By Arturo Valdez
I often think of teaching and gardening being very similar. There are several ties and associations that are remarkable and impossible to ignore between the two. As educators, we know that many times the teaching, the coaching, the mentoring, and the guidance we provide to our students is not seen right away. Just like gardeners who plant their seeds in the fertile ground, we too plant seeds in our students’ minds and hearts with the hope that they can come to fruition. Teachers and gardeners alike need to be nurturing, caring, and patient for the love and dedication that we deposit in these seeds can make them sprout and flourish in unimaginable ways.
With this thought in mind, a few weeks ago, I received a note from one of our former students, Kaylin Maddox, inviting me to the grand opening of the Music Room at the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine. Interestingly enough, the title on her invitation was very similar to the MYP (Middle School Years Programme) Community Project that she had developed two years earlier as part of the IB (International Baccalaureate) program at St. Mary’s. I asked myself if this could be the same project that she thoughtfully created for her Community Project in grade eight and, after speaking to her about it, I learned that it was. To say the least, my heart filled with joy and my mind could not believe that the little seed that had been planted a couple of years before, had grown and bloomed into something so magnificent. Kaylin Maddox sowed that seed, nursed it, and transformed it into something truly big and real. I realized at that moment that through her Community Project and her love for education and children, Kaylin had become an educator and a gardener of love and knowledge herself.
To better appreciate Kaylin’s outstanding accomplishment, we need to understand the process of the Community Project and the work she did to achieve her goal.
As part of the International Baccalaureate curriculum and our school’s vision – “Preparing and inspiring children of today to become courageous, caring, global citizens and enlightened leaders of tomorrow.” – Every student in Grade 8, at St. Mary’s School, is required to complete a Community Project (also called the Middle Years Programme Community Project) that aims to solve or address a need within a given community. Students can take on a variety of issues based on their interests and passions, from local, to national, to global matters that they find important. In addition to this, student try to link their projects to support the efforts of the United Nations and their 17 Sustainable Development Goals 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve a better and sustainable future for all.
As a volunteer at the Pretend City Children's Museum in Irvine and as someone who loves music and education, Kaylin Maddox, realized that there was something missing in this museum “…there was no music, no musical instruments, nor dance for younger and older children to explore or experience at the museum,” said Kaylin. This was the “spark” that prompted her to focus her efforts to create a Community Project based on music and music education. She went through the four stages of the MYP Community Project: Investigating, Planning, Taking Action, and Reflecting, and came up with a proposal and a plan to develop a Music Exhibit at the Pretend City Children’s Museum. She did extensive research on children’s access to music and musical instruments, the relationship between music and brain, how music affect one’s emotional and social development, she did diagrams, created budgets, and had a plan to raise the funds to make her project a reality. She presented her project to the St. Mary’s community and after receiving positive feedback she decided to take her ideas and project to the next level, present her proposal to the Pretend City Children’s Museum Youth Council, Staff, and Board Members.
After graduating from St. Mary’s School, Kaylin had the determination to continue working on her Community Project and took her idea to the Pretend City Children’s Museum Youth Council. They gave her the opportunity to present her proposal and listened to her, but her project was rejected. They advised her to add a few elements and told her that she needed to raise at least $15,000.00 if she wanted to see her Community Project become a reality. Kaylin followed the advice and six months later, with the help of corporations such as Yamaha and Los Rios School of Music, Pretend City’s Youth Council and Board of Directors, friends, and family, she raised not $15,000.00, but $30,000.00.
At this point and after 18 months of hard work, Kaylin could have given up and simply donated the money to the museum or to another organization, but she knew that this was too important for her and for the children she wanted to affect. Kaylin continued making changes to her Community Project and working out the details. Finally, after nearly two years and after meeting every requisite, Kaylin’s Music Room proposal was accepted by the Board of Directors at the Pretend City Children’s Museum for final approval.
On Friday, September 21, the Music Room was inaugurated thanks to Kaylin’s idea, vision, love, and the tenacity. However, as Kaylin says, “this dream could not have happened if it wasn’t for the love and support of many people. “
On Wednesday, November 7, the City of Aliso Viejo recognized Kaylin for her outstanding impact on the life of children through her Community Project.
Kaylin Maddox and her Community Project is a reminder to all of us that we can have a consequential effect in our communities and in the world if we truly have the desire to do so. Kaylin has proven to us that a seed that is properly loved and cared for can flourish and affect people in a very positive way. Kaylin is an inspiration to me and I want to think that she is an inspiration to many.
Acknowledgements: Thank you for your endless support.
Sandy Pfeffer-Stone (co-founder of Pretend City)
Sandra Bolton (Executive Director of Pretend City)
Julia Wang (OSHA Senior)
Yamaha amongst other music companies and organizations donated used instruments for the exhibit
Pretend City’s Board of Directors
Pretend City’s Youth Council
Arturo Valdez, SMAA, IB Project Head
Ludivine Forte, SMAA, Advisor 3 years
Here are some pictures and videos from the grand opening of the Music Room at the Pretend City Children’s Museum.