The earlier, the better. This is one commonly accepted principle of arts education, emphasizing the value that lies in exposing students to the arts from a young age. At Horace Greeley Elementary, a fine arts magnet school, the Early Morning Program provides an excellent look at the benefits of this practice. During this program, kindergarten through third grade students meet with different Urban Gateways artists each morning of the week to partake in arts learning well before the school day begins. On December 17, teaching artists and students came together to give a culminating performance for a proud audience of parents and Greeley staff members.
Theater artist Ann Boyd, musician Carol Weston, and dancers Lin Shook and Zineb Chraibi are the Urban Gateways teaching artists involved in the Early Morning Program, and all four collaborated to compile a program for the December 17 performance. The students first engaged in a body and voice warm-up with Ann, then sang with Carol and performed animal interpretations with Lin (each student chose an animal whose name started with their first initial). Zineb then took the stage and led them in a Snow Dance, complete with home-made white costumes.
The Greeley staff was quick to point out the program’s advantages: Curriculum Specialist Joanne Collins commented that “The fine arts bring out the best in each child…multiple age groups are helping each other learn here…and teachers repeatedly comment on how they can see the discipline & expression carrying over to their classrooms.” She also noted that teachers “can see literacy coming out of these students in their classrooms because of their time here in the mornings.” Greeley Principal Carlos Azcoitia added, “We have a wonderful partnership with Urban Gateways that has been evolving over a decade. Our goal is to have high-quality fine arts exposure and instruction for all students pre-kindergarten through eighth grade because we know that it is preparing them to be prosperous and successful in the future.”