From the desk of Lisa Norton, DAREarts Program Coordinator:
We’ve made it to the halfway mark, and at this point we can say with confidence that Discipline, Action, Responsibility and Excellence are all alive and well within our children! This year’s DAREarts Winter Program is bringing over 140 students from 17 Northwest Etobicoke schools out of the classroom and into a world of arts, culture, and adventure. For some of our students, these are their first experiences outside of their own communities. For all of them, this is their chance to leap into roles of leadership, and prove that they can live up to the high expectations of the DAREarts teaching team.
At the start of each DAREarts day, Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon sets the tone with the DARE of the Day. A few short words, left to the interpretation of thirty-five kids, can establish the mood for the day in an instant. With our grade six class, expectations were high on their first day: Courageous Participation. Kids who were admittedly quiet or apathetic at school were given the challenge of stepping out of their comfort zone; they learned quickly that involving themselves opened many doors and kindled friendships, laughter, and smiles. There is no time for anyone to be left out – everyone is part of the circle, part of the class, part of the support structure that is vital to success. The children learn to stand tall on their own, and that being strong independently means being self-disciplined and respectful of their peers. Amazing teams are formed on this principle. On their final program day, Leadership Day, Laura gave an ongoing DARE to the students: Support Your Team.
This week, our grade four and seven classes are beginning the same journey: working up from just dipping a toe in the water all the way to cannon-balling right into the pool. This is positive risk-taking in motion, and it changes lives.
This year has been unique in that financial literacy is now being directly incorporated into each DAREarts day. Thanks to the support of the TD Financial Literacy Grant Fund, our students are now exploring, in more depth than before, financial topics that inspire them to think outside the box and equip them with the tools they need for future money management success. With each daily “Money DARE”, it is amazing to hear the children’s thoughts on topics including debt, loans, taxes, monetary value, and more. The topics are mostly new to them, and their responses are uninhibited, optimistic, and creative. This enhancement of the program will have far-reaching positive effects.
Along with their new “Money DARE”, five DAREarts HandWords are learned each day and then brought back to the respective classroom of each student. With so many children coming in from so many schools, the impact of peer teaching is enormous. Through presentations, knowledge is shared by the students, and in turn they are gaining leadership skills. Most adults hesitate at the idea of presenting anything verbally to a group, but with the right tools at hand, the kids are able to overcome their own nervousness. Deep breathing and the self-discipline to remain focused result in clear, confident sharing.
The coming weeks will be filled with challenges, journeys, and many children stepping out of their comfort zones in the pursuit of excellence.
We would like to extend a special “shout out” to our volunteers, who are always striving to give their all to inspire the children to dream big, and achieve beyond. They are the sails that keep our small but mighty ship sailing!