This academic year made a meaningful impact on over forty 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade Bishop Elementary School students who participated in an after school Musical Theatre program. Students met twice a week with Starting Arts Director Ms. Clara, practicing skills that eventually led to changes in the classroom. This experience was made possible through the tenacious efforts of Mirell Kazos, Bishop’s 2013 Teacher of the Year. As Bishop embraced the newly adopted California Common Core State Standards, musical theatre provided students with a chance to practice their reading, speaking, and collaboration skills with rigor they encountered in this after school experience.
Rehearsals for a springtime performance began in early January. Most students had very little theatre or musical experience. By the end of March, strong bonds had formed between students sharing in this common adventure. In classrooms, students were putting into practice some of what they were learning through the songs associated with the infamous “School House Rock” musical. One student exclaimed, “Mrs. Ballin, did you know our founding fathers wrote the constitution? You know, the laws of our land.” Students began humming and were more engaged in their assignments. A few more students who had to be led into classroom discussions earlier in the year were now easily sharing their ideas with classmates.
As the days of the performances approached, Ms. Kazos led instruction in informational writing for the young performers, capitalizing on this opportunity to provide an authentic learning moment to deepen their academic skills. Students spent two additional days after school drafting, editing, revising, and publishing their own biographies used as the performances’ program. Opening night arrived in early April. Neither the performers nor the audience could have imagined a stage transformed with lights, two screens of video, and a sound system carrying both the solos and ensemble voices throughout the theatre. It was an eye-opening experience for all spectators. “I never expected the performance to be so professionally done,” commented a smiling parent. “Where do I sign up for next year?” asked another family member.
The impact on the community at Bishop did not stop after the curtain went down on closing night. In late April, the students performed two songs at a recent school board meeting. The cast of “School House Rock” received a standing ovation from an audience-packed Board Room. One impressed upper elementary teacher in attendance, Cindy Taylor, reported she was grateful their students had a meaningful experience with the Starting Arts production. One more encore performance is scheduled at the Sunnyvale School District fund-raiser “Our Kids, Our Community” on Thursday, June 12th. Bishop Elementary School is definitely a School House that Rocks!
Article by Theresa Ballin, 3rd Grade Teacher at Bishop Elementary School