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Highland Oaks elementary students celebrate the arts for the 42nd year

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Excitement built as a first-grader’s hands brushed strokes of blue and green acrylic paints onto an outside wall at Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School in Northeast Miami-Dade.

These determined students were helping local muralist Danilda Baez-Sarmiento paint a mountainous landscape for VABHOE’s 42nd annual Cultural Arts Day on March 6.

During Cultural Arts Day, the school’s nearly 750 students were exposed to six different types of artistry, as classes were rotated for 20-minute periods to interact with some of the 28 performing artist groups.

The campus, 20500 NE 24th Ave., was buzzing. In addition to the students, 321 community artists comprising the 28 performing groups and over 50 volunteers were present.

Nearly half of the artists were visiting students from the feeder school, neighboring Highland Oaks Middle. These older students provided lessons in speech and debate, drama and Spanish, as well as performances in cheerleading, singing, orchestra, drum lines and jazz.

“The middle school performers are our biggest draw because obviously our students go there,” said Lisa Katzman, a VABHOE mother and Cultural Arts Day volunteer of nine years. “It’s a great relationship because our students can see the programs and electives that they offer at the middle school.”

In one classroom, Ms. Weingard’s fifth-grade students were busy creating edible snacks — “Babybel Bunnies.” Chocolate chips were placed strategically to resemble the eyes, wispy celery slices for whiskers, carrot curls for bunny ears, topped off with a mini candy heart for the nose.

In a close by portable, 19-year-old artist Matthew Isenberg had successfully transformed a rigid classroom into what seemed like a South Beach nightclub. Ms. Dailey’s class of 20 third-graders was boasting who had the best moves during the popular dance “Wobble” by V.I.C.

“I try to get the students as energized as possible,” Isenberg, a VABHOE alumnus said. “I remember what it was like to be in elementary school. You’re trying to figure yourself out and if I can help those kids do that, thats awesome.”

Isenberg, whose DJ name is “Mattheuu,” even invited VABHOE Principal Scott H. Saperstein to join in on the “Cha-Cha Slide.” Saperstein and students slid to the left and then to the right, in synchronized moves to Mr. C The Slide Man’s popular party hit.

Saperstein explained that although the once-a-year Cultural Arts Day does not include the routine curriculum, he still considers the event to be a benefit for students. Normally, grades two through five receive both music and art instruction only once per week, while pre-kindergarten through first grade students are instructed by their homeroom teachers throughout the year.

“I think the arts are so important because it enhances the students thought processes and critical thinking skills,” Saperstein said.

Michelle Wiseman Kredi, the Cultural Arts Day chairwoman who has been helping plan the event for the past 11 years, said there is no better way to spread the love of art than by doing it through the children.

“To see the expressions on their faces, to see how much they get out of that day and to hear how when they grow up they might want to consider a career in the arts — there’s no bigger reward,” Wiseman Kredi said.

A couple weeks after the event is over, Wiseman Kredi collects thank you notes from the nearly 150 students that visited with each artist. She compiles the notes with photographs that were taken during their performances, and sends a keepsake package to all of the artists.

Saperstein feels that the community effort of artists, parents, teachers and students coming together, makes for an incredible day.

“It’s a great symbol of how when we all work together, we can improve the lives of students.”

Follow @kathdevaney on Twitter.

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