As the principal of South Middle School in Greenville I’ve had the fortune to enjoy the partnership that has been established with the Darke County Center for the Arts and the school districts of Darke County. Every year our 5th and 6th grade students experience at least one performance through the DCCA. We are fortunate to be able to participate with both the elementary and secondary groups and enjoy trips to Memorial Hall as well as host yearly performances at our building.
According to Patty Bernhard, the gifted coordinator from the Darke County ESC, the Arts in Education program started in 1983 through the work of a former Arcanum school administrator, Bill Combs. Bill was passionate about the positive influence the arts had in his life and wanted to ensure that opportunity for students in Darke County. Ted Finnarn, a local attorney, was also a driving force to help with the organization and implementation of bringing the arts to the students. The artists are contracted through a committee based on recommendations from Keith Rawlins, DCCA Artistic Director. The artists-in-residence travel to the elementary schools, while the 7th and 8th graders are bussed annually from around the county to Memorial Hall to provide a “theater experience” at least once in their school years. Performances are financed through a “combination of state and local grant money, area business donations, DCCA fundraising events, ticket revenue, memberships, and district contributions”. The total budget for Arts in Education may be up to $20,000 with the schools contributing about half.
We’ve been on the receiving end of this great opportunity and South MS has enjoyed many performances. We’ve had steel drum bands, historical soliloquies, world renowned pianists and fanciful guitarists just to name a few. Through it all, our staff and students have benefited by an expansion of their artistic and academic education. Our most recent performance was attended by our 6th grade students and teachers at Memorial Hall on February 11. They viewed a ‘Living Voices’ performance Anne Frank: Through the Eyes of a Friend. Science teacher Matt Levek stated, “I found it to be excellently presented, well spoken, very powerful piece of theater that was well perceived by the students.” Other teachers had similar commendations: Kylie Prasuhn, “The performance somberly held the students attention, showing them the perspective of this important part of history through the eyes of someone their own age.” Jenni Fitzgerald stated that it “seemed to be engaging for students giving a small glimpse of what happened not so long ago really. I did not know there was more than one version of the book so that was something I learned. ” Angie Rhoades reinforced, “In fact, I had several discussions with students about books to read related to the topic. I saw some students with The Diary of Anne Frank as well. I hope they come back again in the future. :)” Alissa Elliott included, “The actress's purpose was to inform the audience of the horrific events of the Holocaust so that they can remember this period in history as one that they do not want to see repeated.” The students were as appreciative of the performance and grateful to enjoy a very unique experience. To prepare for the performance, Patty shared information with the teachers who then prepared lessons to coordinate with their state standards and units of study. We are appreciative to have a community that supports the education of the whole child with a uniquely Darke County experience.