By Sahara Lyon
On a Thursday night towards the beginning of December, seventy parents and caregivers gathered in the Sabal Palm Elementary School cafeteria for an evening of music, crafts, and community. The Council on Culture & Arts (COCA)’s Arts Education Manager, Sahara Lyon, partnered with Sabal Palm’s Family and Community Engagement Coordinator, Javon Austin, to create a Family Winter Workshop centering around a craft and student performance.
The family workshop started with an explanation of COCA’s take-home craft, a clothespin snowflake. Javon proposed the workshop for her P.A.L.M. Parent program; Javon stated, “The P.A.L.M. Parent Program (Parents Active in Learning Making a difference) was created as an incentive program that encourages parents and caregivers to become more involved in their student’s activities and education.” Each family got a take-home craft with materials, instructions, and ideas for other crafts to make at home. Javon wanted to teach families that various household items could transform into beautiful holiday crafts with a bit of time and creativity.
After explaining the take-home craft, the third-grade music class performed a holiday recital with their recorders. Sabal Palm’s music teacher, Mich’ele Barrington, stated, “During our prep for the 3rd-grade music performance, we talked a lot about discipline. We drilled like a marching band and learned the importance of working together and moving/ playing as one. The kids enjoyed learning to play songs, using notes B and A, with their recorders. They could hardly wait to show everyone the ‘Cray Cray Christmas’ dance with their glow-in-the-dark accessories. We had a lot of fun preparing for the show.” The performance turned the evening into a showcase of student talent at Sabal Palm, with multiple facets of art education displayed.
Brenna Alonzo, Sabal Palm’s visual art teacher, was so proud of all the students’ hard work and was so thankful that their families could gather in celebration and appreciation. When asked about the importance of arts education, Brenna stated, “In my experience, having an education in the arts provides you with a plethora of tools to better equip students for life outside of the educational realm. All forms of art—studio, music, literature, dance, etc.—exposes avenues for self-expression, coping with emotions, building character and self-esteem, deepening interpersonal relationships, and opportunities for adventures, just to name a few. These pathways to enrichment help shape individuals into creative thinkers able to approach life with open minds. Of course, we can’t forget the possibilities for exciting careers and beautification of our communities which are inspired when a student learns to connect with their imaginations in order to communicate their presence in the world.”
Sabal Palm Elementary is a Community Partnership School that partners with organizations to provide students and their families with goods and services that would otherwise be hard to acquire. COCA, as a community arts organization, was excited by the prospect of partnering with Sabal Palm to provide craft materials to students and their families. Brenna added, “In my recent experience teaching at Sabal Palm Elementary School, I see pure joy emanating from my students when they discover a new way to approach things they otherwise thought they couldn’t do.” This craft workshop was about shifting perspectives and approach by showing families that several household items can be used as crafting materials. Students could apply lessons they’d learned in class to the craft, displaying their resourcefulness and creativity.
Javon further expanded, “COCA’s focus on art education fosters creativity, curiosity, and imagination. During this partnership between COCA and Sabal Palm Elementary, Leon County’s first Community Partnership School was able to see this mission in action.” The workshop was an excellent way to unite families and students through art education while showcasing talent and creativity.