ABS Thursday Notes- April 21, 2016

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                                 April 21, 2016



How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“Beauty is only skin deep; but ugly goes clean to the bone.” – Dorothy Parker


The first graders are in rehearsal, each preparing a version of the Cinderella story, which will be accompanied by a cultural study in the classroom.  Cinderella stories have been invented or adapted in many cultures worldwide, and the watered-down Disney version we know is a distant relative of some of these richer stories. The comparison allows us to recognize similar elements within each tale, while noticing cultural similarities and differences. For example, the Chinese version (said by some to be the oldest known version), involves magic fish bones, the Italian version involves a magic bird, and the Indian version a magic snake. No fairy godmothers. The characters vary too: Cinderella in the Italian story is clever and tough, her stepfather defends her right to be unique.

The first grade show transitions children from the simple “follow the leader” structure in Kindergarten, when each character followed a UNCSA dancer through the story for emotional and recall support on stage. With an interactive adult narrator, first graders respond as individuals to prompts and questions, sometimes speaking lines, depending on individual development. The cast will change in each of the seven scenes, allowing for many lead players. There are no scripts to memorize, avoiding the stilted “anti-acting” that typically occurs at the elementary school level, and encouraging thoughtful observation and listening while on stage. It’s challenging to remain in character while on stage; to differentiate between the actors and the audience, to understand that it’s best not to reach up your shirt to scratch an itch or wave to grandma while you are on stage. Here are some of the ways we approach these learning opportunities.

We define “upstaging” as bad manners, learning to give focus to the storyteller. Students try intentional upstaging, with one child telling the story seriously, while another attempts to grab the audience’s attention from behind. Later, we can gently remind an actor that she is “accidentally upstaging” if she suddenly ties her shoe during a scene. There is a moment of realization, and the child makes a different choice without further direction.

We work in the classroom to help students feel the script coming from their own understanding of the story, its characters, and the character’s feelings and actions. As a result, much of the dialog arises spontaneously. One of our all-time favorite kid–generated lines occurred when the prince, wishing to discover whether Cinderella’s shoe matches the one he found, asks “May I see her? Maybe just a leg?” When we capture “good ideas” and save them to the play, kids recognize their own creativity in the process and gain confidence in writing.

We also examine the stereotypical characters, agreeing that beauty is something that runs much more deeply than surface appearance, that none of us are bullies but we can identify their characteristics and act “as if” we were bullies, that most step-parents (like me) love their step-children, and that girls need not marry someone powerful in order to be powerful themselves.


First Grade performances of “Three Cinderellas” will take place in the ABS backspace as follows:

Ms. McArthur: Tuesday, May 17, 12:15 – 12:45

Ms. Howard: Wednesday, May 18, 12:15 – 12:45

Ms. Fansler: Thursday, May 19, 12:15 – 12:45


A Parent’s Perspective on Parent Surveys

Each year ABS families are asked to complete an online survey about our school.  In today’s world, most of us are bombarded with some type of survey multiple times a week.  I’m often guilty of just pressing “delete” when those things show up in my inbox, knowing it will take several minutes to complete (who has the spare time?) and that more often than not my heartfelt responses will be tabulated by some computer who could care less how I feel.  Now let me tell you why I believe the ABS Parent Survey is quite different.  First of all, I’m thrilled that our school asks for our opinions.  Having come from a much different school environment where parents weren’t welcomed in the building, much less asked for their thoughts, I truly value being asked my opinion.  Second, the survey takes very little time – this year the survey has only 11 questions, short and sweet.  Lastly, and most importantly, YOUR OPINION MATTERS!  The ABS administration takes these responses to heart, they discuss them and develop plans on how to improve – whether it’s a problem issue or something that’s going well – they are always striving to achieve more.  Parents should view the survey as an opportunity to share positives and negatives – both are equally important for administration and staff to be aware of.  While the survey doesn’t take place of personal conversations with your teachers and staff (those should always happen first – whether you’re deliriously happy or somewhat frustrated) but it does offer a wonderful snapshot of how things are working and that helps us all.  So, please take a moment to click on the link and share your experience and thank you for being part of the ABS family! ABS Parent Survey


Community Creates – You’re Invited!

The Arts Based School’s 8th Annual Community Creates is happening Saturday, May 7th from 7-11pm.  Community Creates is a vital fundraiser for our school – the proceeds from the evenings’ art auctions, 100 for $100 and ticket sales fully fund our Artist-in-Residence program (think folks like Diana Greene, Mr. Bob, Mr. Bill, our awesome Lion King choreographer Thao Nguyen and many others).  These individuals enrich our curriculum and our children’s experiences in the classroom every single day.  We invite you to come out and join us for this incredibly fun evening!  Please see the attached invitation or visit www.communitycreates.com for online ticket sales and more information.  We hope to see you there!


News From Parent Council

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-May 6 this year. Please look for news from your Class Reps.


Nominations remain open for Parent Council BoardElections will be held at the last Parent Council Meeting of the year on Friday, May 13 at 8:15 am.  All parents and guardians of ABS students are eligible to nominate themselves. If you are interested in serving on the board, please contact Lindsay Deibler (lindsaydeibler@gmail.com) or Michelle Hopkins Lawrence (mhopkins@alumni.princeton.edu).


Band and Chorus Mini-Concerts

There will be brief concerts under a big tent in the 7th Street courtyard on the following dates. Parking will be open on the grassy field.

Monday, May 9: 5th band 11:30

Monday, May 9: 6th band 12:30

Tuesday, May 10: 7th/8th band 11:30

Wednesday, May 10: 7th/8th chorus 12:30


Builders Club Sponsor ABS Work Day

Saturday, April 30, 2016

9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Come support the middle school Builders Club (Kiwanis-affiliated service group) as they sponsor the April garden work day at ABS. Last year, the club-sponsored work day brought the best turnout of the whole year, and it was uplifting to see so many of our kids out working hard to make their world a better place.

We’ll be re-mulching both playgrounds, so bring wheelbarrows, shovels, forks, and Bobcats if you have them. There is also plenty of other outdoor maintenance to keep up with, so plan to come for as much time as you can spare on that Saturday.

If you can’t make the work day, but would like to let us use your wheelbarrow, you can leave it in the 7th Street building large courtyard any time the week leading up to April 30. Please be sure your name is on it!


Around Town…

Cowboy Songs Performance

Mary Siebert and her band will perform historic cowboy songs along with some of the Wild West history behind them, as part of the “Music That Matters” series on Sunday, May 1st at 3:00 p.m. at Parkway United Church of Christ. The concert benefits the Wentz Food Pantry. Donations are accepted for entry, with $15.00 as the suggested amount.


The Wizard of Oz opens at Twin City Stage on April 15, with a group of ABS kids in the cast, including Isabella Ellis as Dorothy. Dorothy is double-cast. Isabella plays it on:

April 22 (Friday @ 7:30pm),

April 24 (Sunday @ 2:00pm),

April 28 (Thursday @ 7:30pm), and

May 1 (Sunday @ 2:00pm).

All ABS students will receive coupons for $5.00 off of the $25 for the regular shows.