BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Lights, camera, budget cuts. That’s what it’s been like for school districts in West Michigan for the past few years. As soon as budget cuts are announced, schools’ arts programs are the first to go. And schools in low-income areas, like Ann J. Kellogg elementary, are hit the hardest.
“When we make cuts like that, it's hard you know,” said fifth-grade teacher Amy Claggett. “We’re taking away some opportunities for kids to express themselves beyond the classroom.”
Claggett teaches different subjects to her students. But her heart, and background, is in theatre. This June she and her students will put on a production of Peter Pan, the school’s first play in five years.
“This group of fifth graders that I have right now,” said Claggett. “The last time this school put on a production they were in kindergarten.”
Claggett said the students are excited to take center stage and perform. She’s created a GoFundMe page to help pay for costumes and make up.
“We make it as big as we possibly can,” said Claggett of their Broadway-caliber plays. “We want to provide the most experience for our kids because you know a lot of these kids have never even seen a play.”
Claggett grew up in the Battle Creek Public School system and has performed in many plays. Being on stage gave Claggett confidence and helped in finding her voice. She knows it’ll do the same for the kids performing in Peter Pan.
“Its an extension beyond what we’re doing here in the classroom especially for reading,” said Claggett. “It builds fluency, expression. Kids really get to take character development and story structure to the next level.”
According to Claggett, studies have shown that students who participate in the musicals and plays do well in other subjects like reading comprehension and math. She believes the performing arts helps students come into themselves.
“The more we can provide our students with opportunities that are culturally rich and diverse, the better and well-rounded they’ll be," said Claggett.
To contribute to her production, go to this GoFundMe link.