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Published: Friday, 10/26/2007

Song, dance put Ohio's first lady in good mood

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
As first lady Frances Strickland watches, Kenwood Elementary School students including, from left, Natasha Thompson, Madison Kramp, and Haley Small perform a folk dance. As first lady Frances Strickland watches, Kenwood Elementary School students including, from left, Natasha Thompson, Madison Kramp, and Haley Small perform a folk dance.
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BOWLING GREEN - Learning the words and hand motions for seven songs can be tough for a 6-year-old.

Not to mention the dance moves for another two.

But Mya Curry proudly said she made no mistakes when her kindergarten class at Kenwood Elementary School performed yesterday for Ohio's first lady, Frances Strickland, with other kindergartners throughout the Bowling Green school district and Old Fort Elementary in Seneca County.

"I was a little nervous, but I practiced," Mya said.

She and the other children impressed the guest of honor.

Frances Strickland applauds enthusiastically during a performance by children in the Bowling Green State University Kindergarten Project. Frances Strickland applauds enthusiastically during a performance by children in the Bowling Green State University Kindergarten Project.
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"Thank you so much for singing for me," Mrs. Strickland told the kindergartners seated in circles across the auditorium floor. "This puts me in a good mood. I'm going to be singing all day long."

Mrs. Strickland made the visit to Bowling Green to witness the Kindergarten Project in action, a program developed by Joyce Eastlund Gromko, a music education professor at Bowling Green State University.

The program, which is celebrating its 15th year, puts BGSU juniors and seniors studying music education into kindergarten classrooms for teaching experience and the kindergartners get to learn music, something they usually don't do until first grade.

Mrs. Gromko's program provides the youngsters with a book of song lyrics and graphics that show the tempo of the song and where the notes are high or low.

Developed by Joyce Eastlund Gromko, the project helps BGSU students such as Jami Haswell learn how to incorporate singing and dancing into the classes they teach young children.
Developed by Joyce Eastlund Gromko, the project helps BGSU students such as Jami Haswell learn how to incorporate singing and dancing into the classes they teach young children.
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They also can get a head start learning how to read when they recognize the words on the page as the ones they sing. It comes with a CD, too.

"We've got to have more partnerships like this," Mrs. Strickland told The Blade after the "Kindergarten Congress" performance.

Such programs can be alternatives to cutting music, art, and physical education during budget crunches, she said, adding that arts education helps with important skills of creativity and innovation.

She said her husband, Gov. Ted Strickland, is planning a Governor's Institute for Creativity and Innovation in Education that could begin working with teachers this summer.

After reading the first lady's comments in the media in support of arts education, Mrs. Gromko wrote to Mrs. Strickland in January, telling her about the program. They met in May and discussed it, and Mrs. Strickland was invited for a performance.

The students usually put on a show for parents at the end of the semester, and yesterday's performance after only nine weeks tested them early.

There were some kinks, such as the children bumping into each other during the do-si-do or having trouble with the correct way to hold their partners' hands during the promenade.

It didn't matter. Everyone loved it.

"It was a little overwhelming hearing them all together," said Adam Landry, 21, a music education senior at BGSU who explained the songs yesterday before each was performed. "It's an incredible experience."

Mr. Landry plans to teach high school band but thought it was important to learn how to teach a variety of grades because you never know where the jobs will be. "It's not really difficult to work with them, but it's completely different than with older kids," he said.

He said he's learned to be patient and explain things by showing, rather than telling.

Mrs. Gromko swelled with pride at the work of Mr. Landry and the rest of her class of soon-to-be teachers.

"I tried not to cry. I really did," she said. "I'm thrilled when they light up and really see they are helping build another world for their students."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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