MARQUETTE - Students returning to North Star Public School Academy may have noticed a few new additions to the school - a new arts and culture room as well as an improved music and art education program to go along with it.
"We want students to be well-rounded, so we certainly feel the arts and music is important," said North Star Chief Executive Officer and Superintendent Karen Anderson. "It's a strong message we received from the families. They really appreciate the fact that, even though it is a limited amount that we can offer, just the exposure (to art and music) is beneficial."
Construction on the room began June 8 and was fully completed by Aug. 30, when the school held an open house just before the new academic year began.
North Star Public School Academy student Eric Schweppe, 19, watches as art teacher Joy Bender Hadley shows him a dry brush technique inside the school’s arts and culture room. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"It moved along really fast," Anderson said.
The total cost of the roughly 700 square foot classroom, including furnishings, was $93,000, $4,000 of which came in the form of a donation from the Northstar Academy parent-teacher organization.
The school contracted with Associated Constructors for the work.
To help defray some of the cost of the new room, North Star is holding a fundraising dinner at the Holiday Inn at 5 p.m. Nov. 3. Tickets are $40 per person and pay for dinner as well as one raffle ticket. The evening will also have a silent auction.
Along with the new arts and culture room, North Star has added a new teacher into the fold, welcoming Courtney Saberniak as the new K-12 music instructor.
Saberniak said she is excited to be able to offer music education school-wide, and has set a number of goals for herself as well as the new program.
She said she's hoping that by the time her students go through the kindergarten through sixth grade program, they will be able to read music, recognize pitches, read rhythms and be able to read and sing on the treble staff.
Growing up, Saberniak said music was extremely important to her parents, and that echoed in her education as a child.
"It was a very, very big thing in my life - so much of a big thing I decided to make it my career," Saberniak said. "(Music education) is extremely vital."
The new room allows an additional quarter hour of art per week to be added to the kindergarten through sixth grade level, two more hours per week for each art and music for middle schoolers as well as four more hours of music for high schoolers each week.
Saberniak is also offering an after-school strings program for anyone wishing to have private lessons - and that doesn't just mean for the North Star students.
North Star teachers are even getting involved, taking lessons from Saberniak right alongside their students.
Saberniak said learning how to play and read music is beneficial in several ways.
"Playing music, organizing your brain to count in rhythms, to know the spatial difference between eighth notes and quarter notes and half notes, that can add to your knowledge of math, spatial reasoning," Saberniak. "It's different than what you can get from sitting in a room and having Mozart play. You have to actually play Mozart."
Saberniak's observations are supported by a recent study of arts education in Michigan schools.
The study was conducted as a collaborative effort between the Michigan Youth Arts, the Michigan Council for Arts and Culture Affairs, the Michigan Department of Education and ArtServe Michigan.
The study found significant correlations between a "robust" arts education program and high test scores on the Michigan Merit Exam as well as the ACT. The study found that schools with stronger arts education programs had higher test scores, regardless of the socioeconomic status of the schools' students. Those same schools also had lower drop out rates.
"Music is a way that students can express themselves, especially when they get older and have a hard time expressing themselves even verbally , even some who struggle with writing, this is a method they can use to positively express their personalities rather than in a negative way," Saberniak said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.