Arts Education Programming Impacts Students and Their Community

I had the honour to assist in the presentation of philanthropic pitches from grades 5&6 students at Carisbrook Primary School earlier this week as part of their arts education programming, InSchools Philanthropy.

Created and led by co-Directors Andrea Rieniets and Ande Lemon of KidsThrive, a Melbourne arts-based organisation leading children to improve their world through the arts, InSchools Philanthropy is a program that allows students to work together with local community grown ups to research, develop and implement inspiring ideas that create positive impacts for the their community. Some great ideas presented were: growing an indigenous garden filled with edible foods for community consumption, teach the local senior citizens how to play patanque and serve them afternoon tea, and buy the local women’s footy team a first aid kit so they don’t have to borrow from the boys.

The InSchools Philanthropy program challenged the students to learn new skills. The project required skills in teamwork, – each member of the group had to present a section of the idea  like stating the project name, stating why the project is important to the group, how much the project will cost to fulfill, and a special thank you to those community members and teachers who provided support during the project’s conception – public speaking and learning to use the telephone by contacting community members who would be willing to help develop the projects. Kids Thrive Co-Director and team leader of the InSchools Philanthropy program, Andrea Rieniets notes, “These skills help a child feel safe, and thus make the world a safer place. By learning to use the telephone and approach people they’ve never met before within a safe environment, these students now understand the difference between a dangerous person and a safe person.”

An added bonus for the students was presenting their projects in front of five local business representatives, who were invited as guest panelists. These panelists examined each presentation for passion behind the project, impact towards the community, clarity within the students’ presentation and how much funding was needed. Through these standards, the panelists determined if the projects were viable for funding. All projects successfully received their funding, while some even received additional funding to assist in further development!

Over all, the day was absolutely delightful to witness! The kids were determined to get their projects funded, nervous to try a new skill in public speaking and relieved to hear that their hard work paid off.

At the end of the day, I was suddenly reminded the harsh reality for programs like these.  Due to a lack in future arts funding, an announcement made over a month ago by Arts Minister, George Brandis, programs like Kids Thrive’s InSchools Philanthropy will have fewer opportunities to reach the schools and their students.  Kids Thrive is one of many independent small/medium arts organisations who have touched the lives of hundreds of children and their grown ups all over regional and metropolitan Victoria. However, no faced with the realisation of unsecured opportunities in funding, even accepting a decrease in their funding, Kids Thrive struggles to determine the future of several of their programs programs.

But the staff at Kids Thrive choose to live in the moment at school.  Currently, their efforts cannot waver for the sake of these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed children and the communities around them.  Kids Thrive remains focused on creating a safer and better Australia one arts education program at a time.

As one supporter at Carisbrook Primary School, a grandmother of one to one of the student participants, proclaimed, “If [the InSchools Philanthropy program] is creating THIS in schools today, I wish I could go back!” It’s so important to support the evolution of education for our children today!

 If you would like to know more about Kids Thrive, or would like to donate, please visit www.kidsthrive.org.au.