ABS Thursday Notes- October 26, 2017
Published for the Arts Based School Community October 26, 2017
How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert
“You can’t be a creative thinker if you’re not stimulating your mind, just as you can’t be an Olympic athlete if you don’t train regularly.” – Sir Ken Robinson
Each grade level at ABS has a “Living Textbook” production: a large-scale project that demands disciplined, focused preparation for four to six weeks, and culminates in some sort of presentation. With rare exceptions, these shows are conceived and created at the school, with the input of students and faculty. They are inspired by examination of the grade-level state standards, across all disciplines, which often suggest a unifying topic. The state guidelines can be seen to converge, if they are examined together rather than taught as isolated subjects, and the state suggests that schools should find ways to teach the standards in an integrated fashion. In a more typical school, that happens rarely. When classroom instruction does include the arts, the connections may be relatively surface. Some schools refer to this as arts “enhancement,” and an example of this might be that students are studying Japan, so they color a picture of a lady in a kimono. An example of deeper integration than this would be the recent fourth grade “landscape documentary dances,” where students use the elements of dance to embody basic facts of North Carolina’s geography. One can see the assessment right there on the dance floor. There’s the “Math in a Basket” project in art, when students use intensive measuring skills to create and weave a basket; a real-world application of math skills in art, and the accuracy of measurement can be seen in the resulting product. There’s the eighth-grade study of textiles and dyes, where students experiment in chemistry class with natural pigments and their relation to elements. These are deeper connections.
The traditional textbook approach is for students to read a chapter about a topic, then write answers to questions at the end, then take a written test. But there are many other ways to assess learning, which invite students to participate in discovering answers, instead of merely ingesting them. Reading can be used as a tool for research and understanding, rather than solely a delivery system for facts. Researching Genghis Khan so that you can write a script and shoot a movie about him is a much more motivating goal than the chapter/question/test drill.
As Sir Ken Robinson suggests, one can visit an exhibit of butterflies at a natural history museum, and find them pinned to the wall from largest to smallest, giving the learner a chance to become familiar with each one. But in nature, they don’t fly in isolated formation like that! In the same way, an accomplished artist, scientist or athlete isolates processes, and studies or perfects individual skills and ideas, and then re-synthesizes them. Richer understanding and precise execution then allow the individual to respond to real-world challenges, such as a public performance.
When we prepare our Living Textbook productions, we are seeking an even deeper, broader integration; a whole kaleidoscope of butterflies. Once we’ve identified the unifying idea, each teacher focuses with students on an isolated part of the whole, eventually helping students see how they all connect. For example, third-grade students study the Italian Renaissance as part of an exploration of innovation and its power to initiate change. They study the solar system and body systems in science class. Leonardo DaVinci, who helped create breakthroughs in those very scientific areas, is introduced in art at the same time. In social studies, students locate Italy on a world map and study Leonardo’s biography. They study Leonardo’s scientific precision in drawing the muscular and skeletal systems, and learn that he sometimes created dramatic spectacles for the Duke of Milan. In drama class, they begin working on a dramatic spectacle of their own, inspired by the very sort of works Leonardo designed. In music, students sing the music of Monteverdi, the superstar Italian composer of the high Renaissance, with new lyrics detailing the functions of the muscular system. In language arts class, students read the related science, social studies, and biographical materials, inspired by their admiration for Leonardo. They also assist with generating lines for their performance. Each of these individual studies has its merit, but they fit together too, like a cleverly carved puzzle.
When students perform their culminating event, their minds are firing on all cylinders as they recognize learning from each area embedded in their visual and performing arts. There is no drudgery in this assessment. No traditional textbook can hope to compare to such a constellation of connections. When we add costuming (for some productions,) sets, and annual collaboration with other organizations and artists in our community, the production’s roots become deeply set. We make some changes when our facilities allow or require change. We review with the grade level and specialist teams, to improve or reinvent any units that are due for an upgrade. We adjust, when the state curriculum changes. As long as the journey through these complex units of study produces richly engaged learning, we venture down the same path with each successive group of students, watching with delight as they create unique experience and interpretation.
I’m sorry to report that Mrs. Cash will be leaving ABS to take a full-time position as a library assistant. We will all miss her in our MLK cafeteria, but know we’ll still get to see her in the pick up line. Her last day is Friday, Oct 27.
We’re looking the perfect person to monitor our 2-4 grade students while they’re eating lunch in the cafeteria. This position requires patience, organization, humor, and reliability. This will be a Monday through Friday position from 10:30am to 1:00pm. Please email Robin Hollis at email@example.com if you are interested.
Activity Fees Due
Activity Fee Reminder slips are going home in Thursday packet for students who have not paid their Activity Fee.
Please be sure to keep lunch accounts current. Payment is due before or on the day of ordering. If your student has an outstanding balance a slip is being sent home in Thursday packets.
Volunteers Needed for Traffic Committee
Several parents have expressed interest in joining a committee to address school traffic and parking concerns. We’re in the process of planning an initial meeting for this group. The committee’s focus will be on both finding solutions and educating our families. Part of the education effort will include making a video. If you’re interested in serving on or leading this committee, please contact Julee Nunley (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Upcoming ABS Garden Workdays
Friday Garden Work Session and Play Date October 27 from 1:30-3:30. We’ll get started before the kids get out of school and then let the kids play while we work some more.
Saturday Workdays, 9:30-12:30, October 21 and November 4. RSVP appreciated but not required to email@example.com.
Come Skate Tonight!
The K-Kids and Builders Clubs are sponsoring a skating party on Thursday, October 26 from 6:30 – 8:00 at Skate Haven, 120 Hood Drive. The cost is $5.00 per skater (which includes skate rental). All proceeds will go to a challenge match for disaster relief through One America Appeal.
So grab your friends (and your Grandma) and come rock and roll!
Builder’s Club Relief Drive
ABS Builders Club will be holding a relief drive for Hurricane Maria’s devastation to Puerto Rico, and for the earthquake in Mexico. This drive will focus on collecting 4 items; bagged rice and beans, bagged pasta, and plastic water bottles. These items will be delivered to Puerto Rico and Mexico through the Piedmont Triad United for Puerto Rico and Mexico. The drive will last for two weeks for optimal collection. It will start on October 23rd and end on November 10th. We will be collecting in both buildings. Thank you for all your support and generosity! -Julian Wilson, President of Builders Club
Prospective Parents’ Tours
School tours for prospective parents are scheduled weekly on Thursdays at 9:30am. Each tour is limited to 10 adults in an effort to limit the disruption to our students and teachers in the classrooms. Parents interested in learning more about ABS and how to enroll their child, should contact the front office to sign up for a tour. 748-4116 ext 1023. Applications will be accepted beginning January 1. The lottery will be held the second Tuesday of February.
UNCSA’s Preparatory Dance Program presents Drosselmeyer’s Nutcracker Tea in our own Alex Ewing Theater! Tickets go on sale this Friday, November 27th – call the Stevens Center Box Office at 336-721-1945 to get your tickets today! Performances are Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th. See the attached flyer with this week’s Thursday Notes for more information. Don’t miss this wonderful holiday event!