Spring Arts Night. Those three words are enough to drive me into sleepless nights for about a week. We started this tradition 2 years ago and each time we do it, the event seems to take on a mind of its own. Not that I don’t love it – the night is a fabulous way to connect with the community and to showcase our arts integration and arts education efforts. It’s just that….it’s a lot of pressure.
Here’s the concept. We hold Spring Arts Night once a year in May or June, depending on that year’s calendar of events. During this evening, we start around 6PM with teachers providing arts integration demo lessons for parents and their children. These are usually lessons that have already been done and can be condensed into a 30 minute time period. The kids love it because they can help their parents with the lesson (since they’ve already done it). Following the demo lessons, parents are invited to tour the building where we have large, floor-to-ceiling (we really don’t play around!) portable walls of art on display in the hallways. While the parents tour these and make their way to our cafeteria, the students gather with me in the choral room and our band or strings teacher in the band room. Then, we conclude the evening with an hour-long concert of music. It’s usually a combo concert between either band and chorus or strings and chorus. We once tried to do all the programs together and broke fire code. Whoops.
Now, to the beginning arts integration program, this sounds like a mighty daunting task. And the reality is, it IS a mighty daunting task. I DO NOT recommend doing this the first year you have an arts integration program. It’s too much pressure and far too much risk for a new program. However, you CAN start small. Start with just your regular spring concert and have a few pieces of student arts integration work on display in the hallway. That’s easy enough for your teachers who are using arts integration to manage. The whole school can join in another year. Make a few connections between the arts and arts integration and watch the parents and community begin to show some interest. Then the following year, add another piece until the night becomes as big or as cozy as you’d like.
This year’s event has had yet another piece built in – and this is why this big event terrified me this year. This year, I was on display. Along with 20 other teachers. This year, we added a faculty Glee Club to the mix. We made our debut performance during the 4th grade chorus concert on Spring Arts Night, singing a partner song of Beyonce’s Halo with Walking on Sunshine. We even managed to put a little choreography in there. And besides looking a bit like bumblebees (who’s idea was it to wear yellow and black again?), we managed to pull it off. It was a great community endeavor and culture builder for our staff AND an awesome way to model collaboration and valuing the arts to our students. Whew! I forgot how much pressure there was when all those eyes focused on you. Take a look at pictures from the night – and if you do something similar, please share with us!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.