May is Arts Education Month

The Highline Schools Foundation is proud to support the arts – here are a few of the Excel Grants we funded this year:


African Rhythms

African Rhythms

African drumming at Hilltop Elementary.

Music teacher Elizabeth Hogan from Hilltop Elementary requested an Excel Grant to purchase Tubano Drums for use in two general music classrooms.

The Request: African drum repertoire offers experience for all levels of learners. Drumming is music in its most elemental form; it allows students to feel and hear the strong beat, the most important part when playing in an ensemble.

African drumming is such that it challenges more advanced learners with complicated rhythms and accents. Drumming allows students to expand their skills starting with simple beat playing, advancing to more challenging material. In this unit of study, students will work toward composing their own music. Students in 5th and 6th grade will compose a 2-part, 8 beat rhythm. In composition, it is often easier for 5th/6th grade students to begin with rhythm before introducing tones (melody). Though primarily for use with upper grade levels, students in K-4 will also play, starting with playing the syllables of their names in Kindergarten.

From a social studies perspective, the origins of African music gives students insight into how music in America evolved, e.g. Jazz, Gospel, etc. Discussion and research would encompass essential questions such as: “Why did cultures in Africa use the drum?” (communication/materials); “What role does music play in African culture” (and other cultures)?; “How did African immigrants/slaves influence American music?”

My 12 years teaching music has shown me the drum is the most sought after instrument for all grade levels. Drumming allows students tactile experience while solidifying essential skills necessary for successful ensemble work. In addition to the 5th and 6th grade African Rhythms project, we would use the Tubano Drums during regular rhythm reading/playing activities at all grade levels.

The Results: Intermediate students have gotten the most use from them, as we’ve been exploring polyrhythms and rhythmic improvisation. Upper grades have done African songs and are now working on Caribbean songs and rhythms. Primary students have enjoyed learning rhythmic patterns on drums, as well as the opportunity to just “bang on the drum” (it’s always good to let students play whatever they want on a new instrument before setting about their task). Kindergarten plays the syllables of their names on drums. The syllables become the rhythm of the music. First and second graders play both syllables of songs and poems, but also written rhythms using q n ssss.


Keep the Music Flowing with Hands On Learning

Keep the Music Flowing with Hands On Learning - New xylophones

Bow Lake students love to play the xylophones!

Music Specialist Susan Bjelke from Bow Lake Elementary requested an Excel Grant to purchase a soprano xylophone and an alto xylophone to benefit all students at Bow Lake.

The Request: My musicians love to play the xylophones! In a perfect situation, each student would have their own instrument; however in my classroom, two to three students share an instrument. My students are great about waiting their turn and mentoring their partners, but they would much rather put their skills to work and play with the group.

Playing the xylophone is a fun and engaging way for students to learn and practice musical concepts (steady beat, rhythms, dynamics, reading music) and work as an ensemble producing real music.

The Results: The additional instruments allow more students to actively participate in their music class. The students were excited to learn that I had won a grant and even more excited when I showed them the new instruments. They treat them with respect and care. By having extra instruments, students are “on task” and able to rehearse their parts.


Let’s Play Ukulele!

Let's Play Ukulele!

Let’s Play Ukulele! with Gregory Heights Elementary students.

Music Specialist Margaret Brinkerhoff from Gregory Heights Elementary requested an Excel Grant to purchase Hilo Deluxe Mahogany Soprano Ukuleles.

The Request: Learning an instrument is a life-long skill and passion. Our hope is that all students learn to love music throughout their lives. As educators, we want not only to teach our students the basics of music, but also to provide them with a gift that will last a lifetime. We want our students to be able to play and sing campfire songs, sing lullabies for their children, and have a creative outlet to express themselves when words are not enough.

We have found that many students who struggle in their general education classrooms find success in Music class. Through learning to play the ukulele, students develop discipline, hard work, teamwork, fine motor skills, creative expression, and a sense of accomplishment and belonging.

Students will learn the necessary skills to play basic chords on the ukulele, and to accompany themselves while singing. They will learn how to play and sing different styles of music, and to become independent musicians who can figure out a song on their own. Students will also learn to write their own music and share it with others.

We would like to offer an instrumental option to students who do not sign up for 5th or 6th grade Band, and the ukulele is the perfect choice, as it is universal, timeless, and small enough for younger students. With 670 students at our school, we can reach a lot of children through music, and plan to use the ukuleles with 5th and 6th graders as well as other grade levels. We envision that our own set of working ukuleles would enable us to inspire musical creativity and build musical techniques so that our students will become passionate and skilled practitioners. We have seen the power of a musical instrument to light up a child’s eyes, and look forward to sharing that spark with students at Gregory Heights for many years to come.

The Result: With this grant, I was able to purchase enough ukuleles to complete my classroom set. I now have 30 ukuleles, enough for every student in each 5th and 6th grade general music class to have their own instrument to use at school. This keeps all students engaged and excited to learn about music and apply it to the ukulele. I was also able to purchase several sets of strings and tuners that will allow me to do my own maintenance on the instruments and keep them in tune.

My students are all very excited to have our very own ukuleles. A few have even gotten their own ukulele so that they can practice at home. For the majority of the students, who are not able to purchase their own, however, they are able to play a musical instrument at school. I have a group of students who come in during recess to practice. I am also training a few students who are interested to tune the instruments, and they have been putting in extra time to help me tune them before school!

I have especially enjoyed having the students work in small groups during class, and watching them problem solve and work together to put the chords and lyrics of the songs we are learning together. My students will be performing on the instruments (as well as singing) in our spring concert and are very excited to do so.


White Center Heights Drama Club

White Center Heights Drama Club

White Center Heights Elementary students rehearse The Aristocats after school.

Andrea Gardner from White Center Heights requested an Excel Grant to help with funding to supplement their current theatrical production of Disney’s Aristocats.

The Request: We have the support of the staff, students, and families to make this program sensational but we simply cannot do it without a budget.

Recently, WCH was one of five Western Washington schools accepted as a participant in a pilot program offered by the Seattle Theater Group (STG) and Disney Musicals in Schools (DMIS). This program provides the materials and support to produce a theatrical production of Disney’s Aristocats. To date, it has been an exciting endeavor that has united students from grades 3 through 6 in the goal of creating a dynamic musical theater show. The pilot program provides scripts, CD’s, director/choreography/music instruction, licensing, and most importantly two teaching artists from STG to work with the group once a week during rehearsal. The production is led by 8 dedicated teachers who volunteer and who are feverishly learning from the teaching artists each week. The program is intended to teach teachers how to run Disney Musicals in Schools programs so that schools are able to continue independently in the future.

With an Excel Grant from the Highline Schools Foundation, we will be able to purchase materials for scenery, props, makeup, and costumes. This show is intended to run on a small budget, unfortunately we have zero budget and this is creating a big challenge. Funding from the Highline Schools Foundation will cover: fabric, craft supplies to create accessories: ears & tails for cats, colored bandanas, headbands, hats, fabric paint, police badge, cowboy hats, etc. We will purchase items for costumes at thrift stores and whenever possible, we will recruit families to participate in helping with costume design and creation but for our families, it is necessary to provide the supplies to do so.

The Result: It has turned into a major collaboration and community effort. We’ve been working on the show since mid-October and it’s shaping up to be a smile-inducing, foot-tapping good time.

The collaboration looks like this: Arts Corps is in house twice a week and the students in this class are working on creating the sets. Meanwhile, on the stage, STG/Disney are here working on the production—the whole thing led by 6 teacher volunteers who are devotedly here for extra hours each week working with 40 students. All of the extras (costumes, props, art supplies, sub-staff for performances, bus to the Moore theater, etc.) were funded with a Highline Schools Foundation’s Excel grant! Wow, that’s a spicy meatball of collaboration! How awesome!?

The students performed during school for the students, an evening performance for families and at the Moore Theater on with the other 4 schools who are running this program – including Mt. View Elementary. Read more on the HPS website >>


Jump to: African Rhythms | Keep the Music Flowing with Hands On Learning | Let’s Play Ukulele | White Center Heights Drama Club


Raise your hand if stories like this make you want to go back school! We have wonderful teachers here in Highline and The Highline Schools Foundation is very proud to be able to help them out with grants for programs like these. How can you help? You can make a donation – Attend an Event – Become a Sponsor – Donate an item or activity to our Oktoberfest Auction – Become a Trustee – Ask your employer of they offer Gift MatchingVolunteer – the list is endless!

Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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