To see the auditorium stage filled with xylophones, keyboards and bucket drums (tall trash cans) is a vast difference from the once barren landscape of simply desks and chairs that was once called the music room.
Seven years ago, the music department at General George G. Meade School was introduced to Musicopia — a non-profit organization that restores musical education programs in schools. Through this partnership, students were given resources, opportunities and dreams of musical talents.
Recently, the Knight Foundation, through its Knight Arts Challenge, gave Musicopia a $90,000 grant which will be used for programming at Meade.
“We built it and they came. That’s how I can describe it. The kids are very humble and appreciative. They’re now going to be well resourced as their suburban contemporaries. So the playing field has now been leveled — which is wonderful,” Meade music teacher, Patrick Urban said.
This 2006 Temple University alum has spent his six-year career teaching musical education at Meade. Along with learning about instruments, rhythms and notes, students learn discipline and respect.
“When I walked in [the school], I could tell that there was something special about the music program, but it wasn’t until I saw the management. Mr. Urban can walk away and the kids can play. It’s a seamless operation. That’s what you see in these kids. They monitor one another, so it’s amazing just to see,” Principal Rosalind Tharpe said.
“He’s a rocking teacher because he teaches us stuff that we like to play,” fourth-grader and cellist, Tony White said.
“He comes up with the coolest beats,” fourth-grader Ashanti Armstrong said.
Fourth-grader, Tatyana Owens plays violin and xylophone. She expressed her sentiments about having music class.
“My favorite thing is that you get to learn how to use different instruments. I love the violin because I always wanted to play it since the third grade. I wanted to play the violin because it’s just a calm instrument and it’s fun to play,” Owens said.
She even mentioned that she wants to continue her musical studies in high school.
“When you get to high school, you could be famous when you get older. People will want to learn from you,” Owens said.
Urban also leads an after-school drumline program. Executive director of Musicopia, Denise Kinney said the drumline program enriches students’ lives.
“This is really an alternative. They perform and compete across the tri-county area. It’s very based on discipline and commitment and hard work and all the things you’re going to need to be successful in life,” Kinney said.
“I would like to be apart of the drumline because they make awesome beats and watching them inspires me to make music,” fourth-grader Jhyir Champion said.
“I think it’s a very empowering program and empowerment is very important to a community that is very often disempowered. So that’s why this is such a transformative program,” Urban said.
From the grant, Meade will continue to develop more musical opportunities for students.
“The Musicopia program is apart of the Meade culture. I’d like to see that program extend and grow. I’d [like] us to have a choir,” Tharpe said.
Pencil sketches of Tupac Shakur, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, watercolor portraits of landscapes, and images of abstract design debuted on May 17 at the Education Center Atrium. The School District of Philadelphia Office of Academic Enrichment and Support held a reception for the 2012 Annual Young Artists Exhibition.
More than 1,500 pieces of work from 150 schools representing kindergarten through 12th grades are included in the exhibit.
Penny Nixon, chief academic officer for the District gave remarks, and the Lindback Foundation was recognized for its contribution of $50,000 for the purchase of art supplies for the public schools.
Sixth-grader Atiyyah Abdul-Hakim and her mother Tyreina Cardwell gazed at three quilts suspended off a wall. Each quilt displayed a child playing. With the help of her classmates in room 102 at Lingelbach School, Abdul-Hakim described the three-week process it took to stitch the quilts.
“It was so much fun. It took a whole lot of work though,” Abdul-Hakim said.
This young artist is also an active poet.
“I like both [quilting and poetry], but my favorite is creating the quilts because it’s fun, we can do it together in my class and have fun with each other,” Abdul-Hakim said.
As Cardwell snapped a few pictures of the quilts, she explained her sentiments of seeing her daughter’s creativity through art.
“This is amazing. I’m glad she got the opportunity to be able to do something like this. It’s beautiful,” Cardwell said.
Also giving remarks at the reception was Emilee J. Taylor, teacher support specialist in art education. As an art teacher, Taylor served in the District for 32 years.
“This has always been one of the highlights of our program for art education in the school district because it showcases all the efforts of art work that our schools can create,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s mother is an artist. Growing up, she and her sister learned several techniques from their mother such as printmaking. Taylor said parents should continue to encourage their children to continue their involvement in art.
“Many of the parents have no idea just how much work our children create,” she said. “I think just this experience is very encouraging and exciting for the kids and its always great to see how their eyes get big and bright when they see special works they created themselves.”
The Young Artists citywide art exhibition will be open to the public free of charge from May 17 to August 31. Exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. The exhibit is closed on Sundays.
Pencils glided across blank white papers to sketch pictures and write the ideas of sixth-graders Alex Fernandez, Ayanna Williams and Ailisha Goodwin Dancy. Quietly, these students of Edwin M. Stanton School were crafting their own literary books soon to be published with poems and short stories authored by themselves.
“I like that fact that we get to make up our own stories. We don’t have to follow any guidelines,” Williams said.
Dancy has dedicated her book to her 9-month-old sister. She also is involved in a poetry club.
“I wrote a play called ‘The Cats and the Mom.’ It was kind of weird. It was something like Shakespeare. I tried flipping it to see what the mom would feel to be the cat and the cat would be the mom. They go on an adventure, and both characters have a new perspectives of how they live,” Dancy said.
Fernandez wrote a story about a boy who was the only person able to see an enchanted forest that appeared across the street from his house. Titled “The Great Adventure: A young child’s dream that came true,” Fernandez used descriptive adjectives in his story. He said he enjoys writing more than creating the illustrations.
“I get to sculpt what I want the story to be about in words,” Fernandez said.
Instead of writing stories, seventh-grade students in room 303 read the story, “Antaeus” which had a similar theme to the Greek mythological character. As they turned to page 470 in their literature books, teacher Courtney Hines asked the class to define the word illusion.
All of the students enjoyed reading, including Dhamir Murray.
“I like reading because I like to learn different stories and it teaches me when I read stuff about myself,” Murray said.
The senior class sweatshirts had arrived, 11th-grade students were preparing for PSSA testing and it was National History Day.
“It’s like a science fair for history,” Principal Thomas R. Davidson said as he sported a navy blue senior sweatshirt.
Around the school stood several student exhibits that were created for the National History Day competition themed “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.” Film documentaries, websites, research papers and theatrical performances were also evaluated on topics relating to local, state, national or world history topics. Winners of the in-school contest will attend the March 29 competition at the National Constitution Center. Those successful will advance to the state and national competitions.
The hallways were quiet, but the library was bustling with students engaged in their classwork assignments. Miranda Thompson assisted sophomore students with their Civil War essays. As the arts and technology teacher and yearbook advisor, Thompson is a founding teacher at Constitution. She has been here since the school opened in 2006. She said her most memorable experiences at Constitution were working with the National Constitution Center, meeting Sandra Day O’Connor, sitting in on meetings with Mayor Michael Nutter and seeing the connections students make in the community.
“It’s a great fit for students who are really interested in learning how to make a difference. Between our service learning program and the active citizenship that we impart in our very intensive social studies program, it’s great not just for kids who want to be lawyers, but kids who are interested in making an impact and changing the world,” Thompson said.
Thompson said Davidson also impacted Constitution and contributed to its success.
“Dr. Davidson is a great principal because he’s very approachable. So if we do have ideas about how to improve things or something that we see going on, he is very good at listening to our input and putting it into practice,” Thompson said.
In room 202, CNN Student Reports were broadcasted in the senior world history class. Teacher Cliff Stanton had students watch the broadcast as well as finish their world history projects.
Senior Saffronia Robinson chose to research information about the country of Columbia. This world traveler went to the country two years ago and said she enjoyed South America.
“It was fun. I like going to new places and getting different experiences,” Robinson said.
Recently, students voiced their opinions about combining the junior and senior prom in an effort to make costs cheaper. However, some seniors were against the merger. Robinson said she likes that Constitution allows students to express their views and perspectives. The prom will still be combined.
“If we’re still having our prom with the 11th-graders, at least we got to say that we were against it and that we didn’t want it. We at least had that freedom of speech [and] we got to speak on it,” Robinson said.
Ever wonder how teenagers live elsewhere in the world? Junior and senior students of Constitution High School are getting a hands-on perspective of the lives of their peers in Afghanistan, Latvia and Mexico.
Studying aboard programs might be seen at colleges or universities, but these teens have the opportunity to travel to meet peers in different countries.
Due to the political climate, Constitution students in the Afghanistan project, interact with students of the satellite school, Marefat High School, via Internet. Senior Katerri Riggo chose to show art in Philadelphia through film documentaries to Afghanistan students.
“I think it’s very important for young adults, especially with all the controversy going on over in that part of the world, to understand what’s going on there. Everybody is different and don’t fit the stereotypes that a lot of Americans put them in,” Riggo said.
World history teacher and lead teacher of the Afghanistan and Latvia projects, Cliff Stanton said these world projects are not just important to students, but to the larger global community.
“It’s an amazing thing for us to get to know each other from different parts of the world. There’s a University of Pennsylvania professor [who] talks about this, that the ‘empathetic civilization’ what he thinks we now have with our connection with each other. If we gain that empathy, I think we’re going to survive this very challenging period of world history,” Stanton said.
Senior Sharifa Garvey is also a member of the Afghanistan project. She remembered when Chinese exchange students visited Constitution and compares their perspectives of America to be similar to Afghanistan students.
“I guess one thing I received from the Chinese students that came here is that everything is given to us easily, that’s how they saw it,” Garvey said. “I can relate and I can understand why they say that because the minute it’s a snow day, it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to school.’ But [Marefat] kids had their school destroyed. The next day, they were fixing up the school and went to class. They had no materials or nothing because it was destroyed. That just showed their perseverance and determination for education. Whereas today’s students in the United States, most of us do not have that drive to want to be educated, knowing the value and importance of education.”
Some students like juniors Wells Brown, Gabriel Nieto and Lionel Detchou are a part of the Latvia project. For spring break, students will spend a week with their Latvia peers and participate in civic engagement projects.
In order to prepare for these activities, Constitution students hold “At The Table Sunday Suppers” with other high schools in Philadelphia to discuss political and social issues. Through dinners, Constitution students will eat and chat with Latvia students, as well.
Stanton said “At The Table” dinners are a great approach to get students to develop relationships with their peers.
“Latvia’s ‘At the Table Project’ is a fascinating approach. The kids in Latvia are trying to figure out how do [they] get more people engaged in the political process and we’re going to help them. They found that when families sit around and have dinner together, they talk about the world and are more civically engaged,” Stanton said.
When talking with their Latvia peers, Brown, Nieto and Detchou found that students were not as involved in politics compared to their parents who were a part of the revolutions in the 1990s and had distinctive views about American life.
“Most of them think America is the best to live. I guess because the movies they watch and everything they see, that’s what they think. But the Latvia Project, our goal is to show the reality,” Detchou said.
“Yeah, I’m excited because we’re doing all this civic engagement which is also informative and fun, but we’re doing this to get to the main trip,” Brown said.
World traveler, Nieto, discussed his sentiments about the trip.
“I’m kind of nervous. It’s not a bad nervous, but I don’t know what to expect. I’m just really anxious because I’ve seen a lot of pictures and it looks completely different from anywhere I’ve been. I’ve traveled to different places in Central America, but it’s like nothing I ever seen,” Nieto said.
Spanish teacher Kathleen Melville is leading the efforts to get students to Mexico for April 2013. As apart of the visit, Spanish Club members will spend several days of service at a Mexican orphanage. Additionally, students will visit cultural and historical sites.
“Our Spanish teacher figured it would be awesome for us to go and explore the people who also speak the language,” 11th-grader Charmira Nelson said.
The trip costs are estimated at over $30,000, and the students have already raised $3,000. Currently, the Spanish Club hosts “Fiesta Fridays” where members sell cheesy quesadillas and rice and beans to students and faculty. Students have planned to host a Cinco de Mayo fundraising event this spring with dinner and dancing.