Real Life :: Art in Schools

Education in our public schools is such a hot topic, especially in California. The Ed-Data website says, “Although Californians pay more than the national average in taxes, the monetary effort Californians put toward education is below average.” Sweet! And of course the arts and music fall to the bottom of the priority list. It’s so disheartening. But I’m not here to bum you out. I’m here to share a couple of really great things we got to experience the last couple of weeks that demonstrate how great things can happen when parents take things into their own hands!

We were fortunate to have experienced three really different and unique ways parents have worked together to help our children blossom!


Every year our Dad’s Club hosts a pancake breakfast. The pancakes are great….and the bacon is pure crispy deliciousness! I love that everyone gets served on mismatched, sweet old-timey plates. Sure, it’s an extra effort when it comes time to clean up, but how lovely to have real china! (And much more green than paper plates.)

The tables were decorated with flowers the kid’s had picked—our table had violets. So sweet. It’s really a terrific event, but this year was even more special….

Two enterprising moms at our school (one of whom is my friend Teri, founder of the marvelous giddy giddy) decided that this year we would have an art show. They announced the theme: Things That Move! It was wonderfully broad, whatever the kids could dream up—accordians, rollercoasters, butterflies, dogs, go-carts, even little sisters were all represented. Kiddos had a few weeks to work on their project. It could be a sculptural piece or a drawing/painting. The school held a little workshop to after school one day to help any students that needed guidance (and to give kids a place to create their masterpiece). The results were on display in a mock gallery and it was TREMENDOUS!

Wolfie was hit with a horrible ear infection so we were unable to complete his piece (very sad!) but luckily there were several other displays of classroom art and Wolfie’s had one of his drawings featured—he was quite proud!

It was a lot of  work, but it’s something that I think anyone could do at their school. We were lucky we had two amazing women planning ours but even someone with minimal experience could pull this off. You just need to have the desire!


The next week we went to a musical production of The Jungle Book that another elementary school in San Francisco had put on. My co-worker/friend’s wife Amal was the director of the show and I was eager see the show and give Wolfie a little taste of children’s theater. I have to confess, I have a dream of putting on a show at Wolfie’s school. I met with Amal for lunch and picked her brain. She gave me some great advice and tips and told me that the entire theater program is parent funded….all the parents volunteer to put on the show. Amal is a really talented singer/musician so they are  lucky to have her. It was also SO amazing to see how the entire school community bonded together to make this show happen. The play was around 45 minutes, the perfect length for elementary school children. The sets were simple but reallllly groovy and the costumes clever and crafty. I was so charmed and couldn’t help but think WHAT a great experience for the whole school!

Monday night we went to see a production that Greg was involved with….the StageWrite theater program. This is a really phenomenal program….the StageWrite team works with elementary school children over the course of a year. They pick schools that are in real need. They use theater and writing exercises to help build literacy skills and self-esteem. At the end of the program, the fifth graders write short one act plays….and then the kicker? Professional actors put on the show! Each play features one song that the students have written and Greg and his bandmates write the music. The shows are SO much fun and the kid’s are thrilled to see their work on stage.

The shows are done as staged readings, so costuming and sets are very minimal but WOW the actors are hilarious and really bring the stories to life. Some of the scripts are touching and some are just straight up goofy cool (hey, they’re written by ten year olds, so things like dragons and talking pencils and “The World’s Crazies Night Club, PARTY ROCKERS!” all make appearances.). It was a really brilliant evening and I was so proud of Greg for being a part of this cool program the last three years.

So there you have it. Three very unique and wonderful ways our community is taking matters into their own hands. It’s so important our kiddos have exposure to the creative arts. Does your school have a great art program? Are there things you’d like to bring to your elementary school? Have your kiddos ever participated in dance or a play?

I leave you with this most excellent talk by Sir Ken Robinson. He’s got a really great dry sense of humor and makes a wonderful case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. It’s really great…

4 thoughts on “Real Life :: Art in Schools

  1. Alix …you rock!!! Mommies need to be aware and willing to volunteer their time on arts oriented projects at their children’s schools!!!
    I have directed TWO musicals for my littlest’s school …(Music Man and Once Upon A Mattress) was an ENORMOUS( I finish and say I will never do it again..right!)undertaking…but lands a-gawshin’ the rewards for the chillen were outstanding!!
    If you ever need an online advice I would be happy to share all I know!

  2. Alix–this is really wonderful. It gives me hope as I listen to sooo many bad things about California schools and here I am with a two year old gunning to learn.

    Thank you for the great inspiration.

    Oh, and I want those great plates!

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