Making a difference in a child’s life

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By Linda Cashman
As a teacher for 43 years in grades preschool through six, the last four as a kindergarten teacher at the Barrett Russell School in Brockton, I have utilized many different curriculums and programs within the public education system.  Through these years of teaching, I have learned that four and five-year-old children learn best through exploration, movement and tactile experiences.

This is why I was so excited to learn that ImagineARTS, South Shore Conservatory’s (SSC) arts and literacy program, was coming to the Barrett Russell School.  The ImagineARTS program incorporates all the skills I feel are most valuable to the development of young children, and supports their social, emotional, and academic growth and development.

SSC’s ImagineARTS became an integral part of the Barrett Russell curriculum three years ago.  At that time we were a brand new facility with 13 classrooms of kindergarten children.  The first year, ImagineARTS was introduced to only two classrooms, but expanded to include whole school the following year.  I fell in love with the program immediately.  The songs, stories, movement, and skills they introduce to the children mesh beautifully with everything I expose the children to in my classroom.  I like to teach through all modalities, and the ImagineARTS program supports my philosophy and beliefs.

The program has evolved over the years to focus not only on the musical aspects but also the skills needed for literacy for the four to five-year-old age group.  In order for kindergarten children to take ownership of material, it must be visual as well as auditory and tactile.  The ImagineARTS program incorporates all three within their program.  Specialists incorporate the songs and stories to align with the kindergarten curriculum, thus offering the children another opportunity to learn skills in a different and meaningful way, which supports all levels and abilities within the Barrett Russell School.

For example, my student Jason entered kindergarten having very little exposure to learning.  He did not attend preschool, so this was his first experience with group interaction and skills needed for reading.  At first he was very timid and hesitant to try new things.  He was not a risk taker.   Jason spent most of his time watching and observing before venturing out to participate.  When he started with the ImagineARTS program, he sat and watched nervously. He would not participate in the activities.  Three months into the program now, he has learned that ImagineARTS class is a safe place to try new things. He raises his hand to answer questions and participates joyfully when new songs and activities are introduced.  He is now a happy and active participant in the program.

ImagineARTS has become a crucial component to the success of the Barrett Russell School. The partnership with SSC has brought wonderful and talented musicians into our school and has expanded the learning and engagement for all students.  Family nights have offered another opportunity for families to come together and enjoy an evening of song and dance for all. The Barrett Russell School looks at the whole child and their development. SSC’s ImagineARTS has fostered that belief and has formed a strong partnership within the school.   We cannot imagine our program without it.

SSC’s ImagineARTS Arts-Integrated Literacy residency program is provided free-of-charge to 28 teachers and over 600 kindergarten students in the Brockton public schools.  It will take center stage this year at South Shore Conservatory’s annual benefit gala, Chase Away the Winter Blues, on January 28 at the River Club in Scituate. The annual Blues gala features creative black tie dress, seated dinner, live auction, dancing to the music of R&B band, In the House. Proceeds from the evening supports programming critical to SSCs mission including ImagineARTS, creative arts therapies, and academic scholarship.

For more information or to purchase tickets to Chase Away the Winter Blues, please visit sscmusic.org/winter_blues.html.

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