About a dozen St. Ambrose School students entered the art room and immediately went to work on their projects. Fifth-grader Isabella Petro added a background to her artwork using a wet-on-wet technique and winning praise from the teacher, Ann Wright.
Isabella, who thrives on her teacher’s positive approach, explained that she appreciates learning the technique and being creative. “I go with the flow and put my feelings on an art project,” she said. “I like to talk about my art when people ask questions.”
Wright is teaching beginning watercolor techniques as part of St. Ambrose School’s enhanced fine arts program offered during elective periods. Wright and the music teacher, Beth Wagner, both have a different topic for each quarter. Students may sign up per quarter for the classes. For the first quarter, the music teacher is doing beginning note reading and keyboarding, while the art teacher is teaching watercolor techniques.
The fine art electives help students realize the many gifts God has given them, St. Ambrose principal Michele Grellner said. Middle schools students are doing a gratitude journal and the virtue for the year is joy. “Part of that is looking for their gifts and talents — this opportunity really helps them bring that out,” she said.
The electives are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays as an option instead of recess. Band instrument lessons are offered during the lunch periods on Tuesdays with Palmer music. Keyboarding and guitar lessons are after school. Choir is another option, with the students practicing after school on Wednesdays and leading music at Mass on Friday mornings.
Planning for adding additional fine arts opportunities besides the usual art and music classes began last year, especially adding a band program. The band program is for students in second through eighth grades and the other electives are fourth through eighth grades.
“It lets the kids shine, show their talents and learn new things,” said Grellner.
The future looks bright, Grellner said. Ballroom dancing, Italian folk music, show choir, weaving and more are in store later.
Choir members learn to sing songs in Italian and to use sign language.
Because most of the electives are offered during the school day, it doesn’t interfere with sports or other activities after school.
Fred Palmer Jr. teaches the band lessons. Working on a recent Tuesday with third-grade beginning trumpet player Oliver O’Blanc and fourth-grade beginning flute player Gabriella Pedroli, he provided tips on how to care for their instruments; how to sit properly when playing the instruments; how to count the beats in full, half and quarter notes; and how to get into a habit of practicing daily.
In the music class, the keyboard students already were making progress in reading and playing notes on the keyboard and piano. Wagner, their teacher, said “it’s a wonderful opportunity for these kids to do something that maybe their parents couldn’t afford to do after school.”
The art teacher, Wright, said she enjoys seeing the growth of the students in their creativity and their ability to express themselves artistically. “It’s a smaller group than an entire class. They are kids that are focused on the arts who enjoy the process and the extra time they have,” she said.
Wright speaks to students about how faith is always incorporated into the arts. “We want to live through Christ as an example,” she said.