“This list is sobering,” conceded Atlee. “Clearly, we need a comprehensive approach to promoting the arts and arts education in these difficult times.” Turning to the students in the group, she asked them, “How would you make school more relevant and interesting?”
High school senior Jackson Montgomery was the first to respond. “I want school to be more like the real world,” he asserted. “Rather than always having to sit through individual English, history, math, or even music classes inside school, students want the chance to address these subjects both inside and outside of school in ways that are most interesting to us. Here’s an example,” he continued. “Last year, a friend of mine participated in a robotics project, to stop drivers from speeding in front of her school. Kids from the arts and music classes were part of the team, where they helped design a lifelike kinetic sculpture—a motion detector that would gesture and make noise whenever someone exceeded the speed limit. Engineers from a leading university and representatives from a science museum were also involved. Everyone learned a lot and got to work together—especially the music and art students with the technology and science geeks—and everyone felt like they were doing something special for their community. I only wish that all students, in preparing for life after high school, had the option to work on similar projects,” Jackson concluded.
Next, it was Beth Smith’s turn. The fifth grader added, “I wish we could learn in school more like the way we learn outside of school,” she said. “My friends and I are always online, looking up awesome stuff about artists, musicians, and inventors and even creating our own stories, videos, drawings, and games. We’ve made friends with kids from other countries, too; it’s neat to see what their lives are like.”