(Nov. 30, 2018) Worcester County Public School students have benefitted from a long-term arts partnership with local nonprofit organizations, Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction, told the board of education meeting last Tuesday.
Art activities for children in Worcester County are sponsored in large part by the Art League of Ocean City, Worcester County Arts Council, Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO) and Arts Education in Maryland Schools (AEMS), as well as smaller but still influential partners.
“It’s a project that I’ve been working on here with our Chief Administrative Officer Dr. John Quinn, just to try to expand experience for our kids,” Mills said. “Money is always tight in the public-school system, so anything we can do to expand the outreach for our kids to have more arts experiences would be [useful].”
Mills presented a video of the various activities each of the nonprofits provided for Worcester County students.
An issue Mills brought up regarding the arts programs was the discrepancy in availability.
“We have some parents and students who have the means to be able to participate in all those extracurricular arts-type activities outside of the classroom,” Mills said. “But in reality, we also have a lot of children and families who don’t have the ability to provide transportation to them, to pay for additional arts activities. Bringing these activities to our students both in and out of the classroom provides a level playing field for students...whether their family has the means or not.
“Art shouldn’t be something for a particular population of people,” she continued. “Arts should be for everyone.”
The Art League of Ocean City, located on 94th Street, offers art classes and afterschool activities, and presented the Artrageous show, which Mills said inspired more than 1,200 students.
“The arts are very important in a well-rounded education,” she said. “Outside of those classroom experiences, the arts help our children mentally, they help our children develop pre-empathy with one another and they help our children to become problem solvers.
“When students have to solve an art problem, or create a musical composition, they’re using areas of their brains that a typical classroom doesn’t use,” Mills continued. “While the classroom instruction is great, it’s always awesome to have all these other supplemental activities in the arts for kids that can help them become a successful, whole child.”
The Worcester County Arts Council in Berlin provides more art exposure to teachers. The council is funded by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.
“Worcester County Arts Council tends to work with me and art teacher development,” Mills said. “As we have additional teacher development days, it’s important [that] I keep my teachers engaged in professional learning for them. Arts council has helped with that.”
The Maryland arts education program has also helped teachers gain more knowledge about art’s numerous forms and techniques.
“They brought a music workshop to our teachers in early childhood, which is pre-K to second grade,” Mills said. “Because our pre-K-ers are getting younger and younger, we now have the ‘pre-K Three’ program. A lot of our teachers were not initially trained to work with three-year old’s, so they’ve been really helpful this year bringing in early childhood arts education to our teachers. That way, kids at a very, very young age can still get art and music [lessons] from people who are certified.”
Mills told the board the symphony orchestra organization helps with master classes on advanced teaching methods. It also brings in professional musicians from MSO and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
MSO also provides collects donated instruments for students who cannot afford to buy or rent equipment, and will clean and repair them in some circumstances.
“We have a closet here at the board [of Education Center] where we store instruments that have been donated for students who … can’t afford to buy or rent their own instrument,” Mills said. “Money is not an obstacle for students who want to play.”
The board of education accepts most instrument donations by calling Mills at 410-632-5000. The school system does not accept pianos.