Apple Valley, Calif. – At Sycamore Rocks Elementary School, academic areas are regularly enhanced through the arts to ensure that students will learn to communicate effectively, build self-confidence, think creatively and gain skills to help them be successful in an ever-changing world. The school has a Visual and Performing Arts focus and art, music, drama and dance are integrated into the daily curriculum. The school also offers extracurricular activities such as band, Rockin’ Rabbits Dance team, and participation in the annual stage production.
“Each person has their own individual strength and it’s not always best demonstrated through paper and pencil,” said Principal Shanelle Benitez. “The biggest impact I’ve seen is definitely confidence. (The arts) keep them engaged, which rolls over into the academics as well.”
Although band, dance and play production are only open to 4th-6th grades, younger grades are given plenty of opportunities to participate in the arts through classroom projects, the Arts Fair, and the annual kindergarten musical. From the music that continually plays outside the office to classroom projects, the arts can be found on campus daily. “Every teacher in the school is involved with implementing our arts program in one way or another. It really is a team effort,” Benitez said.
Each class displayed an art project at this year’s western-themed Back to School Night and will continue to work on projects throughout the year to display at the annual year-end Arts Fair. The Arts Fair serves as the school’s cumulative event and showcases student performances and artwork from each grade level.
The annual play production is one of the largest events of the year, second to the Arts Fair. This year, Sycamore Rocks students will perform “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. The performance script is selected at the end of the previous school year, as participation in the school play requires a year-long commitment. Auditions are held at the beginning of each year and Back to School Night includes an informational meeting for parents. Over 100 students auditioned for “Willy Wonka” this fall, showing a significant increase in interest from last year. Student Aurora Starling decided to audition for the first time this year and was excited to receive the role of Violet Beauregarde. “It’s really fun and I get to hang out with all my friends,” she said. “Sometimes I am shy with talking out to people so this helps.”
“I really just love acting in general,” said student Germayoni Quiroz, who is playing the role of Mrs. Beauregarde in this year’s production. “It’s fun to do so it finishes off my day with something positive.”
In preparation for the production in March, the collective team meets once a week throughout the fall and twice a week following Winter Break. The production is truly a team effort, with teachers Marissa Moses and Sherri Phillips directing, Amanda Rubio coordinating choreography, and Lori Mearig overseeing the Set Design crew. “The reason the sets are so good in the play is that the students have done art since Kindergarten. When they get to this age, they’re really, really good,” Mearig said, as she helped a group of 4th-6th grade students prepare an art project.
Exposure to the arts has helped students build confidence and creativity both in and out of the classroom. “Sometimes students struggle academically, but here they really shine and it gives them an opportunity to feel really confident,” Moses said. “It helps with student engagement. It helps with focus and it’s just enriching.”