INTEGRATING THE POWER OF THE ARTS WITH A RIGOROUS ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE
Snow Pond Arts Academy, a 501(C)3 non-profit organization, received approval on November 17, 2015 to open a public charter school for grades 9-12, beginning in the fall of 2016.
This data dramatically indicates that even though our young people are graduating from high school, many are not fully engaged in learning. While improving proficiency scores is absolutely necessary, that alone is not adequate. More than anything, we want each of our children to reach their full potential. When less than1 in 3 of our students (and less than 1 in 5 in lower income groups) earn any type of advanced degree, we know we have fallen well short of what is possible.
• Only 30% of Maine’s students graduate from college with a two or four year degree. (Source: Educate Maine)
• These percentages are significantly lower in low-to-modern income brackets.
The rest of the story:
• Less than 50% of Maine students are proficient in math and reading when they graduate from high school. (Source: Educate Maine)
• There is no measurement being conducted on the skills that graduates will need to be successful in college and in the 21st century job market.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” ~ Einstein
This Exciting Journey Begins
The Snow Pond Arts Academy’s program is based on our recognition that all children learn best when they are introduced to a broad and balanced curriculum that celebrates their talents and provides them a breadth of experience. By valuing creativity and critical thinking as much as we value literacy, we will ignite each student’s natural curiosity and guide him or her to imagine alternatives and possibilities for any challenge they face in their future.
Evidence for Inclusion of the Arts
The evidence is compelling and incontrovertible: when young people are exposed to the arts, they show improved test scores, possess advanced skills in critical thinking and collaboration, have heightened communication skills, and are far more likely to graduate from college.
Recent studies conducted by Northwestern University and Boston Children’s Hospital revealed that music had the greatest benefit in low to moderate income groups. In one city, the high school graduation rate for lower income students was 78% (the same as Maine). Graduation rates for those who had arts training was 97%.
“I would teach children music, physics and philosophy, but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all of the arts are the keys to learning. Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward place of the soul!”
It Is Not About The Music
Educate Maine, a business-led education advocacy organization, released data in 2015 that indicates a real learning gap between higher income and lower income students. Arts education can effectively bridge this gap.
“The most tragic thing about being poor is not the lack of food or basic necessities, but the feeling of being no-one, the feeling of not being anyone, the lack of identification, the lack of public esteem.”
~ Mother Teresa
The performing arts bring people together. When a young person is a member of a performance group, he/she experiences a world without economic or cultural division.
By performing together, children learn to successfully coexist. Music elevates the spirit and provides each student with a sense of commitment, responsibility, generosity, and self-esteem.
Music has the ability to raise each individual’s expectations by showing them that they are important to their families and their communities. These strong foundations raise children’s confidence and belief in themselves.
So for SPAA, it is not about creating great musicians, it is about giving all our children exposure to the enormous benefits of music and arts education, and putting them on a path for lifelong learning.
“From the minute a child is taught to play an instrument, he/she is no longer poor.”
~ Jose Abreu
Founder of El Sistema
What’s Unique About Snow Pond Arts Academy?
SPAA is located on a 40 acre campus in Sidney, on Messalonskee Lake and serves 180 students. The picturesque setting provides an ideal environment for learning and has been the home of the internationally known New England Music Camp (NEMC) since 1937, as well as other arts programs under the umbrella organization, Snow Pond Center for the Arts (SPCA). Throughout this 80 year history, parents have consistently reported that NEMC positively changed their childrens’ lives.
Snow Pond Arts Academy (SPAA) is founded on this strong foundation and will be a paramount part of this overall transforming learning community. SPAA is dedicated to academic excellence, commitment to the arts, and leadership learning. The school hires inspiring and experienced faculty and staff, including some of the best educators from our local colleges, who are dedicated to fostering an inclusive culture of mutual respect and support which sets the tone for academic excellence. Students and faculty work together to develop a virtuous code of conduct. Students are prepared to meet the 21st century demands, through this thoughtful attention to curriculum, culture, and civic responsibilities.
SPAA uses a unique blended learning model that incorporates the arts, academics and 21st century technology to support student learning. The SPAA faculty sets high expectations from the beginning and promotes complex thinking skills that each student will need over the course of their education. All are expected to meet Maine math and literacy standards and become self-reliant and self-directed learners. We know from experience that students will find this to be an engaging and enriching full day of arts and academics.
Visible Leadership for Maine
One of the biggest challenges for Snow Pond Arts Academy is reaching, and engaging parents on the importance of a complete and balanced education and on the transforming nature of the arts, especially those families with low and moderate incomes. Almost 60% of our population fits in this category.
Arts education in Maine has unfortunately not been thought of as an essential component of helping each student reach his or her full potential. The Snow Pond Arts Academy will raise awareness that arts-based education program will cultivate all of the essential skills and traits needed for success and will significantly close the performance gap between income groups.
The combination of this well known campus with its 80 year history and this charter high school provides the optimal platform to:
• Provide visible leadership and be that “tipping point” for high quality balanced learning in Maine while yielding a proficiency-based standard of excellence model for regional schools across the US.
• Attract the very best educators and performing artists to teach and engage our students’ academic and personal growth.
• Teach students how to effectively use virtual learning.
• Allow high school students to be role models for younger students, their families and in their communities.
• Build strong relationships with all of our local colleges, University of Maine at Augusta, and Thomas, Kennebec Valley Community, Colby, Bates, Bowdoin and Unity Colleges.
• Build a strong foundation of support by engaging the entire community and philanthropic foundations, while leveraging state and federal grant programs.
Where We Need Assistance
Maine charter schools are tuition-free to any Maine student that applies. The charter school is operated under the terms of a contract between the Maine Charter School Commission and the school’s governing board. Charter Schools are new to Maine and are given quite a bit of latitude to be creative and innovative, while being held accountable for advancing student achievement.
Over the last two years, we have developed good relationships and support with the public school music educators, the local superintendents, and all seven local colleges. Collectively this creates a unique opportunity to work collaboratively with all area schools in building a regional school system that produces better outcomes for each student. Ideally, we hope to provide a leadership model for all other small town/rural communities, many of which have large percentages of undeserved students with needs that are quite different from urban schools.
Now that SPAA is operational as a Maine charter school, it will receive public funds directly from the State of Maine. Unfortunately, for most charter schools, this funding is nowhere near adequate. Specifically for us, public funding provides less than 70% of our needed revenue in the first year and nothing for the rigorous application and start-up expenses, or for capital improvements. Our needs are three-fold:
• Increasing awareness that Snow Pond Arts Academy is part of an overall engaged learning community for students of all ages and that arts education cultivates the traits needed for our youth to be successful.
Your voice of support has an impact…
• Increasing connections to educators, artists, potential students, civic leaders, business leaders and philanthropists. Your referrals are vital to assure we are reaching all of the people we need to connect with.
• To ensure that this innovative school meets and exceeds expectations, we need additional operational funding over the next 18 months to cover start-up expenses and to balance the first year’s budget. Ideally this support would come from a very broad range of Maine residents, businesses, and foundations. Additionally, we will need capital funding to expand our classroom and performance facilities as all of our programs continue to grow.
“We believe that education is the most important investment that can be made in people, in communities, and in the economy.”
~ Edmund Cervone, Executive Director, Educate Maine
“We know that the arts will be even more important to the economics of our country, especially in the industries that we cannot even imagine yet, just as they have been central to the development of technological innovations of today. Leaders of businesses, academic organizations, and government will depend more and more on emotional intelligence, listening skills, empathy, and the ability to articulate change and to motivate others – the very skills and traits that the arts cultivate.”
Ben Cameron – Doris Duke Foundation 2010
Especially now, we must embrace and celebrate the power of the arts to shape the character of Maine’s youth, and it is now that we must reach our population of lower-income underserved students and provide this opportunity for each of them to reach their full potential. Snow Pond Arts Academy is deeply committed to transforming these students as well as working closely with our partners in building an engaged, vibrant and economically strong learning community.
Arts Matter . . .
Please join us on this exciting journey . . . We ask for your advice and support.
With sincere appreciation,
Former President, Snow Pond Arts Academy Board of Directors