Our students benefit from a program that pairs elementary students with a variety of fine arts performances. These experiences become learning opportunities on multiple levels.
By Fargo Public Schools Performing Arts Curriculum Specialist Denese Odegaard
Question: What has 4,800 legs and invades only fine arts facilities?
Answer: Students at a Learning Bank performance!
The Learning Bank is a non-profit organization founded in 1985 by Fargo Public Schools music educator (now retired) Gene Okerlund and the Fargo Public Schools. Currently, more than 11,500 regional elementary aged students experience the Learning Bank each year. The total number of students who have attended Learning Bank sponsored fine arts performances in the past 32 years surpassed 525,000 in spring 2017. These performances are experiences students do not receive through regular school curriculum and music classes,
and are often the only time a child has the opportunity to attend a performing arts event.
The mission of Learning Bank is to promote, encourage, establish, and maintain coordinated educational programs among public and private schools and other educational organizations, institutions, and agencies in the Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo communities. Learning Bank is presently focused on delivering combined arts experiences to each of the three school districts, reducing duplication and cost factors.
Students in first through sixth grade in the Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead public schools, along with a few area private schools, experience one of these fine arts performances each year:
- 1st Grade – Minnesota State University Moorhead Poco Fuego Tropical Steel Drum Band (October)
- 2nd Grade – Ukrainian cultural presentation by Cultural Kaleidoscope of Kansas City (October)
- 3rd Grade – Concordia College Percussion Ensemble (April)
- 4th Grade – Fargo-Moorhead Symphony (April)
- 5th Grade – Fargo-Moorhead Kicks Jazz Band provide a History of Jazz presentation (January)
- 6th Grade – Russian cultural presentation by Cultural Kaleidoscope of Kansas City (October)
Through the student’s experience with these art forms, students also learn appropriate social etiquette to utilize when attending fine arts performances, such as:
- sitting quietly while listening
- applauding when the musical number is complete
- how to treat a performance facility
- only entering and exiting the presentation between performance numbers
In addition to the Learning Bank sponsored fine arts performances, third through sixth graders in the Fargo and Moorhead public schools also experience a regional history lesson presentation through charcoal drawings and theatrical monologues from “Mr. History,” Fargo actor and artist Steve Stark.
The arts present a perfect arena for the 4C’s of 21st Century learning to come together – Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking. Research shows that exposure to and participation in the arts enhances all learning, and prepares students for an enriched adult life. These Learning Bank experiences encourage young people to become life-long learners and well-informed arts consumers.
Learning Bank is financially supported through funding from:
- Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead Public Schools
- School-affiliated PTA/PTO organizations
- North Dakota Council on the Arts
- The Arts Partnership
- Alex Stern Foundation
- F-M Area Foundation
- North Dakota Humanities Council
- FPS Foundation