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Posted May 16, 2011

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Horizon Awards Puts Music Kits in Pre-K Classrooms

See a need, fill a need.

That’s what APS resource teachers Jan Delgado, Erin Hulse and Sara Hutchinson did when they applied for an APS Education Foundation Horizon Award last fall.

The $5,000 award allowed the teachers from the district’s Arts Center place early childhood fine arts kits into 40 pre-K classrooms around the district. The net effect: Delgado says that with the kits, the youngest learners in the district grasp key developmental concepts – not only in music and arts, but in literacy and math as well.

“It helps in a lot of ways,” says East San Jose pre-K teacher Anna Rodriguez, a minute or two removed from an energetic session of music and instruction with a dozen 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.

The Horizon Awards, a Foundation program that puts money directly into classrooms throughout the district, is funded by donors both big and small throughout the area. Key Foundation partners include PNM, Technology Integration Group, Sandia National Laboratories, Wells Fargo, Comcast, the APS/United Way Employee Campaign, RayLee Homes: A New Generation and the Larry H. Miller Foundation.

The kits look like fun – and not just for kids. They include egg shakers, rhythm sticks, jingle bells, wood blocks and some musical CDs, among other items. Sounds simple enough – and noisy enough – but when put into action with an energetic teacher, the instruments become teaching tools as basic and important as paper and pencil.

At East San Jose, a dual language school on Albuquerque’s south side, children respond happily as Rodriguez uses a steady drumbeat to help kids count “1-2-3” or “1-2-3-4-5.” At the same time, they’re also responding to music, to their teachers – and to one another, because key basic concepts – like following directions – don’t always happen in one-on-one environments.

Without such kits, teachers have to make do with whatever is available, and sometimes, that’s not a lot. With the sturdy kits, there’s a great chance kids will enter kindergarten with better social, musical and literacy skills.

Delgado says she’s excited to talk to kindergarten teachers next year, because she’d like to know the effect that this idea will have on their classrooms when pre-K kids move up.

It’s a concept, she says, that she has long hoped to explore.

“You see a need,” she says, “and you fill a need.”

The cup seems full at East San Jose, where Rodriguez – herself an East San Jose student – lauds the kits as a huge help. There’s just something about making music, even in its most elemental form, that does something to a person. And not just a little person.

“Our parents," she says, “like it, too.”

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