Excel Grant Stories – The Arts

Over the past several years, there has been a trend of schools cutting the arts from their curriculum. Music, art, theater—gone for so many. Because the Highline Public Schools Board recognizes that arts education (defined as dance, music, theater, and visual arts) is an essential part of the learning experience for all Highline students, they made a commitment to the Arts with Board Policy 2160: Arts Education. This policy encourages the development and implementation of arts education. However, funding for the arts is limited. Therefore, Highline Schools Foundation created the Excel Grant program over a decade ago.

The goal of the Excel Grant program is to fund innovative ideas and programs that school budgets can’t provide. We strive to support activities and experiences that expand the learning process and actively engage students – like ART!

2nd Grade Television Studio at White Center Heights Elementary

2nd Grade Television Studio

We have been able to be more creative with lessons and activities while giving the students a fun opportunity to act, speak in public/on camera, and have fun! We have the studio set up in the classroom and have used it for one big project (so far!). The students created artwork to go with poems about their culture. We took pictures of the artwork and then had the students stand in front of the green screen to read their poems. After a bit of movie magic, their artwork appeared (extra huge!) behind them as they were reading their poems.

“The completed project was presented during a school-wide assembly: Cultural Night in January 2017.” ~ Andrea Gardner

A Real Author is Coming to North Hill Elementary!

Jim WhitingThis grant brought a published author, Jim Whiting, to my 5th grade Reading classes. What was accomplished by inviting him was the gaining of insights for students as to the writing process, and what it takes to become an author in the “real world”. I accomplished more than I set out to do in that students were enthralled with his books and his life story and soaked in every word he said. The difference Mr. Whiting’s visit made with my students is it made it real for them to see the connection between writing and reading, He also touched several students with his comments on their essays they had written and sent to him ahead of his visit. He found the positive aspects of their style of writing and let them know what they had gotten right. It was easily seen how proud they were of their efforts. One student was so honored to be chosen to share his writing and join “Lunch with the Author” that he told his mom to put only “healthy” items in his lunch that day so he could impress his teacher and Mr. Whiting!

“I am grateful Highline Schools Foundation is willing to give grants to enhance the learning experience for our students. These are experiences and/or materials they would not otherwise have had.” ~ Sherry Edwards

All Instruments Matter-How piccolos, oboes, and bassoons can make the Arts & Academics Academy band great again

Thanks to this grant, our band now has instruments, accessories, and equipment which students are able to use to perform more expansive and complex music. We accomplished the goal, which was to give students the opportunity to play instruments which add color and texture to the band. Adding the instruments and accessories has increased student curiosity within the band. When the instruments arrived, students had questions and explored by listening to and viewing performances where oboes and bassoons were featured. Two of the students also have taken pride in our band’s ownership of the new piccolo and mallets, and have practiced individually to become successful. We have also seen how the addition of the bassoon and oboe reeds can affect recruitment as students are excited about new opportunities.

“The process was actually easier than I thought. Thank you so much!” ~ Matthew Duhrkoop

Aloha! Music Making for a Lifetime with Ukuleles at North Hill Elementary

Aloha! Music Making for a Lifetime with UkulelesI completed a set of 30 ukuleles to be used with my 5th and 6th graders. We have begun our study and the students are doing great! It is wonderful to see how engaged they are in the learning. Older Elementary students enjoy playing instruments. Historically I have done percussion ensembles, it is wonderful to have another option for students to engage in. I love that they can buy a ukulele for relatively little money and continue their love of music into their future.

“Thank you so much for your generosity. Your grants have helped me maintain and improve upon our music program several times now and I appreciate you very much.” ~ Colleen Thomas-Reitsma

Bringing WITS to Cascade

Bringing WITS to CascadeWe wanted to accomplish students learning about poetry and poetic devices as well as exploring creative writing and finding their voices as writers. We definitely accomplished this! Students wrote I am poems, where they used metaphors to compare themselves to objects/animals/colors. They also wrote zombie poems using narrative techniques and imagery to develop a fictional world around a zombie apocalypse.

The most exciting for most students, though, were the group poems in which students chose a topic and each contributed lines and stanzas to create and perform a spoken word/slam style poem to present to the group. During performances on our last day, every single student stood up and performed! Not a single student opted out or wasn’t prepared. It was inspiring to see the encouragement, support, and pride in every class.

Every student was impacted in terms of their increased knowledge of reading, writing, and poetry. Along with that, many students were just plain inspired. I overheard a conversation between two students in which one said, “I love poetry now” and the other replied, “I used to love poetry and doing this reminded me of that.” I also have quite a few students who have been more engaged in this work than they have been about any other project this year. And they used this opportunity to explore real issues, like racism and equality, instead of trying to make it into a joke (although there were also plenty of fun and funny poems as well). Beyond anything else, though, I think students realized the power of collaboration and sharing. My students are no longer afraid to share out loud with the class. Once you have PERFORMED poetry for your peers, not much else can scare you.

“Thank you so much for your support!! Having WITS work with our students is something I have been trying to make happen for literally seven years. This is a dream come true!” ~ Emily Harris

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! at Shorewood Elementary

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!The initial grant proposal was written to benefit the Music program (i.e., Shorewood Choir), the PE program (i.e., Field Day activities), and multicultural activities (i.e., Club de Lectura), We discovered that many more organizations and activities were able to benefit from the portable sound equipment purchased through our Highline Schools Foundation grant. These include the after school Art Club, Girls On The Run, Jump Rope For Heart, and several PTA activities. In addition, our school assemblies have enjoyed “snap-crackle-pop”-free audio as the old sound system has been replaced by the new portable sound system purchased with the Highline Schools Foundation grant. This has made a significant contribution to the school.

The sound system in the Multipurpose Room was so bad (“snap-crackle-pop”) that it was, in reality, barely usable. One after-school program (Club de Lectura) uses the Multipurpose Room weekly to hold club meetings for approximately 75 Spanish-speaking students. Because the sound system was so bad, the Director of Club de Lectura was forced to use a bull horn in an attempt to be heard! This is one of the reasons, specifically, why our grant “Hear Ye! Hear Ye!” was written. When the Director used the portable sound system for the first time, she literally cried.

The first thing we did was announce the grant in our ALLSHOES email list that goes out to all Shorewood employees. Then, we sent out a “blast” email to all Shorewood parents on the school email list. Next, we sent out the information on a Peach Jar to inform as many as possible. In each publicity, recognition and thanks was given to Highline Schools Foundation for its generosity and its tremendous impact on Shorewood Elementary School with the purchase of a portable sound system.

After the publicity went out about receiving the grant, a parent contacted the school. David May is a professional sound engineer for Impulse Audio, a recording studio in Seattle. He met with me to go over the specifications of the equipment to be ordered under the grant and indicated that he could purchase much higher quality equipment at wholesale prices through his company. Through this partnership, we were able to  purchase professional-grade sound equipment at the exact same price as the sound equipment described in the original grant proposal. And more good news – the Shorewood PTA immediately approved the purchase of 2 cordless microphones after their first meeting using the new sound system!

“In addition to Music events, PE events and Multicultural events, the portable sound system will be used for activities such as 6th Grade graduation, Talent Show, Shorewood Community Carnival, Open House (in the Fall), Write Night (in the Spring)…the list is endless. Thank you so much for the Highline Schools Foundation grant! It has made a HUGE difference at Shorewood Elementary School, and we are indeed grateful to you!” ~ Gary Ballou

Madrona’s Theater of the Future

Madrona's Theater of the Future group photoThis grant was a tremendous boon to our burgeoning theater program at Madrona Elementary. With the help of the money we received from the Highline Foundation, we were able to put on a terrific student performance of The Jungle Book. We had approximately forty student actors from third, fourth and fifth grade and we also had amazing costumes, sets and props that we have saved and plan to use for our second annual production next year. We put on two shows, one for all the students at Madrona Elementary and also an evening performance for our families. Most meaningfully, we saw this program really positively impact the behavior choices of some of our student performers who had been struggling with behavior during the year. Our teacher team bonded a lot and we are excited to continue this program at Madrona Elementary next year!

Two fifth grade boys in particular come to mind. They were both making some unsafe decisions at recess, showing a lack of investment in their classes and even bringing a negative attitude to our rehearsals during the first weeks of the program. However, with time (and with the responsibility of some lead roles and a lot of lines to learn) these two boys became leaders in our drama program. They were positive, working hard and put on an amazing performance. Even more heartening, we heard that misbehavior’s at recess had fallen and having a program like this to keep them busy after school helped them to stay away from some negative choices available. Overall, their story speaks to the power of the arts to positively impact the long-term trajectory of students and to build self-confidence and self-efficacy.

“We found this process to be accessible and organized. Thank you for the opportunity!” ~ Kathy Allen

Taproot Theatre “Cyber Zoo” performance / Highline High School

Taproot Theatre Cyber Zoo1,000 Highline High School students experienced the Taproot Theatre Company’s performance of Cyber Zoo: It’s Nothing Personal on Thursday, February 16. The play was presented in two performances during the school day.

Two Advisory class discussions followed the Taproot Theatre performance, addressing bullying and hate speech on February 17 and March 17. These follow-up lessons extended the messages presented in the play, encouraging students to consider the impact of their words and actions, and promoting the positive potential of bystanders to redirect, intervene or support victims in bullying situations.

As noted in this project’s proposal, live theater provides a non-traditional way to address important social-emotional issues like cyber-bullying and appropriate use of social media. The subject is of significant importance; students struggle to understand appropriate use of social media and are often unsure of how to respond when they or others around them are bullied in person or online. This topic is also difficult to address in traditional classroom settings; many high school students feel “too cool” to talk about bullying, or are quick to shut down and ignore the conversation.

A breakthrough moment occurred during the performance as the story reached a climax. As one of the characters who had been a bully was confronted with the negative impacts of her behavior, students in the audience responded verbally; the gasps and exclamations demonstrated their engagement with the performance and the relevance of the topic. I have no doubt that in that moment students were aware of the negative impacts of the cyber-bullying in the play, and also reflected on similar situations in their own lives.

“The grant process was easy to navigate. Thank you for your support of our work”!~ Owen Sallee

Unleashing the Power of Art at Gregory Heights Elementary

Unleashing the Power of Art

With the Excel Grant I was able to purchase a variety of quality art supplies (tempera paint cakes, liquid watercolor paints, oil pastels, chalk pastels, multi-colored pens, watercolor paper, and paint brushes). This has helped me begin a strong visual arts component for my class that integrates core subjects. With the help and inspiration of websites like The Kennedy Center ArtsEdge, I have provided art lessons in writing, reading, math, science, and social studies that help students practice and show understanding of many Common Core Standards. I have accomplished what I have set out to do; I will enjoy adding to my repertoire of art lessons over the next school years as the supplies should last well into future classes.

The students in my second grade class are so thrilled each time I set out new art supplies for us. It is exciting to see them anticipate the affect of each new supply on their art work. One project that we recently worked on integrated science, writing, reading, and art. We had been learning about the water cycle and how water vapor condensates to make clouds which eventually results in precipitation. We watched a slow motion video clip of rain dropping into a puddle (and observed outside in the rain), followed by a water color crayon resist of the rain in puddles. The quality of the paint and the water color paper made their art expression come alive as they saw their color choices blending together and the splash ringlets look so real.

Afterwards, we read Rain Talk by Mary Serfozo and considered language choices used to represent the sounds rain makes. The children then studied their own rain art and chose words to write that depicted their rain’s sounds. All of these parts to this project connected directly to Common Core Standards for second grade. The children are delighted to have this project on display in our hallway and love to view and read their classmates’ interpretation of the rain. This project and others like it have helped my students practice and show the standards in a deep and connected way that they wouldn’t have without receiving this grant.

“I am so grateful for your generous support for my arts project. Thank you!!” ~ Brenda Martin

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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  1. […] 2nd Grade Television Studio at White Center Heights Elementary. We have been able to be more creative with lessons and activities while giving the students a fun opportunity to act, speak in public/on camera, and have fun! Read more about this grant: Excel Grant Stories: The ARTS […]