According to James Sallis, professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego “Children are more sedentary then ever and childhood obesity has become a major problem, yet schools are cutting back on physical education at all grade levels. According to a report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academies, 44 percent of the nation’s school administrators have cut significant amounts of time from physical education, arts, and recess so that more time could be devoted to reading and mathematics since the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2001.” He quotes Monica Lounsbery, professor and director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas physical activity policy research program as recommending “that you have to look for other opportunities outside of physical education and in elementary school and that would be recess, before-and after-school programs, and classroom activity breaks.” (Patterson, Joan., “Many schools cutting back on physical education,” Las Vegas Review, http://www.reviewjournal.com. Retrieved Dec. 10, 2013).
The physical movement and musical expression worked well for the students in Midtown as they became the organizers and producers of musical extravaganzas that were presented for other students, parents, and local dignitaries. The first performance of the Blue Alligator Blues was sung for the mayor as he made an unannounced site visit to the facility. It was, however, in the third year of my tenure with these students that things happened that created the need for a more comprehensive tool to provide the guidance and platform for the musical projects. I was getting older and funding for the entire program was no longer available. The big charitable donations from banks and the city had been curtailed due to the downturn in the economy and necessary expenses were not being met. Again, the need propelled the innovation. There would need to be an affordable way to provide guidance and motivation with or without a teacher. It was obvious to me that we would have to make video versions of our songs. Why not? Then I could retire and anyone who had the desire to volunteer their time with the children could manage to continue the program. They would not need to be a trained teacher or musician. It was simply the next step in maintaining our program and purpose. Again, I really had no idea that this would become an innovative tool that would demonstrate how to design, produce, and present an audiovisual platform that could revolutionize the educational process.
By the time we created the first video song, “When Cats Get Up” Jungle version, the after-school program was becoming an entity of the past. I can only hope that the video songs that were developed by the wonderful children of Midtown will go on to provide the unabashed joy and fulfillment that we enjoyed while developing this concept to other children in all parts of the country and world. This project is laced with love and wonderful creative expressions that were literally a gift from the spirit of the people of Midtown in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Click to Read Part 6 of Chapter One