As the year comes to a close, the groundwork for success has been laid for nearly 150 Rexdale-area children from 14 TDSB schools. These children have begun their DAREarts journey to empowerment as young leaders, leaving their schools for several full days of immersive arts education that help build the DARE values of Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Respect and Excellence. Coming in from grades four to eight, each class has now experienced two of their nine DAREarts Days.
The program hosts a different grade each day, running five days per week with delegates joining us from a variety of circumstances. Each group has many personalities, ranging from painfully shy and scared to outgoing with minimal impulse control. Some face bigger challenges than others either at home or school, but they all come to us for unique reasons, carefully selected by their teachers.
After a whirlwind week of introduction days, where each delegate met new peers and discovered what their upcoming DAREarts Days would have in store for them, emotions were mixed. Our grade four class was bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. Our grade sevens and eights, on the other hand, were more reserved; young teens, about to face the realities of high school, were now encountering a taste of what was to come as they found themselves in a classroom of strangers. For one grade seven delegate, the impact of DAREarts has been immediate. As he got off the DAREarts bus on his first day, he shyly handed a note to one of our Teaching Assistants. Inside he had written, “I feel like I have been seen for the first time.”
In our second week, we leapt into music and drama, two art forms that leave no room for shyness and focus strongly on team building. Our grade fours met actor Jamie Robinson, who helped them explore Shakespeare’s renowned tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Our grade sixes wielded rapiers alongside internationally acclaimed fight director Matt Richardson. Artist-educators Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison and Rachel Persaud brought our grade sevens into two worlds of sound: African drumming and vocal jazz. Comedian David Travaglio dared our grade eights to “take a risk” as they dove into improvisation as both an art form and a useful real-world skill. The grade eights also experienced bucket drumming with Troy Sexton of Rhythmworks, formerly of renowned performance group STOMP. The week concluded with our grade fives tackling the inventive personalities of the Italian Commedia with artist David Langlois, founder and artistic director of Metaphysical Theatre.
Back at school and home, the kids are already buzzing with excitement and burgeoning self-confidence! A returning delegate in grade eight, although quiet and reserved at DAREarts, bounds into the school office to eagerly recount every detail of his day to the office administrator and principal. He’s coming out of his shell and finding his inner strength. When asked about the depth of his personal growth, we were told “You have no idea how much he’s changed.”
As a sweet grade five delegate shared in our closing reflection circle, “DAREarts is a great place to be!” We agree and we’ll let that thought lead us into the holiday season and continue to inspire us to excellence in 2016!