Day of the Arts encourages student growth: Making a connection

Students at Juniata Gap Elementary reached out through the arts with a symbol of renewal following 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and this year the fellowship will come full circle during the school’s annual Day of the Arts.

Juniata Gap Elementary School will host the Day of the Arts on Friday, during which the unveiling of a mural from students at Tangier Smith Elementary School, Mastic Beach, N.Y., which the 2012’s storm affected, will take place.

An opening session begins at 9:30 a.m. and other art-related sessions will continue throughout the day.

“This day was developed to expose students to many different forms of art,” Day of the Arts chairwoman and retired Altoona teacher Gloria Banks said in an email. “Activities encourage a hands-on approach to the arts.”

The idea of creating sharing arts at the school came about in 1998.

The arts help children develop mentally, physically and emotionally, she said.

“Studies have shown that brain areas are developed as children learn songs, create drawings, etc.,” she said. “Dancing activities enhance students gross motor skills, and the sum of these activities enhances emotional well-being.”

The possible effects of the different art forms on a student makes the day important, Banks said.

“You never know if there will be an activity that might just spark an interest in a child,” she said. “Perhaps, an activity will encourage the students to pursue an art form.”

During the Day of the Arts, students will get exposed to art in many forms such as dance, music, drawing and drama, Banks said.

“Some sessions include learning to excercise to music, math, art and participating in storytelling,” she said.

The Altoona Area High School jazz band and string ensemble will perform.

During Day of the Arts 2012, Juniata Gap sixth grader’s created a mural entitled, “The Phoenix,” with guest artist Pamela J. Snyder Etters, Altoona Symphony Orchestra executive director.

“Although at the time they didn’t know for sure who would receive the mural, they did know that it would be given to a school affected by Superstorm Sandy,” Banks said. “Just seeing how everyone participated and cared about what they were creating makes me believe they thought they were part of a wonderful project. One designed to bring joy and caring thoughts to whoever would receive it.”

Etters “traveled to Tangier Smith to present them with the mural from Juniata Gap students as a way to express their friendship and care for those affected by the storm,” Altoona Area School District spokeswoman Paula Foreman said in an email.

Etters worked with students at the New York school to design and paint a mural from them, she said.

Sharing art enhances the social skills of students, Banks said.

“To be able to receive a mural in return from Tangier Elementary has so much significance,” she said. “It shows that we were able to reach out and touch another group of students. We became a part of their lives and they in return became a part of our school family. It helps to show the students that caring is such an important part of this world we live in.”

Juniata Gap Principal Rich Adams said in an email he would like to build a relationship with the New York school.

“I am excited that our school made a difference with another school,” he said. “This is what we are trying to teach our students.”

Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.