Second-grader Kylie Kurtz's parents knew she was working on something special in music class at the Marsh Elementary School in Absecon, but they hadn't a clue what it was.
"She kept it a secret until tonight," said her mother, Ingrid. "We were really impressed."
The Kurtz family - Kylie, her mom and her father, Doug - were at the school April 3 for the annual Related Arts Showcase, a special night when students showcase the special projects they have worked on all year.
An a capella performance of the songs "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Mama Don't Allow" and "Frere Jacques" was the surprise Kylie and her fellow classmates sang for the audience in the packed gymnasium.
"It was wonderful," said Ingrid Kurtz, a lifelong Absecon resident and a former student of the Marsh School. "It's so great to see all this creativity from the students."
The Related Arts Showcase is the school's cross-curricular celebration that brings together the special content areas of the curriculum art, library/media, music, physical education and technology. This year, instead of a unifying theme, the showcase was dedicated to the areas of the curriculum that make the school "special."
Throughout the night, students from pre-K to fourth grade sang, danced and presented their projects.
The preschool class opened the show with a parade around the gym, followed by the kindergarten class, which performed four songs. After a dance performance by the first-graders and a set of songs by the second-graders, there was a brief intermission.
The third graders kicked off the next set with a rendition of "Brave" by Sara Bareilles and "Roar" by Katy Perry. The fourth grade closed the show with a country western dance to "Wake Me Up" by Avicii.
The school's Related Arts curriculum is designed so that students can begin to understand the underlying links among the various subjects, said Rose Hagar, a member of the team that planned the program.
For example, in library/media, the focus was on bringing "STEAM" into the media center. STEAM combines science, technology, engineering, art and math with literature, she explained.
"We also created digital media projects, with the third grade students putting together picture book biographies of famous people. After writing a report on their person, we created characters digitally and gave them a voice to tell their story," Hagar said.
Other teachers on the Related Arts team are computer teacher Jacqueline Akeret, music teacher Lauren House, art teacher Jessica Stackhouse and physical education teacher Doug Scholder.
The program was funded through a grant from the Absecon Education Foundation, which the teachers say deserve a lot of credit.
A diverse collection of student art projects from throughout the year was on display in the library and in the hall outside the gym. The third grade was represented by paper self portraits, while double-sided fish by the second grade hung from a section of the ceiling. First grade drew dinosaurs and painted them with watercolors, while kindergarten made monster faces out of cut paper based on the story, The Big Green Monster.
"They do an outstanding job here. It's always interesting to see what's going on," said parent Steven Fitzgerald, who was there to support his two children, Griffin in kindergarten and Cadence in fourth grade.
A lifelong Absecon resident who can remember his grade school days at the Marsh School, Fitzgerald, 32, said the school reflects a true community spirit. He was among the hundreds of parents who walked the halls and filled the gym to see the presentations.
The program is the school district's premiere event of the year and has been taking place since 2007. Both the students and their families look forward to attending each year and turn the event into a family evening out, school officials saod.
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