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Variety of fine arts clubs bring variety of benefits

Jul 27, 2017 02:23PM ● Published by Jet Burnham

The school orchestra performs for Fine Arts Night. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Gallery: fine arts clubs [4 Images] Click any image to expand.

The arts are well-represented at Calvin Smith Elementary with an assortment of clubs including band, orchestra, choir, drama and Chinese dancing.

“All of our arts activities are provided by our amazing teachers who do them on a volunteer basis,” said Principal Cindy Dunn. “If it were not for our parent and teacher support, these programs could not exist.” 

Rachel Hirschi is a parent volunteer who supports the fine arts programs. She heads the Reflections program at the school and volunteers to do music time in her children’s classrooms to make sure they have these experiences. She also volunteers with the choir.

“I’m super-passionate about getting arts in the school,” she said. “That’s how I feel like I better my community—by bringing in the arts.” 

Club advisers said involvement in the arts provides students with a wide range of benefits.

Fifth-grade teacher Michael Marcrum believes the school’s clubs provide all students with the opportunity to excel.

“It shows in the school setting that not everything is math and science and English,” said Marcum, Chinese Dance Club adviser. “You can be dedicated to something different and get good at it.”. The club is popular with the Chinese Dual Immersion students who can explore Chinese culture through dance.

Sixth-grader Toni Stoddard, who is in the choir, band and drama clubs, said her involvement in these groups gives her confidence.

“Confidence with this helps with confidence in other things, like with tests, school work and friendships,” she said.

Katie Anderton, drama club adviser, sees students’ confidence increase as they participate in drama productions and activities.

“We get a lot of shy kids, and it really gets them to be more outgoing,” she said. “They tend to start participating more in school activities, too.” 

Anderton teams with third-grade teacher Kim Cretsinger to provide short plays for the students to perform. They also recite group poems.

“It really benefits them academically—especially with reading and language arts,” said Anderton. A lot of the focus for the 40 members of the club is on reading and understanding poems and short stories—even works of Shakespeare. 

Involvement in the arts also encourages creativity and problem solving, said Anderton.  

“They learn how to work with one another; they learn how to problem solve with each other,” she said.

Band teacher Sarah White knows her program helps students with lessons outside of music.

“It definitely gets both sides of the brain working and helps with problem solving,” she said. White said her students learn how to work as a group. They practice their instruments individually and then come together to play the song as a band. 

“This is a skill they’ll use in college when they have to work together on a presentation with a group,” said White. She believes kids learn many life skills from these fine arts clubs: how to prepare, be dedicated, follow through and problem-solve. 

The biggest group is the school choir, led by Hirschi and teacher Ninalyn Nesbitt, which had 175 students this year. 

Sixth-grader Toni Stoddard has been in the choir since first grade.

“It’s a great way to just be loud,” she said. “It can be beautiful whether you sound good or not.”

Mandi Green, whose son is in the choir, believes the fine arts provide students with an outlet for dealing with difficult situations.

“It lets them go to places they can’t go—with their minds and their feelings,” she said. Her son, Gage, has found being part of the choir has been therapeutic since his father died in an accident in January. 

“Singing in the choir has been a really good healing experience for Gage,” said Nesbitt, who has seen the choir help other students dealing with grief. “We always try to pick something that kids can feel emotion as they’re exploring the song.”

Green said the choir also provides a social support system for Gage.

“It’s another way for them to connect with something in common,” said Green. 

Being part of a group helps kids make stronger friendships, believes Grace Hirschi, a sixth-grader. She has been bullied before and feels better when she’s part of a group.

“When you have friends in it, it’s a million times better,” said Grace.  

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