Maryland State Department of Education's Fine Arts Office promotes meaningful engagement in arts education for all Maryland students. In its recent online publication, "5th Floor View", in the April edition "April on the 5th Floor", the following article regarding Garrett County's fine arts program was highlighted:
Mountains of Creativity!
Jane Wildesen, fine arts supervisor for Garrett County Public Schools, planned a tour of arts programs that included everything from a public art project to a rehearsal of THE LITTLE MERMAID. As we traveled from school to school, I was captivated by the beauty of Garrett County – its landscape and its people. The day started at Route 40 Elementary School where Superintendent Dr. Janet Wilson gave me an overview of the challenges and successes of the county and how multiple factors contribute to difficult decisions about public education. Dr. Wilson is an advocate and activist for arts education and, under her leadership, the arts are thriving. Music teacher Erin Dettinburn taught a class emphasizing rhythm and pitch for which students enthusiastically connected with their instruments. At Grantsville Elementary students were busily designing their contribution to a recycled planter project to be placed throughout the school community. Visual art teacher Kelly Lasher was working collaboratively with local artist Regina Holliday on the community project. At Northern High School, Jennifer Virts’ Theatre 1 students were analyzing personal physicality by examining in self and each other what body part motivated locomotor movement. Conversations with music teacher, Duane Salisbury and visual art teacher, Jay Paxton communicated a high level of student artistic achievement facilitated by their instruction.
Kindergarten music classes at Broad Ford Elementary, taught by Laura Dahlen and Heather Roth, emphasized rhythm in language and physicality, while offering constant opportunities for students to analyze the task at hand. Visual art teacher, Bonnie Frederick took me on a tour of her “Chincoteague Pony Swim”-themed art room as Kristen Winebrenner’s students created hats from recycled materials. At Yough Glades Elementary I saw the end of Ronni DiGioia’s class about creating patterns to be developed into 3-D shapes. Following the class we had a fantastic conversation about the importance of professional development for arts educators. Neil Krebs’ band class, at Southern Middle School, worked in a computer lab on a presentation on the historical and societal significance of classical music while Jason Shaw’s chorus finessed passages for an upcoming performance. After seeing Southern High School’s visual art students finalizing multiple projects in Ms. Ringler’s visual art class, I was able to catch some of Erin White’s THE LITTLE MERMAID rehearsal (Ms. White was simultaneously on book, running the light board, and loading sound cues!). The students were well-directed as evidenced by the seamless complex scenic and costume changes.
My day ended with a return to Broad Ford Elementary where I saw a remarkable 4th and 5th grade Orff instrumental ensemble. The 21st Century skills, evident in both the rehearsal and the conversation with the students following the rehearsal, allowed students to engage as their most creative selves. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Wilson, Dr. Wildesen, and Assistant Superintendent Barbara Baker, and Paul Edward, Director of Educational Services, Garrett County arts teachers recognize the importance of what they are bringing to classrooms everyday, and the students, and entire community, benefit from their commitment. I look forward to my next visit!
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