The population sizes around South Dakota affect the way students learn. Arts education and extra-curricular activities differ in rural and urban communities.
Faith is one of many towns people cross driving through the yellow grass fields and farmlands off of highway 212 in South Dakota. The U.S. Census reported 421 residents in Faith in 2010, so it’s a small town compared to Sioux Falls or Rapid City. Over 150 students between preschool and high school levels learn in the same building.
Faith School requires each child to take a high school art credit before graduating.
A small group of students in this art class creates duct tape sculptures at their desks. They’re facing a large monitor at the front of the room. The screen streams live video of two different classrooms while kids on the screen also work on projects. April Rusche is the teacher for both classes. She gives instructions to the Faith students remotely from De Smet.
This program is part of the Dakota Digital Network or DDN. Rusche speaks through the microphone on the monitor.
“I’ve got three different schools and my kids here are finishing up a calligraphy project. They learn how to write with calligraphy pens. Then the next project we’re going to start on—and the Faith kids have started that—is the Duct Tape. They have to make something out of Duct Tape. We’re kind of all doing the same projects it’s just that some classes are a little faster than others. So it’s kind of hard to keep everyone at the same pace.”
Rusche says she comes up with assignments and teaches by the standards from the South Dakota Department of Education.
“The kids do art history projects as well and just the whole creative process. Solving problems, which is a higher level thinking skill. You play basketball for only so long and you just can’t do it anymore but this is something that the kids can do their whole life. So we try to foster that and try to develop it because some of the kids that I get don’t even know that they have this skill until they start and then they’re kind of pleasantly surprised.”
There is an adult in the Faith class room that works with the students. Brianna Haines is an Administrative Assistant who facilitates art and study halls.
“So it kind of works like an online inline class. In an online class your teacher is located somewhere else but they give you the assignments, they give you the grades.”
Haines takes attendance and makes sure that the student’s projects get to the teacher weather that means sending a photo or mailing them to De Smet. She says there are some troubles with DDN such as not always being able to see exactly what the teacher is doing or kids being too timid to ask questions. But Haines says it’s nice that students can watch recorded videos if they miss a day.
“We also offer online classes where they can get an art credit. They can do music history or art history or they’re allowed to do art media or photography. They don’t have to take just art.”
Haines graduated from Faith School and says she doesn’t remember a time they weren’t using DDN. She says some extracurricular art activates have been cut at the school.
“We used to have band and chorus and it got cut from the budget and we also had a hard time finding music teachers so after school extra-curricular activates that we have is mostly sports related—basketball, volleyball, football, track. We also have quiz bowl. We had a play this year, One Act Play, that our high school English teacher put on for us. That’s about it.”
Haines says that since the school is small there weren’t many kids involved in activates that were cut but that it made a difference to some.
Rapid City is about a two hour drive away from Faith. There are several high schools in the state’s second largest city. As of Wednesday one thousand 822 students were enrolled at Central High School.
Central offers diverse types of art classes and extracurricular actives.
There’s photography, clay work, drawing and music.
Toby Rath is the Head of Bands at Central High School.
“We have three concert band classes. We have 10th thru 12th graders split into 2 bands. We have 9th graders in their own group. We also have 2 jazz bands that meet with 10th thru 12th graders and a 9th grade jazz band. Our marching band meets outside of the school day.”
Rath says the number of students in these classes range from 15 to 50. He says the style of music changes thru the year.
“Right now we are in our contest season which means we are going to be doing more serious literature as opposed to the beginning of the year when the focus is on marching and pep band and we do lighter literature. And then of course around December we are in a Christmas season.”
There are two band rooms in the music department that classes work out of. Rath says music is important to these students.
“Music’s a very important part of the curriculum we feel. At Central High School we have outstanding students that are academically high achievers that are also part of our program here. And we feel that it adds to the roundness of their education and to their wellbeing as they learn to be adults in their future.”
The school also houses two stages and a theater department.
Justin Speck is the co-chair of the performing arts department and the artistic director of theater.
“We have a fairly comprehensive theater curriculum. We have drama 1, which is intro to acting; drama 2, theater history; drama 3, advanced acting; and drama 4 is advanced theater production. We also have stagecraft and advanced stage craft.”
Students produce 3 shows a year including a fall show, a series of One Acts and a spring play or musical. They’re currently planning a performance of The Wizard of Oz and making tickets available to the public. Speck says the theater teachers developed a local community group called Advocates for Creative Theater Students.
“They help raise funds for not only scholarships for graduating seniors who plan on minoring or majoring in theater at the university level, but they also fund raise to help us take international trips like the one we’re taking in June. And they also help fundraise to help us supplement our budget in order for us to do big productions.”
Speck says 100 to 150 students audition for performances. He says it takes about the same number of students to do technical work such as lights, set work, costumes, makeup and publicity.
“There really is this renaissance period happening in Rapid City for not just theater but all the arts. And so there’s a lot of student interest and public interest. I think that’s what really propels them and motivates them to not only work hard and put in lots of hours but to do big grand shows. And I think that theater offers a community where people can get together and create wonderful stuff and be very supportive in the process.
Speck says the administration is supportive to the department’s efforts and the large student body helps Central High School produce these shows.
Wayne Carney is the executive director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Carney says schools offer programs that are available to them depending on their staff and resources. He says he believes every school does what they can for all activities offered.