Nurturing well-rounded pupils
At St Peter's Girls Prep, a culture of cultivating a well–rounded learning experience means that the children have the advantage of an extensive performing arts department resource as part of the Academic programme.
The programme includes Art, Drama, Dance and Music as well as a variety of extra-mural activities. The thriving music department, in particular, is an area of cultural development that is extremely popular right from Grade 00.
At St Peter's Girls Prep, budding musicians choose from ten different musical instruments to learn and may take individual instrumental lessons as part of the school day. There are many opportunities for girls of all musical abilities to be part of the Music department. All grades have class music once or twice a week, and rotations from Grade 4 onward include Drama and Creative Movement in the Performing Arts curriculum. There are also four choirs, a Rock band and an orchestra to play in, while the vibrant marimba groups have become a highlight in the girls' timetables.
The heartbeat of our school
"We like to think of our Performing Arts department as the very heartbeat of our school," says the Director of the Performing Arts department, Marguerite Schmitt. "This is a safe space for our girls to express themselves creatively. At St Peter's, the emphasis is on the learning process around every challenge rather than the result, whether the child is participating in an academic, sporting or cultural activity. So, in our music department for example, our objective is not just to teach music skills but to accommodate the individual child. We aim to meet them exactly where their needs are and specifically choose the topics and content of the music curriculum to incorporate thinking skills and positive education. Music is definitely not a stand-alone subject here and is often used in collaboration with other academic subjects. It is also an integral part of our Chapel services, and our Choirs lead the services at Worship."
Focusing on the journey rather than the result
Budding musicians can display their skills at Lunchbox Concerts and Musical Showcases at the school, but although we create opportunities for pupils to perform at a high standard, the focus is on the individual's journey to the performance. The performance component of learning offers an opportunity to build character; the girls learn to analyse and assess their abilities and reflect on what they can do to improve, not just as a group but also as individuals. The various choirs and ensembles also take part in festivals organised and hosted by other schools.
"That is not to say that the girls do not aspire to, and enjoy, excellence in performance whilst having fun. Everyone is encouraged to do their best, and they take pride in achieving peak performance, either individually or as a team, '" says Schmitt.
"As in every other sphere of our learning environment, our intention in the Performing Arts Department is to provide the most beneficial experience for our girls. We are constantly re-evaluating and adjusting our programme to provide the optimal offering for our pupils. We have incorporated relevant technology and new experiences for the girls, but we try to ignore fads which we feel offer little value to the girls and their experience and learning."
Broadening viewpoints and developing critical thinking for life beyond the schoolroom
Schmitt advocates participation in the school, extensive cultural offering as a grounding for the next educational phase and life beyond the school environment. "From Junior Prep and across the Senior Prep, we provide cultural experiences which will broaden our pupil's view points, develop critical thinking and teach the basic social and motor skills that will play a huge role in their academic learning and their ability to handle real world challenges. We believe that cultural involvement imparts critical life skills like empathy, resilience, respect (in various forms), responsibility, compassion and acceptance. We also make a point of providing opportunities to help the girls realise that there are other experiences out in the world that have both similarities and differences to our own stories!"
Incorporating the latest technology for a growth mindset
"It is of primary importance to incorporate the latest technology into our lessons. In the Music department, girls use different functions and programs on their iPads, like GarageBand, iMovie and iTunes. In their RockBand sessions, girls learn the basics of the setup of live recordings and mixing. It is essential to prepare girls for their musical journeys based on their unique needs, whether their focus is to become the next Mozart or to learn how to compose a basic piece of music on their iPads at home. Music technology further enhances the integration of the different art forms at St Peter's, namely Music, Art, Dance and Drama. The various programs and apps make it possible to compose a piece of music and sketch the sounds, record dance movements, and add sound to stories. The beauty of technology is that it is ever-growing and not stagnant, which ties into the growth mindset of St Peter's. Einstein said, 'Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think' and that is true across multiple arenas.
Our Performing Arts outlet heightens our pupil's creativity, encourages inclusivity and builds self-esteem; but possibly the most important outcome is that girls feel valued and loved during the time we spend with them, filling their buckets for them to take on any new challenges in life. When I see the girls' smiles and the way they run to the music department for their lessons, I know that I have succeeded!"