School builds up students with art
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
By Eloise Aguiar
KAILUA — As schools focus more on core subjects to help students pass standardized tests, Kailua Elementary has found ways to boost arts programs on its campus and build more well-rounded students.
The school has created "academies" to enhance students' skills in activities that interest them and has obtained funding for a professional artist and musician to come on campus to teach classes.
Last night at the Kailua Elementary School Curriculum Fair, the children were able to showcase their newly acquired skills to some 325 parents, grandparents and siblings. The fair is an annual event that takes place at many of the state's public schools. Hundreds of items were on display in the library, cafeteria and classrooms
Cindy Mahuka, who is in charge of the fair, said this year's event pays tribute to students' accomplishments and to the foundations and teachers that made it possible.
"We're working really hard to boost up our fine arts because with all the No Child Left Behind and the testing ... arts have fallen to the side," Mahuka said before the fair. "Everything is math and reading. We think it's really important to feed the whole child."
This year, teachers used their skills and talent to develop a class for students who share an interest in things such as jump rope, hip hop dancing, gardening, mask-and-puppet theater, Spanish, Lego robotics and poster art/advertising.
Every other week small groups of students would meet with their instructor during school hours for these "academies" to practice a skill, learn something new, engage in sports or cook. They were able to choose from 30 different academies.
With more than 50 percent of the schools' students at poverty level, families have few resources for expensive art and dance classes, said Mahuka, the school's curriculum/Title 1 coordinator.
"The kids are excited," she said. "It's the reason they come to school and look forward to it."
The school also received about $12,000 in grants to provide an art teacher for first-, second-, and third-grade students and a music teacher for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students, Mahuka said.
An Artist in the Schools Grant provided money to hire musician Michael Wall, of Playful Percussion. Students learned about beats and rhythms and just how difficult it is to maintain a beat while others are playing to a different beat, she said.
A $6,000 grant from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation made it possible for the school to hire artist Page Chang, who taught students how to make inlaid tile stepping stones, batik wall hangings and ceramic dishes. Page spent six hours with each group teaching them how to plan and initiate a project. The end result was 27 colorful stepping stones with an ocean motif, 13 batik hangings and 100 dishes.
The stepping stones, the hangings and half of the dishes will be given away to community groups as a way for students to share the grant with others, Mahuka said.
The stones will go to Ohia Domestic Violence Shelter and the batik hangings will go to two youth residences, the Julia House for girls and Hale Holopono for boys, she said. The Kailua Senior Citizens Club will get the ceramic dishes, which are made to look like leaves of different Hawaiian plants.
"It has more meaning for (the students) because ... they know they're making it for someone, to make their place better, liven it up," Mahuka said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com.