Turning Up The Volume

The Giving Coast


In our technically-focused world, The Kennedy Center of Performing Arts recognizes that we have a responsibility to educate the whole child to help him or her become a global citizen in their community. The primary goal of their initiative, Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program, assists communities in developing and implementing a plan for expanded arts education in their schools—ensuring full access and equity for all students in grades K-8. The Kennedy Center works with thousands of students, teachers, principals, school district administrators, business leaders and arts managers across the country—Sarasota was selected as the 6th site to participate in the program. There are now 25 locations implemented throughout the country. While a tug of war continues to loom between proponents of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) vs. advocates for STEAM (which add art to the mix), Any Given Child Sarasota gains momentum in continuing its district arts integration for all students to have continuous and equal access to learning through all the arts—dance, music, theater, visual arts and media.

In 2011, a community-held team got together in a big collaborative effort—including the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, along with many school, business and arts leaders within the local region. Brian Hersh, who represented Asolo Repertory Theatre at the time, indulges on how the influential group came together with a community-wide vision for Sarasota—referring to it as a collective impact model to ensure children have arts in their complete education. Hersh is now the Program Director for Any Given Child Sarasota and mentions, “the school community should reflect the local community. And everyone knows that in Sarasota, that means a strong arts influence—so we should have a strong arts presence in schools.” Any Given Child solves this by expanding and enhancing programs/clubs such as orchestra, choral or theater in schools that did not previously have them before, connecting students to the our local cultural experiences/organizations such as field trips to the Van Wezel, Ringling Museum or the Sarasota Ballet, and lastly by building classroom culture through professional development or teaching opportunities via dance, drama and visual arts.

“Essentially we’re making sure students are connecting art content with another subject area—teaching both of those disciplines at the same time, and evolving as they go. For example, you could learn about the cycle of water through interpretive dance—you're more likely to remember it, and you're likely to have a deeper, better understanding because you've embodied it,” explains Hersh. Many of our elementary and middle schools now include diverse activities such as this to increase motivation and communication through expression. What’s more, teachers in our district now have increased opportunities to attend intensive workshops put on by The Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, teaching them how to integrate art approaches in their classrooms to which students are able to construct and demonstrate an understanding of a subject area by connecting it with an art form, and meeting both objectives in a more creative process.

Art participation has been known to link with academic achievement and it’s no coincidence that Sarasota County schools are incredibly successful—as one of the only districts to maintain its ‘A’ rating from the Florida Department of Education for the 14th year in a row. You can easily connect that to our leading arts programming being significantly robust,” says Hersh, “You’ll find state and nationwide that when students participate in at least two arts classes a year, they’re more likely to do better in school, graduate and go to college.” In regards to the STEM/STEAM debate, Any Given Child simply wants to expand and amplify students’ learning tools—no matter what type of learner they are. By turning up the volume in between math and science lessons, every child can still experience what the arts and our community has to offer so that they may become creative, engaged learners prepared to lead successful lives.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is proud to partner with SRQ Media Group to highlight stories about community impact powered by philanthropy in our region, thanks to the support of donors and our local nonprofit partners. The Community Foundation is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. For more information, visit www.CFSarasota.org

Image provided by Any Given Child Sarasota

Any Given Child, 1960 Landings Blvd., Sarasota, 34231

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