CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - The Arts Education Partnership's National Forum will be held in Chattanooga later this week, shining the light on school arts programs. Here in the Tennessee Valley, all arts programs are not equal in public schools, but one innovative principal is doing his part to use music to help stamp out bullying.
LaFrederick Thirkill is a former music teacher, in his second year at the helm of Orchard Knob Elementary School. Everywhere you go at the school, there are reminders about good behavior. Thirkill leaves no stone unturned when it comes to educating children about the right way to treat each other.
"We have a chant each morning," Thirkill said. "Think before you speak, learn something new every day."
Thirkill writes songs about the school, and its community. They are songs to make students proud of where they're from. The school includes kids from various ethnic backgrounds, and music teacher Marcellus Barnes says when it comes to establishing respect for one another, music is truly the universal language.
Barnes said, "Here we have Hispanic, Caucasian, Black, Asian, and this gives them a fun alternative to bad behavior, and this is what we need to be doing, I do believe that."
Like many lower income schools, arts education is a luxury at Orchard Knob, and in short supply. Thirkill and his teachers wish it was a higher priority.
Thirkill said, "I would love to have an art teacher, because our kids would love to express themselves through painting, or even dance, drama, all of the arts." Barnes added, "I don't think it's the only solution, but it's a huge part of the overall picture. Children need ways to express what's in their hearts and minds, and arts brings out the best in them."
The National Arts Education forum will be held at the Chattanoogan on Thursday and Friday. For information, see the Arts Education Partnership website.