Throughout California and across the country more and more subjects like art, athletics, drama, music and technology are being taught by grade level teachers or parent volunteers, or worse yet, are being eliminated from the curriculum. Few schools have specialists for literacy, math or science. Even schools with well established Education Foundations are feeling the pinch. This year in Los Altos, a wealthy community in Northern California with a well established Education Foundation, drama has been eliminated, music is no longer offered below the 4th grade level, the art program has been reduced, and computers and PE are taught by grade level teachers. This trade-off was made to increase K-3 class sizes to a cap of 25 students with no classroom aides.
Children at the R. Roger Rowe School have not had to give up these opportunities. At the Ranch School 61% of teachers have advanced and specialized degrees. Science, Spanish, art, athletics, math, music, technology, drama and literacy are taught by specialized teachers who are better able to impart their passion and utilize dynamic approaches and cutting-edge technology in their teaching methodology.
But this wouldn’t be possible without the generous $1M pledge from the RSF Education Foundation (RSFEF). 100% participation among Ranch School families is necessary to maintain this world-class education in the current climate of cuts to state and local education funding. Superintendent Lindy Delaney has already cut all non-essential items from the budget in an effort to keep all the great teachers and maintain the key programs that help grow our students. What does that $1M grant buy for your students?
Benefits of Art Instruction Available for All Students
Children learn many things in these specialized classes that help them in school and in life. “Art gives students the opportunity to approach problem solving in a very visual and tactile way. It really lends itself to all types of learners. We are reading and writing about artists, movements and elements.
The students listen and watch me demonstrate projects and then they get to create their own art,” noted Ranch School Art Teacher Marika Fagan. “There is also a boost to their self-esteem from creating things with their own two hands. The process, the journey, learning something about art and themselves along the way; it gives them a sense of pride and allows them to celebrate their uniqueness.” Ms. Fagan is an art school graduate and holds her Single Subject Teaching Credential in Art.
While subjects like art are being virtually eliminated at many schools, the State of California has standards of things they expect students to learn at each grade level in each of these subjects. “I incorporate one or two of the state standards for art into each project,” added Ms. Fagan. She has created art projects that incorporate what the students are learning in other subjects at the Ranch School from ocean exploration to writing. In Middle school the students are creating a Matisse inspired name collage which incorporates things about themselves. Ms. Fagan includes some reading and writing in the projects of the older students. The younger students create art inspired by books. For example one class has created Rainbow Fish and the project has the students utilize a couple of the state standards. The Third graders created Van Gough watercolors and used the Wetlands habitat they are learning about as their theme. “We utilize project based learning so that the students understand the practical reasons of how it relates to them,” she added. “The stability of this school is unique. It feels and operates like a learning community rather than just another school. It is something to be cherished and held on to.” Like many of the other specialized teachers at the Ranch School, Ms. Fagan also offers a lunch time club where students can work on an art project under her direction.
Specialized Music Education a Boost to Test Scores
RC Haus is a credentialed music teacher as well. Throughout the year Mr. Haus sees each K-6 student for music class. Students in these grades rotate through specialized classes such as art, music, drama, or technology so that they learn about each subject. “During these classes, the students will learn a wide variety of music basics in the different grades: notation, fundamentals of singing, different types of instruments, biographies of famous composers, and even piano basics,” added Mr. Haus. Students who desire more music education have the option of participating in lunch hour or before school programs.
During the lunch hour, he offers optional music programs: middle school choir, grades 4-6 choir, grades K-3 choir, and piano club. Mr. Haus also oversees the before-school band/orchestra program. Currently the Ranch School offers beginning band, intermediate band, and strings. “Last year there were about 24 students involved in the program; this year there are already 107 students enrolled. It is very exciting,” said Mr. Haus. “Most of them are just beginning the exciting journey of playing an instrument.” Mr. Haus is innovative. He recently sent a You Tube video link to all Ranch School families inviting them to check out the band/orchestra program. It is hard not to get excited watching it.
Music is an important part of every student’s education. Mr. Haus notes, “According to the National Association for Music Education, SAT takers with a background involving musical instruction score significantly higher than their non-musically trained counterparts – a surprising 56 points higher on the verbal portion and 39 points higher on the math portion of the test.” Clearly music is not simply a nice to have.
Drama Program Strengthens Literacy and Other Skills
Heidi Moreno joined the Ranch School last year as drama teacher. “The drama elective for K-8 grade is based on the state standards for theater arts which are geared to enhance and strengthen the student’s understanding and implementation of reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills,” noted Ms. Moreno. “As an English and theater arts teacher for the past six years, I have found that the two disciplines are directly related and in a drama setting, students are able to spend more time with such reading comprehension and writing essentials as character creation, story building, and communication. Through the K-8 drama program at RSF, students have the unique opportunity to learn these essentials.” Currently Ms. Moreno’s 4th graders just finished puppet shows that they created with paper bag puppets they made in class; her 6th graders just finished performing comedy skits; and her 1st graders are preparing for their Aesop’s Fable Show in October. “The students also build confidence as they perform in various activities including puppetry, melodramas, fairytale theater, musical theater, improvisation, and pantomime.” Ms. Moreno also offers an after school Advanced
Drama Program for all 5th-8th grade students as well as a lunch time club.
Depth of Specialty Instruction Rivals That of Private Schools
At the Ranch School, the goal is for all students to become digitally literate and competent in all areas of technology. These competencies support the development of a 21st century citizen. Jackie Mendez is our dedicated education technology specialist. “This year students in the computer lab will: 1) become proficient in computer skills that align with national technology standards per grade level; 2) become familiar with our network and how to navigate our applications/systems; and 3) become proficient in basic fundamentals of keyboarding,” noted Ms. Mendez. “The students are particularly excited about our school’s online program, Typing Pal Online, that they can use to practice at home,” she added.
More and more PE classes at other schools are led by grade level teachers. At the Ranch School all PE classes are led by a team of athletic directors and coaches. The after school program includes Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball, Flag Football, Golf, Cross Country Track & Field, Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer, Tennis, Boys’ and Girls’ Volleyball and Wrestling. All eligible students can participate.
Students in the Middle School are also offered Spanish as an elective. Research has shown that learning a second language leads to more advanced reading skills, and students perform much better than their monolingual peers on many standardized tests, including all sections of the SAT. All students at the Ranch School also benefit from the instruction of specialized teachers in the areas of math, science and literacy.
Clearly, students at the Ranch School have an education that surpasses many private schools with expensive tuitions. But to maintain this level of education requires more than funding from public sources. Please help retain these great teachers and programs. The Foundation’s Five-Star Education programs are in place and therefore must be funded immediately in order to be maintained for this school year. Contribute today! For questions or more information please go to www.rsfef.org or contact the RSF Education Foundation at 858-756-1141 x208. The difference is you!
— Submitted by the RSF Education Foundation