The Iowa City school district is teaming up with national and local organizations to expand its arts education for elementary and junior high school students.
The district announced Tuesday that it has been selected to join the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Any Given Child program.
“It is great to be in a community that values a robust arts education to all students,” Barbara Shepherd, director of national partnerships for the Kennedy Center, said at a news conference.
The goal is to provide equitable education in music, drama, dance and the visual arts to all students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Superintendent Stephen Murley said in a news release that students would develop creativity and critical thinking skills as well as becoming lifelong participants in the arts.
“We are excited for this opportunity to create a more comprehensive and balanced arts education program for all Iowa City students,” he said.
The school district joins about a dozen others across the nation as a member of the Any Given Child program.
The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is a Washington, D.C.-based organization. It’s Any Given Child program is designed to assist communities in developing a plan for expanded arts education and to provide equal access to all students, according to the center’s website.
It focuses on grades K-8, it says, because high schools usually offer arts as elective classes and generating interest in younger students will lead them to maintain interest in the arts into high school.
For the past year, a committee of local people met and, with the Kennedy Center’s guidance, audited arts offerings and found they were not equal from school to school or in every discipline, according to the news release.
Grades K-2 and 7-8 were found to be lacking in resources, and there is a need for more opportunities in dance and theater, district spokeswoman Kate Moreland said.
Any Given Child is not an expansion of course offerings but more like integrating the arts into the system and providing greater exposure, she said.
For example, fourth-graders currently attend a symphony production. There may be opportunities to do activities like that in other disciplines, Moreland said.
Another idea is incorporating dance in physical education classes.
Community resources are to be part of the effort.
The participation of the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium helped the Iowa City school district get selected for the program.
“This is such a positive thing for our city,” said Chuck Swanson, Hancher’s executive director. “I’m so excited to be including so many areas of our fabulous community.”
The Kennedy Center will provide ongoing oversight and support, but not financial assistance, Moreland said. A coordinator is to be hired to guide the effort locally, but Moreland said it is not known if that person will be a district employee and who will cover the salary.
The Iowa City Community School District Foundation is accepting donations for the program. The district’s action plan says the goal is to raise $25,000 over two years.
The Gazette’s Mark Carlson contributed to this report.