Monday, Aug. 3, 2015
Knowing that her music education students at Virginia Commonwealth University would benefit from more special education training, Rebecca Tyree, an assistant professor in the School of the Arts, wanted to provide additional opportunities for them to learn techniques to effectively teach students of all abilities. She turned to the School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community’s Live Art program for inspiration.
SPARC Live Art provides performing arts programs through classes and camps that enroll typically developing students and special-needs students. Through these classes, students further develop skills in visual & performing arts and self-expression, and learn empathy for others while working in an inclusive, nurturing environment.
“They do a lot of creative development,” Tyree said. “They allow each person to express themselves in a safe environment. Their curriculum is carefully designed to be flexible and inclusive.”
Tyree worked with Erin Thomas-Foley, director of education and outreach at SPARC, to coordinate a way for students to serve as teaching assistants in the program. Six VCU music education students were selected to participate.
Though the classes only met once a week, the student volunteers had to make a yearlong commitment, staying with their classes into the summer when classes put on Live Art performances at the Altria Theater.
I’ve never been in a situation where you walk into a room and everyone is so focused on helping others.
“I’ve never been in a situation where you walk into a room and everyone is so focused on helping others,” said Kirsten Ferguson, one of Tyree’s students. “It’s completely about other people and making sure that as a team we reach our goal.”
With the immensely positive response from both SPARC and the volunteers, VCU will offer a service-learning course working with SPARC this fall through the VCU School of the Arts’ music education program. The course follows the same once-a-week yearlong format, but now students will receive one service-learning credit in the fall and two in the spring.
Potential students must submit an application and interview with Tyree about their interest in working with Live Art, focusing on their level of commitment to the program. If accepted, students will journal their experiences and attend regular seminars sharing what they’ve learned in addition to working with their SPARC students as teaching assistants.
Featured image up top : VCU music student Regan Sprenkle (right) with Erin Thomas-Foley, director of SPARC, (left) and a SPARC Live Art student. Photo by Doug Buerlein.
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