Patti RasmussenThe SignalPauline HarteRichard RiouxTim WhyteLeon Worden

PTA provides cultural enrichment for students

Patti Rasmussen · September 20, 1997

One of the many positions on a PTA board is that of Program chair. This is usually a vice president position and one place where the students can actually see how all those school fund-raisers pay off.

Programs that enhance the curriculum are a wonderful addition to the student's and teacher's day. Programs are generally educational, and the PTA leans toward those that are fun and interactive as well. Cultural arts, marine biology and history tend to be favorites.

Jeri Arrunategui is the Canyon Springs Elementary School program chair. Last Monday, Arrunategui booked her first assembly, "Music, Music Everywhere" by the Stroud Puppets. Classical, folk and contemporary music is used to entertain kindergarten through sixth grade with a host of cute puppets.

A folk music piece entitled "Little Bunny Foo-Foo" taught the children how music and song are used to tell a story. A more complicated piece was presented when a five-foot snake puppet, wrapped around a puppeteer, sang the lead in the opera "Carmen." It was explained to the students that most operas are in another language, but by watching and listening to the performers, the audience should have no problem following the story line.

For proof that music is the universal language, one needs to look no further than Canyon Springs Elementary. There, hearing-impaired students sat amongst their classmates, laughing and reacting to instructions and jokes while the teacher signed to them. The opera presented an even playing field, as no one in the room understood Latin but all were able to enjoy the performance. Arrunategui's son Ryan, who is hard of hearing and is in a mainstream fifth-grade class, commented to his mom how much he enjoyed the performance. "They almost enjoy it more," said Arrunategui. "They see the music because they can feel the vibrations. I think they have the best of both worlds because they appreciated this so much more."

Ask anyone who has performed in front of a group of elementary school-aged children, and most will agree the toughest crowd is sixth grade. As the upper classmen walked back to their room, the critics were already forming their opinion.

Alisha Thompson, Jackie Reyes, Kim Hiatt and Carrie Schott all agreed that the shark and fish puppets were their favorites. Mary Carpenter, herself an amateur puppeteer, thought all the puppets were excellent, while Jennifer Larson, who struggled to remember a favorite, thought the puppets would be more entertaining for the younger students.

As she observed from the back of the multi-purpose room, Jeri Arrunategui felt her first selection as program chair was a success. She agrees with the sixth-grader, that these puppets were definitely for a younger crowd. But she was pleased by the fact that all the students were enriched in their new appreciation of music.

"In the first assembly, with the little guys, they were laughing and really enjoying the program," Arrunategui said. "It's kind of like when your children open Christmas presents, they were so happy. Several teachers have come up to me and thanked me. It's a good feeling. It makes me want to do more."

Programs are another way to show that the PTA isn't all hard work and fund-raising; it can be very rewarding. With cutbacks at all levels of education, we are lucky to have PTA board members who are continually enriching our students' education.

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Enrichment doesn't stop with PTA. Non-profit organizations in our valley are involved with the schools every year. The Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre is one such group, and the community will have a chance to watch their program come to life tonight. As part of Community Outreach, the SCRT offers an original play by the Apprentice Company comprised of students from the four high schools.

Tonight they will be performing an original murder mystery at the Valencia High School auditorium. The show starts at 7:00 p.m. These kids have been working hard all summer and the community will have a chance to observe the collaborative effort shown by these talented high school performers. For more information, please call the Santa Clarita Repertory Theatre at 222-SCRT(7278).

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Patti Rasmussen's commentaries appear in The Signal on Saturdays.

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