‘Not just a field trip’: Strathmore partners with Montgomery County Public Schools to engage children in the arts

Schools play a pivotal role in cultivating the next generations, and the arts have a key role. Research suggests that arts educational experiences can produce significant positive impacts on academic and social development. “Those of us who work in the arts know and we believe in the power of the arts,” said Lauren Campbell, Director of Education at Strathmore, as she described working side-by-side with the Montgomery County Public School system to bring artistic resources and expertise to children.

Lauren Campbell, Director of Education, Strathmore. Photo courtesy of Strathmore.
Lauren Campbell, Director of Education, Strathmore. Photo courtesy of Strathmore.

“Many students may lack the resources to access out-of-school arts instruction or performances,” noted Campbell. “We believe fiercely in the power of the arts and how they can positively impact young people’s lives. Increased self-confidence and enhanced communication skills are just some of the many benefits that can be gained from participating in the arts.”

With those as watchwords, this is the second of two articles about how Strathmore is developing programs and priorities with the changing demographics and landscape of Montgomery County–and how Strathmore is working with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the largest public school district in Maryland, with a student enrollment over 165,000. (Read the first article here).

“The magic of Strathmore’s work with students in Montgomery County is in the breadth and quality of the programs we offer,” added Campbell. “We want all young people and their families in the county to feel like Strathmore is their home for the arts and our partnership with MCPS allows us to provide creative opportunities for students.”

Of major note, Strathmore was named the 2019–2020 Montgomery County Public Schools Partner Champion of the Year at the Champions for Children Awards Ceremony. Strathmore was recognized for their work with students in the community, providing them with access to the arts that they normally wouldn’t receive without the help of the community outreach program.

We at DC Metro Theater Arts then reached out to Randy J. Rumpf, Ph.D., Supervisor, PK-12 Fine Arts, Department of Secondary Curriculum & Districtwide Programs, Montgomery County Public Schools and Katherine (Katie) A. Murphy, Coordinator, Pre-K-12 General and Choral Music, Montgomery County Public Schools, to learn more.

David Siegel: Please tell us about the partnership between the Montgomery County Public Schools and Strathmore?

Randy J. Rumpf, Ph. D. Supervisor, PK-12 Fine Arts, Department of Secondary Curriculum & Districtwide Programs, Montgomery County Public Schools. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools.
Randy J. Rumpf, Ph. D. Supervisor, PK-12 Fine Arts, Department of Secondary Curriculum & Districtwide Programs, Montgomery County Public Schools. Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Randy J. Rumpf: MCPS and Strathmore seek to identify, strengthen, and build upon existing fine arts opportunities via partnerships with schools, businesses, and communities. The partnership brings together arts curricula and community partners to not merely provide field trips, but direct correlation between instruction in the classroom and connections to real-world experiences. Our teams work collaboratively to ensure students are provided opportunities to not supplant instruction but expand experiences to MCPS students. We are continually assessing the programs and looking for new opportunities for content and expansion.

Why are the arts important to a child’s learning and personal growth?

The arts are important to every child’s development and play a vital role in providing the students in Montgomery County Public Schools with the well-rounded, world-class education necessary for college and career readiness. The arts promote the core competencies – Academic Excellence, Creative Problem-Solving, and Social-Emotional Learning – identified by MCPS as essential to prepare students for success in the 21st century. The partnership with Strathmore supports the connections between the classroom and the real world. Projects focus on collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and social, cross-cultural skills.

Will you tell us about some specific partnership activities?

Over 20,000 children annually experience live performances at Strathmore. This includes free concerts for every 2nd and 5th grader in Montgomery County focusing on classical music and the blues. Strathmore also provides Sensory-Friendly Programming for children with sensory sensitivities. This includes backstage tours, rehearsals, concerts, and story sessions.

For the East County Strathmore Strings program, hundreds of middle school students receive tuition-free after-school coaching from professional instrumentalists and gather for a large-scale public performance.

This is the fifth year of this project. During the public performance, coaches sit and play within the student sections allowing them to see their coach not only as a teacher but a musician. Students are given coaching for five weeks prior to the concert, twice a week after school. MCPS instrumental music teachers nominate students enrolled in their ensembles and participate in the activities.

For the Latin Strings and Percussion Orchestra, middle and high school students learn Latin American music for strings and orchestra, and get an opportunity to perform for the community. This is the second year for the project. Similar to East County Strings, this event is tuition-free and for the public performance, coaches sit and play within the student sections, allowing them to see their coach not only as a teacher but a musician. Students are given coaching for five weeks prior to the concert, twice a week after school. MCPS Instrumental music teachers nominate students enrolled in their ensembles and participate in the activities.

The Think Big Café provides a creative, multi-disciplinary, year-long artistic adventure for fourth graders, to transform the worldview of 4th-grade students by expanding their educational opportunities through off-site experiences and in-school arts programs. Through exposure to interdisciplinary arts experiences and structured peer collaboration, students practice creative thinking and collaborative problem-solving strategies. This project will yield heightened student, parent and community engagement and lead to the discovery of surprising connections among wide-ranging subjects.

There are also School Partnerships with site-based decisions by school administrators. Strathmore works with educators to create a customized slate of performances, workshops, camps, and demonstrations throughout the year–particularly at schools with a high number of free or reduced-cost lunches offered.

What else might you tell us about the ongoing partnership between Strathmore and the Montgomery County Public School system?

With Strathmore, we are always looking to identify opportunities for MCPS students to engage in experiences that relate directly to classroom instruction. We share the same goal of not providing just a field trip, but connection for the students.

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