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Anderson School District 2 builds strings program

The program structure is a combination of what the district learned by looking at other successful programs, such as Southwood Academy of the Arts (an Arts in Basic Curriculum site), in Anderson School District 5. From the Anderson Independent Mail Article by Frances Parrish; photos by Ken Ruinard

[caption id="attachment_30305" align="alignleft" width="250"]Southwood Academy of the Arts Emily Harris plays her violin during seventh-grade orchestra class at Southwood Academy of the Arts in Anderson. (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)[/caption] Anderson School District 2 hopes to hit all the right notes with a new strings program it will introduced next school year. Rachael Brown of Honea Path is glad her fourth-grade daughter will be part of the strings program next year. "She was so excited. She approached me when she heard about it and said I had to sign her up," Brown said. "I love the music program. It gives them a good foundation." With a strong focus on the arts, an orchestra program has been a goal of Superintendent Richard Rosenberger's since the beginning of the school year. It will come to fruition in August, when the fifth-grade students get to walk into their strings classes for the first time. "It provides an incredible outlet for students, and strings is one more area, that may reach the kids, that hadn't been tapped into yet," Rosenberger said. The program structure is a combination of what the district learned by looking at other successful programs, such as Southwood Academy of the Arts in city of Anderson-based Anderson School District 5, and a districtwide parent survey. "We looked at the success at other districts and looked to see if we can model that," Rosenberger said. "We weren't sure if there was enough interest. So we did an exploratory search. If the interest was there, it was something we needed to pursue." He established a committee of district staff and teachers to research the feasibility of this program and if the district was large enough to sustain a strings program. The committee saw a strong response, with 42 students signing up, said Lana Major, director of instructional support services in District 2 and head of the committee. Next school year, the program will only include fifth-graders who will take classes twice a week. In the near future, Major said the program is expected to expand to fourth-graders as well as sixth-grade and then up through the higher grades. To answer questions about  scheduling, recruitment, instruments and pitfalls, district officials met with Jamie Smith,  principal of Southwood Academy. "Anytime you add something new, you worry about it taking away from another program," Smith said. "The big thing is to get the kids involved who aren't already." Being a part of a group such as an orchestra not only gives them skill sets, but helps keep students involved in school so they are less likely to drop out, educators said. "It allows them the chance to be in something bigger than themselves," Smith said. When fourth-grader Addie Grace Sanders came home from Wright Elementary School in District 2 one day, she put a piece of paper with detailed information about a new strings program on the refrigerator, excited to pick her own instrument. Though her mother, Laurie Townsend-Sanders, long ago quit playing the piano, she treasures the skills learned from those childhood lessons and wants the same for her daughter. "I am thankful I can read music," Townsend-Sanders said. "I want her to have that skill set." The District 2 program is similar to District 5's in that the classes will start in elementary school, which some parents like. "It makes our children more well-rounded," said Townsend-Sanders. "And if they learn it at a younger age, they are more likely to embrace it at a younger age." And parents are looking forward to what their children will learn. Townsend-Sanders said she's excited for her daughter to learn first hand that practice makes perfect, for her to learn to work as part of a team and to love music. "I hope she gets the appreciation of classical music and instruments," Townsend-Sanders said. Image above: (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)

Anderson students paint mural to decorate garden

From the Anderson Independent Mail Article by Charmaine Smith-Miles

[caption id="attachment_26618" align="alignleft" width="300"]Southwood Academy of the Arts Southwood Academy of the Arts middle school student Jessica Webb helps paint a mural on a building with teacher Joshua Powell and volunteer Marci Sloan at G Street Community Park in Anderson.[/caption] After hours of painting, a group of eighth-grade students admired the progress they made on a mural that will serve as a backdrop for a community garden on an empty lot on G Street in Anderson. "I thought it would be a tough process," said one of the painters, 14-year-old Jessica Webb. "But it has actually been a lot of fun. It feels good to brighten up the community and to shine a little light on it." The students who painted the mural are part of the Arts in Basic Curriculum offered at Southwood Academy of the Arts. They have spent three years attending art classes every day of the week. And as they prepare to finish their middle school careers, they tackle a "legacy" project that becomes a piece of art that they leave behind for their school or their community, their teacher, Joshua Powell said. The school's last two projects were wood sculptures that were completed and made part of the school's campus. This time, they decided to tackle a project off campus. So, they spent an hour Sunday, about six hours Monday and will spend another four hours on Tuesday painting a 5 feet high by 30 feet long mural at the G Street Community Garden. "I offered the students this chance to give back," Powell said. Powell also said the project cost about $1,000 and was paid for using part of a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission. The mural is painted on the side of a cement-block building which is located on the lot directly behind the garden. Members of Artisan Church, many of whom live on the city's "alphabet streets," planted the G Street Community Garden in June 2015, and have now expanded the garden from four raised beds to eight. The 28 residents who live along the street are encouraged to pick the produce grown in the garden, said Marci Sloan, who is the garden's manager. Sloan's husband, Jay, is the pastor at the Artisan Church, which meets on Market Street in Anderson. In March 2015, the Sloans bought the empty lot at 319 G Street and started recruiting help from the congregation in clearing the lot and planting the garden. Now, the lot, which was once an acre of overgrown weeds and brush, is decorated with tables and benches and a bed of flowers. One of the raised beds is full of almost-ready-to-pick carrots, and others are planted with tomatoes, herbs and different kinds of peas. And the mural behind it all depicts a scene of city and rural life — meant to show the character of the Anderson community. The design for the mural was completed by the students, Powell said. He said the students were divided up into eight groups and then Marci Sloan selected the design she liked best. "We want this mural and the garden to be a focal point for the community," she said. "The whole city is something for residents to be proud of. We want to make others aware of something good going on in the community here." Alex Irby, Ashley Kozikowski, Garrett Patterson, Rylyn Wood and Jessica Webb put together the design that was selected. "It's cool that our design was chosen," said Irby, 14. "We want this to be a peaceful place." Image above: Southwood Academy of the Arts middle school students look at a partially painted mural on a building with teacher Joshua Powell (right) at G Street Community Park in Anderson.