Friday, May 23, 2014

Saving the Arts in Afterschool - Thank Goodness

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Youth arts programming continues to be in the news. Just when we hear about new research of how arts programming supports academic progress and the development of  important life skills, we hear about programs that are being cut out of schools because of budget woes and the over emphasis on literacy and math.

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I had the pleasure recently of watching a high school presentation of Spring Awakening at Berkeley High School. This is the play that was a big success recently on Broadway and gave Lea Michele, star  of Glee, her start. Last week, I attended the annual dance performance by students from the San Francisco School of the Arts. The experience was the same - I was bowled over by the young people's intense commitment to mastery and commitment to the goal they shared with their group. Talk about developing a sense of purpose - a sense of mastery and agency - it was quite amazing. So enough of having to defend having arts programming, particularly performing arts, in our afterschool programs. 

Bob Cabeza
Bob Cabeza, Vice President of Community Development at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, passionately agrees:  "When you're doing a play, you're learning critical thinking skills, you're learning sequential thinking  skills, you're learning group work, and literacy - reading, memorizing that reading - but because it is project-based learning, the enthusiasm and also the focus on learning goes up tremendously."

Want more: Oakland Technical High School's drama program was recently featured on KQED's California Report. It has risen from the ashes to be acknowledged as one of the best in the country and it has had a big effect on students. Take a listen.

"Before I lived here, when I didn't have theater, my GPA was below a 1. Then I just got into reading, working, and learning because that's what you have to do to be in theater - you have to learn a lot about everything to be in the play. So I just kind of got into doing work because it really built a lot of that integrity and now I'm like a 3.5 GPA, which is really weird for me because that's never happened before." - Jacob Moore, Senior at Oakland Technical High School  

Dennis Creedon
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Want more: Watch this video of Philadelphia Assistant Superintendent of Schools explain why arts programming is essential to teaching kids how to reach their full potential. 

Want more: Read about the rationale for cuts in arts programming and why the arts are essential. 

Want more: I do! Let's celebrate the arts in afterschool and shout out all the good reasons why we have saved them.

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