In a traditional fine arts education, you may recall singing in a choir or drawing in an art class. At Byram Hills, students are digging deeper and connecting their learning to the world outside. “The Byram Hills Fine Arts Department is focusing on teaching students how to connect and respond through the arts'' said Deepak Marwah, Director of Fine Arts. “We want students to engage with all four of the creative processes outlined in both the New York State Learning Standards in the Arts and the National Core Arts Standards. These standards encourage students to ‘create’, ‘perform/present’, ‘respond’, and ‘connect’ in order to gain more of an understanding of how the arts play an important role in their daily lives and how they can use the arts as a tool to communicate with the larger community.”
At Coman Hill, art and music play a large role in a student’s creative development.
In kindergarten, students learn and practice cutting basic shapes with safety scissors. The hand/eye coordination and working on their fine motor skills open new doors to exploration, learning, and creative expression and are significant for our youngest learners. Under the careful watch of Judy DeJarlar, Coman Hill art teacher, the children practice their skills to cut out circles, ovals and other shapes to create a variety of animals. “We combine shapes because making a dog is overwhelming but making a circle is not,” said Ms. DeJarlar. “Breaking things down into smaller components is easier for the students to comprehend and not as scary.” Ms. DeJarlar continued, “It’s important that students investigate and understand each element separately, and then put them together. That way there is a connection to where the shapes start, end, and what you can do with them.”
On March 18th, Coman Hill will be hosting its first evening Student Art Show. Students will be displaying their artwork and this will allow them to feel successful and proud while sharing their work with the Byram Hills community. On exhibit will be collaborative projects by grade and individual pieces of art. There will also be a way for those in attendance to leave feedback for students. The Art Show will take place March 18th-20th.
“This art show will establish a dialogue about what art is, what it means to create art, and give the students more motivation and enthusiasm because people are taking an interest,” said Ms. DeJarlar. “Sharing their process, thoughts and ideas about art will make it more meaningful to them. Hopefully, the students will enjoy art as they grow older and can participate in some way, understanding its importance and meaning in society.”
In addition to cultivating their skills in visual arts, Coman Hill students also take part in an exciting music program. Music is an extremely important subject for all children leading to better brain development, increased human connections, and self-expression.
Studies show that listening to music can benefit one’s overall well-being, help regulate emotions, and create happiness and relaxation in everyday life. In some cases, it can even reduce anxiety, improve memory, provide comfort, and promote a positive mood.
At Coman Hill, the students are constantly learning and evolving. Emily Capalbo, Coman Hill music teacher said, “Our culminating performance at the end of the year is an opportunity for these young musicians to apply the content they have learned, synthesizing their knowledge in an authentic and tangible way.”
Music is meant to be shared. Ms. Capalbo’s students feel the ripple of that concept both in the classroom and in performance. They are immersed and engaged, finding connections to other disciplines such as language arts, history, math, and other cultures as they learn musical concepts. “The students begin to recognize what a special opportunity it is and seek ways to be successful. To support that motivation, I provide online practice materials,” said Ms. Capalbo. “I give them tips, helping them find success in autonomy. As performers, we are responsible for communicating the meaning of EVERY song. Sometimes that may mean checking opinions at the door and doing what’s best for the team.”
An important part of every Coman Hill performance is that each student has a special job, such as announcing a song or playing an instrument. “It is a role that they are exclusively responsible for,” said Ms. Capalbo. “Children feel empowered by having a featured moment. It gives them something to connect to.”
On the day of the performance, the excitement throughout the building is palpable. When students collaborate and successfully achieve a common goal, it builds confidence, supports student bonding, and allows students to celebrate their accomplishments.
“At Coman Hill, we are delighted that our fine arts curriculum enables our students to find ways to creatively express themselves and connect with each other,” said Principal MaryBeth Crupi. “The children thoroughly enjoy integrating the arts into their everyday lives.”