This Friday, our Community Arts class will be finishing our sessions with the Alabama Blues Project. It has been a lot of fun working with the 5th grade at Matthews Elementary. Together as teachers, we learned that with the right guidance, children are capable of incredible amounts of creativity. This semester the children learned interpersonal and self presentation skills through cartoon self portraits and theater activities. They also learned collaboration and planning skills through painting murals. Breaking out of comfort zones was an obstacle that they had to occasionally overcome, but once they pushed past and got started on their artwork or activity, they gained confidence and exceeded our expectations. Through discussion, we learned strategies and insights to take back to our individual communities and careers to improve living no matter how small the change. After this semester and beyond, the three of us will have experience and strategies to evaluate and better our different environments through art and collaboration.
As we’ve worked with the Alabama Blues Project thus far, we have seen continuously how the students (as well as ourselves as the teachers) have learned and grown through the process of making art. However, rarely have we been able to so directly and so quickly make an impact as we did today.
After working mostly with visual art projects and with the students’ final show coming up, it seemed only fitting to put their presentation skills to the test! The vocal students got the opportunity to stand up in front of their friends and fellow students and introduce themselves as well as a fun fact about themselves. We elaborated on what the vocal teacher had already taught the students and focused on diction, projection, and stage presence. This means making sure the audience can understand you, can hear you, and can see you.
The difference between the first round and the second was staggering! The shyest of students broke out of their shell in a matter of five minutes, volunteering to go again and asking questions. Every student stood taller and spoke louder and more clearly the second go around. And when we asked if anything was different between the first and second times, almost every single one of them expressed how much more confident they were after going through it once.
It was heartwarming and exciting to watch the students enjoy presenting themselves, and I look forward to seeing how far they’ve come at their final performance!
Throughout the last few months, I have been so pleasantly surprised at the students of Matthews Elementary Schools. Working with the Alabama Blues Project has given me a new perspective on the institution of ar
ts in the schools. Growing up in a public school, I was limited to the programs introduced to me; however, because of the hard work and determination of The Alabama Blues Project, these students are receiving chances that many other students their age are deprived of.
I believe the skills that these children are learning will follow them throughout life. Often, the students play as their uninterested, but as soon as they are given a task or purpose their eyes light up. This is why I do this. Watching the children experience new activities and ways of learning build confidence in themselves and one another. The children of Matthews Elementary encourage one another during every task set in front of them. I believe that arts should be encouraged in schools because when children create others are encouraged.
I have been reminded this semester that change in a school system can be impactful no matter how small. It is better to begin small than never start at all.