Here is a not so brilliant/obvious idea for funding creative arts projects in the classroom. Propose an idea to the teacher, figure out a time, post the idea to the parent community. Get contributions and volunteers. Put any extra contributions into saving for the next project. Repeat.
Public Education is on the ropes with the current austerity paradigm. I’ve been to a few meetings this year and despite the hard work and enthusiasm there is an underlying air of frustration over the lack of funds for basic mandatory services like para professionals, lunch/recess monitors and straight up pay and benefits for our principal’s assistant. I also think it’s sleazy that the district charges us for opening the school for afterschool programs and PTA meetings. It’s like we are being charged by the district to compensate for the lack of support from district. To me this is extortion of our lemonade stands and bake sales.
Let’s go beyond the dinosour bureaucratic model for a moment and imagine the classroom and the entire school as a village of little people and we grown ups are the hunters, gatherers and wise elders. Every parent in the school is a creative artist with something to share. I don’t mean to imply that we are all the masters of scissors and glue stick. We are all interfacing with the society outside the classroom and have many and diverse skills we can share with the kids to give them a foundation for learning how to learn. The more we can remove the bubble layer that separates the school from the community and outside world the better. This will work especially well now at the elementary level while the kids have one primary teacher and aren’t shuffling along from class to class.
Think of something you know that you would like to share with your child’s class. Talk to the teacher about logistics and how to integrate the idea into an activity. Put it down on paper and send the paper home in the kids backpacks. Other parents can now get on board with donating supplies, funds or their time. Any leftover funds can be put in a piggy bank for the next project. Moving as a community is powerful. If this works, we can set up a monthly meeting with parents, teachers and students to discuss how we can enrich a curriculum designed largely as standardized test prep into an actual holistic learning experience.
Here’s some ideas: cooking (in conjunction w/the garden program and new outdoor kitchen), field trips to workplaces, bike repair, fun projects with math and creative writing, organizing PE games from around the world, basic tech (how does a computer work?), basics of economy, ecology and of course, compassion and empathy.
Let’s not wait around for some miracle funding to come down from the district. Now is the time to make a difference. Today is just a footnote on our long pathway of parenting.