West Oak Lane teacher launches fundraiser to help kids “see the music”

Amid layoffs and escalating budget cuts, School District of Philadelphia teachers are forced to find creative ways to provide supplies for their students. That lack of resources inspired Jessica Moll, music teacher at the William Rowen Elementary School in West Oak Lane, to issue a public call for help.

This year, she launched an online fundraiser via donorschoose.org. It’s called “Kids Need to See the Music,” and the goal is for it to cover the purchase of a 4-by-6 wooden frame reversible marker board, an Orff instrument set that includes six xylophones and two bottles of Expo white board cleaner.

“Help! The mini glockenspiels I inherited in this classroom are about 50 years old and falling apart. The kids can’t pick them up without parts falling off,” it reads. “They have not had a consistent music program for the past 10 years and I am working on developing a new program and classroom. They are wonderful children who are extremely talented, but need an outlet to explore that talent.”

The estimated cost of those products is more than $1,500. Two months into the school year, she has raised $55.

“Music is a creative outlet, something for the kids to enjoy,” said Moll, who is teaching for the second year in the district. “Music and art give them an outlet, to do something that they love. If you open that part of your brain, you do better in their other subjects too.”

The classroom scene leaves much to be desired. The current white board is so small it sits on a chair, which makes it difficult for some students to view. They also have difficulty seeing notes and assignments clearly because of years of marker residue.

Then, the mini xylophones that she inherited from the music department are falling apart. Loose pegs hold the instruments together.

Purchasing the Orff set will enable the students to hear lower tones and teach them how to harmonize, which is something Moll hopes they achieve by school-year’s end.

Moll also wants her students to learn how to improvise, read scales and successfully match her pitch when she sings. The biggest goal she has this year is to teach them how to perform. She plans to resurrect the spring concert at the school.

“Performing is a totally different thing and everyone should experience it,” Moll said.

Her students are learning rhythms, notations, pop culture and history connections, which help them relate periods in time with the music people were listening to during that time.

This is Moll’s first year at Rowen where she teaches music three days a week. She also teaches at a school in the Frankford neighborhood with a total of almost 900 students.

“We are really lucky that we are still here from all the layoffs from last year,” said Moll. “Luckily, music was saved. They want the kids to have music; they just don’t have the money to give to us for it.”

In one school year, Moll estimates that she spends about $600 on supplies for her classes. The district offers a $100 annual budget, but most teachers still pay out-of-pocket to improve their classes.

Principal James G. Murray is enthusiastic to have teachers like Moll at his school. He says he wants to see the students develop vocally and instrumentally, and is planning to start a school choir and band.

“I believe if we are going to create well-rounded individuals, we have to include the arts along with our academic goals,” he said.

Through it all, Moll remains hopeful and continues to be creative in her classroom by focusing on the free instruments everyone have.

“We can always sing,” said Moll, “and do body percussions.”

The “Kids Need to See the Music” fundraiser expires Feb. 13, 2012.

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