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Circus brings spotlight to music, PE

The 'We're in this together' program gives each child at Alberta Rider a chance to shine
by: Jennifer Clampet, JOINING THE CIRCUS — Fourth graders at Alberta Rider Elementary School participate in “We’re all in this together,” a program that combines physical activity and music. Third- and fourth-grade students gave performances in front of the school and again in the evening for parents recently.

TIGARD - A 'circus' at Alberta Rider Elementary School March 1 put music and physical education in the center ring.

Third- and fourth-grade students pounded on the wooden gymnasium floor as they jumped rope, bounced basketballs, cart wheeled and performed feats with spinning discs as they entered a performance ring.

They sang, they drummed out rhythms, and they performed. But above all else, noted PE teacher Diana Ayres, all of the students shined.

That day, each third- and fourth-grade student at Alberta Rider performed in the circus-themed music and PE program entitled 'We're all in this together.'

'To me my feedback was seen on (the students') faces,' Ayres said.

Nation-wide, physical education and music programs are fast disappearing from school curriculums. The programs are often the first considered when districts must make budget cuts. But in Tigard and Tualatin, each elementary school has a music and physical education program.

But keeping the curriculum doesn't mean that instructors don't feel pressured to 'sell' their programs to parents and administrators.

'We have to be in their face to show how our programs can benefit kids,' said Amy McKean, the music teacher at Alberta Rider. 'If people really don't know what can happen in PE or music programs, you have to show them.'

And after two months of practice with planned routines and coordinated music, McKean and Ayres believe their students showed everyone just what an education in music and physical activity can do.

Students learned tinikling, a Filipino folk dance where two students hit parallel bamboo sticks on the ground, raising them and hitting them in the air to a rhythm while other students dance in and around the sticks. Students also learned to perform several instrumental pieces, some of which are considered advanced for elementary-age students.

'Elementary students are amazing,' McKean said. 'As long as you don't tell them they can't, they'll take it on.'

But aside from showing talents, McKean said the PE and music program also filled another 'tall order.'

'Every child got to be featured doing something that they feel they were good at,' McKean said. 'In this type of program, you really can let every child shine.'