Music, drums, laughter resonate in these hallways

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Juggling, African drumming and standup comedy.

These are skills taught at Sorensen Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities in the Coeur d’Alene School District — along with traditional subjects such as math and reading.


Because school leaders believe they contribute to life-long success.

Juggling boosts hand-eye coordination, and an understanding of angles and velocity. African drumming stimulates rhythm, teamwork and an appreciation of other cultures. Standup comedy improves public speaking confidence, improvisation and script writing.

Added bonus — they’re fun, so kids dive into practicing and getting better at these life-long skills.

“Children love to come to school because the teachers always prepare fun and challenging activities that pique children’s interest and direct their energy in a positive way,” said principal Janet Ackerman, who walks to school every day. “The parent, community and business support of Sorensen is incredible. This is truly an arts-enriched school community that creates the most positive learning environment for all.”

About three hours a week, students rotate through an Arts and Humanities block. It’s a great time to be in the building where you can hear kids singing, fiddling, drumming and laughing.

“There are learning opportunities for all children to develop their talents and gifts,” Ackerman said. “Children’s interests drive the program.”

Students elect to study an area of interest and work to develop knowledge and skills in areas such as:

  • Juggling
  • Technology
  • African Drumming
  • Marimbas
  • Vocal Music and Movement
  • Chess
  • Strings and Things
  • Pottery
  • World Culture and Sports
  • Improvisation
  • Visual Art

Sorensen has over 50 children in its theater and chess performance teams and over 90 children in the juggling performance team. The jugglers got a standing ovation after a halftime performance at the Gonzaga University men’s basketball game.

Choir director Charlene Babb teaches a variety of musical genres from jazz to pop to Latin. “Students develop a musical foundation that will sustain them into adulthood,” Babb said. “We love to sing.”

The Sorensen website says

“The arts serve as a critical component to a complete education and are proven to increase student academic achievement.”

Young people who consistently participate in comprehensive, sequential and rigorous arts programs are:

  • 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
  • 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
  • 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
  • 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
  • 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem

“We’re so pleased with what’s happening here,’’ Coeur d’Alene Superintendent Hazel Bauman said. “It really is fabulous.”

The history

Bauman turned Sorensen into a magnet school for the arts and humanities in the fall of 2007. Sorensen was a traditional elementary school for decades. But when an aging building started to fall apart and enrollment was on a steady decline, Bauman decided to change what was failing.

The result: The school accommodates about 365 students and has as many as 260 families on a wait list. Only a third of the students live in the Sorensen area. The Coeur d’Alene school district is open enrollment so students can attend any school, including another magnet school for the sciences. The district has attracted about 300 students from the outlying areas who choose to attend those magnet schools.

The data

Sorensen scores in the 90th percentile in the Coeur d’Alene School District and the 95th percentile in the state of Idaho on the ISAT (Idaho Standards Achievement Test).

2006, before magnet status

  1. 78 percent were proficient or advanced in reading
  2. 88 percent were proficient or advanced in math
  3. 84 percent were proficient or advanced in language


  1. 92 percent were proficient or advanced in reading
  2. 96 percent were proficient or advanced in math
  3. 92 percent were proficient or advanced in language


  1. 94 percent were proficient or advanced reading
  2. 98 percent were proficient or advanced math
  3. 93 percent were proficient or advanced language

“As they grow into adults, these children will have the foundation and self-confidence to achieve their dreams and work with others to bring dreams to fruition,” Ackerman said.



Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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