUST have an action shot. Check out these two images of Cab Calloway. Which one do you think will inspire the imagination of the kids, or just get them talking?
Now let’s take this to the next level…
Morning announcements, make the board part of the every day by referring to it in the morning announcements. A short quick fact about the musician and/or the visual artist, with a reminder to check out the board.
And what a great way to start and end each morning announcement with a short clip of a famous song… The kids MUST hear the music to understand the artist.
Your school becomes a place of renaissance growth. Where everywhere you turn, you see a new fact, a different discipline, a whole world opening up the children.
In fact, at one school I was most impressed with, they used their sound system every morning as kids were coming in to play great music. It wasn’t the pop music the kids would listen to every day, it was a stretch, a reach, a way for them to stop and say, “What is that?” If you can get a kid to stop and say “What is that music?” you have accomplished something big. Don’t worry about them ‘liking’ it, it’s our job as adults to expose kids to different ideas, different ways of thinking. That is ALWAYS met with resistance, young or old, but no less important.
With today’s tech, someone with just a bit of knowledge, or the capacity to learn, can easily put together clips every day to play on the morning announcements. It may well be the best part of that morning connection, a new tradition. Who to get for this task? Ask a teacher, ask a parent, I guarantee that someone would LOVE the idea of musically and artistically influencing the next generation.
This program has:
Zero time away from classroom activities.
Nice visual element for parents to let them know that art education is important.
Kids will actually read the board, and think about art, pick up a fact or two…and maybe…
Listen to something written BEFORE 2000
(and mega bonus…you can put in your favorite artists.)