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Elementary school's award-winning program teaches writing through the art of opera

Posted: 10:50 AM, Apr 14, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-14 13:50:26-04
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Opera is making it's way into the classroom at one Tucson school and students are benefiting big time.

Students may sing about chilling on the sand, but there's no chilling inside this first-grade classroom at Fruchthendler Elementary School.

"We are teaching first grade and our emphasis is language arts, language acquisition, and we're teaching story elements," shared Juan Aguirre, an opera teaching artist. "We're teaching a vocabulary all through our art form of opera, which is essentially music and drama."

This program doesn't just have resident artists that come and go.

"What it does is it fuses the core curriculum with the arts," said Aguirre.

Today the kids are hard at work.

"We're actually here with the students the whole year. Twice a week, we see them half hour each time, twice a week. We are employees of TUSD," explained Aguirre.

He reveals their performance is original.

"The children wrote an original script," Aguirre revealed. "We based it off a fable: the ant and the grasshopper; but after that, they choose characters."

Like pirates.

"So, you're going to go like this argh! And then back rows you're going to go like that argh," Aguirre told the class.

Another teacher chimed in with her experience.

"It expands the children's vocabulary. They learn story writing, storytelling and they wrote their own script," said first grade teacher Stephanie Martin.

Teachers then helped perfect the children's creative work.

"They themselves created the dialogue, which we edited then later," Aguirre added. "But they created the words to the song, and they composed the music all while we're teaching language arts."

Students get to learn and have plenty of fun.

"Probably most of the first graders didn't even know what an opera was. I know I didn't when I was in first grade." shared Aguirre. "So, I really think it just raises them above it, pushes them to learn a little bit more."

Besides the acting, dancing definitely seems to be a big favorite.

"I like to dance, act, it's really fun," exclaimed first-grader Truman Ball.

"We can do fun stuff with our friends in opera, and we can do umm dancing," added first-grader Melina Namazifard.

These little operas will be part of a performance on May 12th at 6 p.m. It's open to the public and parents at Fruchthendler Elementary School.

Lydia Camarillo is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. Lydia is no stranger to the Old Pueblo. She has been reporting in Tucson for more than a decade and has been involved in numerous projects highlighting folks in the community. Share your story ideas and important issues with Lydia by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.