“TA TA TEE TEE TA. TEERIE, TEERIE, TEERIE, TEERIE…”
Those nonsense, cadenced words accompanied by properly timed claps, symbolized the rhythmic quality of musical notes. They were meant to teach my kindergarten music class to read and understand the more theoretical qualities of song.
This childhood music class, taught by Mrs. Singer (ironic, eh?), formed the foundation of my love, appreciation and passion for music. I was sincerely blessed to attend a public elementary school (way back in the ‘80s) that had a visual art program (with its own teacher!), physical education (with its own teacher!) and plenty of affordable after-school theater and dance offerings.
These days, it’s common knowledge that students are lucky if they have some sort of arts education integrated into their mainstream core curriculum by their primary teacher and squeezed somewhere into the busy day.
The slashing of arts and physical education programs from public schools has been one of the biggest tragedies of recent years.
An alternative for many parents is Montessori education for their children. Montessori is a method of education that gives students the opportunity to learn in multi-age environments within a range of learning modalities.
The Milwaukee Public Schools system is incredibly unique in that it has seven Montessori Schools including, the North Side’s Lloyd Barbee Montessori School.
Lloyd Barbee principal Catherine Loss explains, “Our Montessori curriculum allows for our teachers to use the arts as a mode for students to learn. They actively participate in the curriculum by ‘doing.’ The students at all age levels are encouraged to share the knowledge that they gain through expression in visual arts as well as singing and presenting about the curricular content areas.”
Lloyd Barbee also has an art specialist that visits twice a week, allowing K5-6th grade students to have art programming weekly within their regular class schedule.
Loss says that the Milwaukee Public Schools system is an exception to the rule when it comes to cutting arts and physical education courses.
“In the past there were budget cuts in MPS that impacted arts programming, but over the past two years there have been more than 90 art, music and physical education specialist positions added to MPS schools. MPS has also worked with community partners in the past to provide programming,” she says.
Lloyd Barbee Montessori captured my attention earlier this year, when OnMilwaukee.com’s Bobby Tanzilo made me aware of Loss’ intention to expand her after school arts program.
My husband and I were inspired, along with our dear Milwaukee friends Matt Turner and Sean Williamson (and a gaggle of generous donors and volunteers), to do what we could to help out.
We put together a fundraiser and Loss reported last week that Lloyd Barbee was able to raise a combined $47,000 through our event and additional grants enabling them to offer its after-school arts initiative to its students.
The funding has allowed Lloyd Barbee to partner with the African American Children’s Theater, Artists Working in Education, Danceworks and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music to provide students with a range of arts offerings.
All Lloyd Barbee students, as well as neighborhood children are invited to take part in this program that was developed with specific objectives and outcomes that the artists will use to plan their activities for the students.
“Each arts group will meet with the students twice a week, offering the students activities that are designed to enhance the child’s social – emotional growth, creative potential and academic achievement,” says Loss.
Currently there is no transportation, so parents must arrange this for their children.
There is no fee, however, Lloyd Barbee does suggest a $15 donation from families and or their participation by volunteering at school to assist with program overhead.
Last year, over 120 students partook in the program.
“The students that participated gained so much confidence and when interviewed about what they liked about the school, the arts programming was one of their favorites,” says Loss.
Much more than meets the eye goes into garnering funding and support for a program like Barbee’s. Loss details the hard work, paper pushing, meetings, planning and pre-fundraising required to green light this type of initiative.
“Since we were revamping the program to partner with well-known arts organizations in Milwaukee, we met with organizers from Common Ground of Milwaukee, a representative from MPS’ Recreation Department, Uniting Garden Homes (the neighborhood association near the school) and several arts groups.
“The programming was actually developed with these groups prior to writing the grant so that we would know what the costs would be. One caveat of the Partnership for the Arts grant is that we have to match the funds with cash on hand or in-kind donations.
“We were able to come up with $37,000 in matches, which were mostly in-kind volunteer hour donations provided by community members. We were also supported by the ‘After School’s Out’ fundraiser that raised $5,000 that has been deposited into the MPS Foundation Lloyd Barbee Montessori Fund. The participating arts organizations are also supporting the program with in-kind donations. “
While this financial achievement is stellar, Lloyd Barbee had initially planned to offer three after-school sessions to its students and neighboring children. The current funding only provides enough for two sessions. An additional $23,500 would be needed to fund the third session.
Money is not the only way to help Lloyd Barbee achieve its arts education goals. The program could also utilize donations of child size string instruments, art supplies and tap shoes.
Volunteers are welcome to help out with the after-school program offered Monday-Thursday from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. on school days starting at the end of October.
To participate, go to the MPS portal and fill out the MPS volunteer application for Lloyd Barbee Montessori School and help the Lloyd Barbee kids on their way to “TA TA TEE TEE TA” memories of their own.