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Livingston Park students embrace the arts

Managing Editor

NORTH BRUNSWICK – Students at Livingston Park Elementary School have been captivated throughout the year with a series of multicultural performances focused on unity.

Art teacher Jennifer Peppe applied for and received a $10,000 scholarship from Young Audiences, a not-for-profit performance group based out of Princeton. The group offers assemblies, artists in residence and multicultural activities focusing on character education, language arts, science and mathematics and world cultures.

“It’s like opening up a whole new treasure chest of opportunities to bring to the school,” Peppe said, noting that she wanted to expose children to art that exists beyond the school walls. “This brings in the history of all cultures through dance and musical movements. It addresses different cultural influences in different families and neighborhoods. Creative writing and rhyme has a musical language component to it.”

The most recent assembly presented by Young Audiences was Aatma Performing Arts: Colors of India, which explained the evolution of Indian dance, on May 17.

Earlier in the year, The Cypher Poets explored friendship, self expression and character development through live poetry, hip hop, rhyme and theater; and Hip Hop Fundamentals addressed peace, love, unity and fun.

“We were just astounded,” Peppe said of each assembly, noting that the students were so impressed, many wrote thank you letters to the cast members of Young Audiences. “They were mesmerized.”

In addition, Jacob Winterstein served as the school’s poet in residence for three months, helping the fourth grade class write its own poems through the project Ode to the Everyday: Appreciating the Mundane to the Incredible. The program aligned with the school’s creative writing component of language arts, Peppe said.

“They’re so precious,” she said, “learning to look at things differently and really expressing themselves.”

She is now helping the students illustrate their odes for an end-of-year project.

Children at the Kindergarten through fifth grade school normally have a 40-minute art class once per week, in addition to music classes, instrumental music and a once-per-year Theater Week.

“Everyone celebrates where a child comes from but also how beautiful it is that we are all together and we all share these experiences together, no matter where we come from,” Peppe said. “The arts are a humanity for a reason: they speak to what makes us human and compassionate … and we interpret and learn from other expressions.”

Peppe said she is going to apply for another scholarship through Young Audiences for next year.

“We could all benefit from more arts in school,” Peppe said. “The more art for kids, the better.”

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.

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