Dance, music, joy: Meet ArtSparks

April 11, 2019

GAR Foundation recently announced the launch of a new $1.2 million investment called Essential Experiences to provide every Akron Public Schools student in PreK through 5th grade with a meaningful learning experience outside of the classroom. Students will visit six local cultural and historical organizations to participate in educational programming directly connected to classroom learning. Host organizations include ArtSparks, Akron Art Museum, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Akron Zoo, Hale Farm & Village, and Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.

Meet the Host: ArtSparks

We invite you to learn about each provider and program over the course of the initiative by following our Meet the Provider series. First up: ArtSparks, an educational outreach program based in Akron that provides access to high-quality dance programming, emphasizes the importance of dance as an art form, and reinforces core academic learning.

Ready, Spark, Kindergarten

Through Essential Experiences, nearly 1,600 preschool students ages 3-5 will participate in a 15-week arts and music program by ArtSparks called Ready, Spark, Kindergarten. ArtSparks delivers the program on-site in fifty-six Akron Public Schools preschool classrooms.

Each week, a lead dance teacher, assistant dance teacher, and musician guide participants through a series of activities that target areas that are critical to school readiness. The children learn age-appropriate academic content that is directly tied to classroom learning through dance and music challenges that are designed to improve gross motor skills, sequences of movement, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. This experience will culminate in an energetic live showcase in their classrooms with parent audiences.

Preparing Akron kids for kindergarten

Sixty percent of children entering kindergarten in Akron are not ready to learn. Children who begin kindergarten on track for success are more than twice as likely to read on grade level during the first years of school. ArtSparks uses dance and music to focus on areas the Summit County Transition Skills Summary Project (TSS) has identified as critical to success for early learning in Akron Public Schools, including rhyming, social problem-solving skills, and comparing quantities.

The Essential Experiences initiative addresses the need for high-quality experiential learning and draws from research supporting the value of co-curricular experiences.

Three important elements make these experiences more robust than a traditional field trip:

  • Curriculumbased: the experiences are designed by professional educators to connect directly to the content being taught and learned in students’ own  classrooms.
  • Equity and inclusion: Prior to this initiative, field trips were not guaranteed for every child and every classroom across the district. Essential Experiences ensures that every child in every participating  grade gets to have the same valuable experience.
  • ConsistencyEssential Experiences provides students with a consistent, hands-on, grade-appropriate experience to support their learning each year.