Lakeland students, faculty give the gift of the arts
Student Life - posted on 4/7/2006By Jodie LiedkeStudent Assistant to the Communications Director
Lakeland College senior Lea Holz remembers the first time she played music with Jamie Tolman.
"He laid his head in my hands when I was playing … and I realized that he was so overwhelmed by the music," said Holz, a double major in art and writing. "He really loves music!"
Lea has been helping Jamie's mother, Lakeland English Professor Linda Tolman, care for Jamie, a 26-year-old with Down Syndrome, during her free time for the past two years.
Holz was one of 11 Lakeland students that worked for two weekends in March and April with Jamie and 14 other developmentally disabled adults to write, produce and present a new version of the classic fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood."
Lakeland students and faculty members from Lakeland's creative arts division worked with individuals from Hearthstone, a local "self-help" advocacy group that supports individuals with developmental disabilities.
The participants worked with Lakeland students at two workshops learning to use dance to accompany the play's plot and creating background scenery and props for the performance. Each participant will receive a DVD of the final performance.
One weekend after the workshops, the group staged "Lil' Red," a 15-minute version of the popular fairy tale written by Lakeland Writing Professor Jeff Elzinga.
The Lakeland students volunteered to help their friends from Hearthstone paint trees and other scenery, find a beat on xylophones and transform into the play's various characters.
It was an opportunity for the folks from Hearthstone to have a hands-on experience with the arts - music, painting, acting.
The project, which intended to be an ongoing activity, was made possible thanks in large part due to a $4,000 grant from the Kohler Arts Foundation.
The Lakeland students received training in the Carl Orff Method of teaching the creative arts to people with special needs. The Lakeland students were primarily art majors, and the workshops gave them valuable Student as Practitioner experience they need as part of their degree work.
"The goal of Student as Practitioner is to give our students the chance to, over their four years at Lakeland, develop a portfolio that shows the student in his or her real capabilities and richness," said Tolman, the driving force behind the project.
"We see students in the classroom as one-dimensional in terms of handling academic subject manner. This type of project shows the full capabilities of the students, the character. It shows how versatile they are. It shows how they have warm and open hearts."
Holz, who served as the production director for the two weekends, has been working with adults with developmental disabilities since the summer of 2003 at Threshold, a rehabilitation center in her hometown of West Bend.
Tolman said her son Jamie believes, "The sun sets and rises with Lea. She has become one of Jamie's favorite people. Lea loves music and Jamie loves music."
Holz said the first few times she worked with special needs adults, she was nervous.
"It was difficult because people are naturally afraid of what they don't understand," Holz said. "It helps you learn to relate to every sort of person, and it helps you realize that whatever point we are at intellectually, we are all just people."
Holz said her mother told her, "Down syndrome kids were sent here to teach us about love, and it is the truth because they are the kindest, sweetest people in the world. It helps you realize your own flaws."
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