Today, fine arts and music are subjects that are increasingly forgotten in primary and secondary education. Budget cuts and teaching focused on standards have led to a decrease in art and music education. Fortunately, this is not the case at Crestone Charter School (CCS). Art and music education serves a fundamental role at CCS starting from kindergarten to advanced mentorships in high school.
Students are welcomed with a rich and diverse arts program at CCS beginning in primary school where Kristy Knight has been teaching for eight years. Every class, including middle school, attends art class once a week for an hour. Kristy focuses on fundamentals in K-5th grades, teaching color schemes, and differences between primary and secondary colors. Students art can be viewed weekly throughout CCS hallways. Kristy prides herself in being an advocate for the arts and says CCS is great at placing importance in education in fine arts. For Kristy, an education in fine arts helps children with critical thinking, creativity, and develop skills as an artist. She says about working at CCS, “I love it, small classes allow me to provide more individual attention.” With an average combined two-grade class size of sixteen, CCS allows for hands-on art education not available at typical public schools. Most recently Kristy taught the middle school grades about clay ring mugs, allowing each student to create their own mug and have it fired in a pottery kiln.
In addition to fine arts, the primary school receives music education from Matthew Nava who’s been teaching at CCS for three years. This is Matthew's first year teaching music at CCS, previously a teachers aid. Matthew brings high energy to the classrooms once a week. Typically Matthew walks into the school with arms full of hand drums, noisemakers, and shakers. Matthew structures his music education on fundamentals saying the Early Elementary class focuses on beat, rhythm, and singing, Primary class focuses on drums and percussion, and Intermediary class focuses on singing and ukulele. This year Matthew led a drum and percussion circle for an all-school gathering focusing on self-empowerment. Matthew says he enjoys the “love kids have for music that's instilled in them by their parents.”
Middle school and high school students are able to pursue further music education with Tom Dessain who’s been with CCS for nine years. Tom has been a singer-songwriter for 48 years, many of which have been in Crestone. Tom’s music education focuses on rock & roll and folk, rather than a traditional horn and string based music education. Tom says students learn to be in a band, how to prepare to play live music, and work with others within a musical realm. The middle school and high school students frequently play at talent shows at CCS and at the Cloud Station on weekends. Tom works with high schoolers daily both individually and in a band focused setting. He says music education allows for a close bond with students that last after they leave CCS, citing several students of his who’ve become devoted musicians. Tom says, “music is like a ladder for the soul, it makes life better in all ways.”
As part of the high school mentorship program students are able to further pursue their artistic passions. Currently, this year art and music centered mentorships include pottery making, street art, cello, and silks. The CCS arts programs ground themselves in one of its three virtues: creativity. Due to its structure as a charter school, CCS is able to prioritize arts and music education.