ABS Thursday Notes- October 29, 2015

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                            October 29, 2015




How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“To write the African story in European languages, Africans seem to have written themselves out of a lived African history into an alien and transitional narrative world.” – Anthonia Kalu: Research in African Literatures


African storytelling includes a rich oral tradition. When these stories appear in American children’s literature they have been translated, not only from another language, but often from another form. The American psyche expects our ubiquitous narrative fiction form: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. Beginning, middle, and end. For several years our 2nd graders performed a re-telling of the Legend of King Sundiata of Mali. There was always something missing, though the narrative structure was present. One summer, I came across a transcription of the saga as told by a great Malian griot, (or jeli – the keeper of history through story, dance and music in African oral tradition). It was full of humor, strange and wild imagery, and was completely lacking in the familiar western narrative form. Based on facts, it was also packed with fantastic exaggeration. In a column to the right of the page was on-going commentary: “Indeed. This is true. Yes, truly.”  It seemed the response of a listening crowd. This looked nothing like the westernized picture books we had been using.

The story was clearly one for adults. In search of an authentic telling that was also accessible to American children, I befriended Tololwa Mollel, a native Tanzanian children’s book author with a background in story-telling and children’s theater. He discussed the story-telling tradition he had learned from his Maasai grandfather. Listening, he said, is as important as telling in his tradition, and the commentary I had seen on the griot’s page was indeed that of active listeners, as there is no story without them. He said the richest value of a story is the lesson it teaches, not its entertainment punch or historical accuracy. Tololwa visited us a few years ago. He approved of and contributed to our process of adapting traditional stories for re-telling by our 2nd graders.

Yesterday, our students were treated to a delightful performance of songs and stories from The Healing Force, a local family who incorporate African traditions into their performances for children. They encourage and model the tradition of re-telling stories with a lesson. Working with resident artist Heidi McIver, the students are developing a unique retelling of The Cowtail Switch, a story from Liberia. Ms. Heidi told the tale, then worked with students and their teachers to develop an original, kid-generated script.  Now they are staging rehearsals, and Ms. Heidi reports that several students who were afraid to speak at all on stage as 1st graders are now bestriding the stage, hands on hips, and calling out authoritatively: “Where’s my cow-tail switch!?” The children have practiced drumming in music class and some will drum along with Mr. Forrest from Tam Tam Mandinge and Mr. Wilbur, during the performance. They have learned some basics of African dance from Ms. Olivia Sledge, for a celebratory dance at the end. Embedded in the play is a unique “stick dance,” an exploration of adventures in the Liberian rain forest. The moment a student is presented with a wooden dowel representing a “hunting spear” they become intensely focused, dropping low as Ms. Adams coaches them, appearing ready for any dangerous beast to pounce. Meanwhile, second-graders have been studying everything from geography and maps to cultural details and continental water shortages, in preparation for this adventure. They will perform their play this month in the ABS back space theater as follows:

Cohen, November 17, 12:15-12:45

Sankey, November 18, 12:15 – 12:45

Broughton, November 19, 12:15 – 12:45

It’s time to pre-order your ABS 2015-16 Yearbooks!

The cost is only $20, and the easiest way to order is online via this link https://vando.imagequix.com/g1000343826 If you prefer to send a check, you will find an order form in your child’s Thursday packet today. Return the check and form to Angela Wise for students in the MLK building, or Donna Brown for students in the 7th street building.

We have already gotten a lot of really great photographs for our Yearbook this year – Parent Reps and all ABS family members, keep posting pics on your Shutterfly sites, the more images we have to choose from, the better! (Field Trips, candids, performances, etc.)

Deadline for ordering yearbooks is January 15th.


ABS Receives Beautification Grant

Have you ever wondered how 1,300 tiny plants might make their way into the ground at ABS? The answer is two power drills with auger bits (think giant corkscrew) and a small army of people placing the plugs in the holes. As a regular and avid Thursday Notes reader, you might remember an article from about a year ago on the how’s and why’s of our native landscaping plan for the 7th-Street campus. (If you missed it and want a copy, email me at mlmayers@gmail.com). Progress has been slow and steady, and last week, thanks to some new grant funding, we received a shipment of 1,300 native plant plugs to help beautify our school grounds. We will mostly use these plugs to reclaim the slope that surrounds the 7th Street parking lot and make it resemble a thriving native NC prairie. Selected areas of the MLK campus will also get some new life.

Now you’re wondering how you can help, and that’s easy. On November 14, we will hold our regular monthly work day, and one of our big tasks will be to get those plugs in the ground for the fall. Some will be planted before the work day, but 1300 is a pretty big number, so I’m sure we can save you a few for November 14.

Our thanks go out to the W-S/Forsyth County Council of Garden Clubs for approving ABS to receive a $4500 grant in support of this project. Thanks also to John Newman Design for helping us get a good deal on plants.


Parent Council News:

Fall Fest raised over $1400. Thanks to all the volunteers who worked hard to make it such a fun day! And thank you to Sara Knott for donating the profits from the tie-dye station.


Parent Council Meeting Friday November 13 8:15-9:15

All parents and guardians of ABS students are welcome. If you would like to submit a topic for the agenda, please contact Lindsay Deibler (lindsaydeibler@gmail.com) or Michelle Hopkins Lawrence (mhopkins@alumni.princeton.edu).


Halloween is Coming

Please do not send students to school in costumes.  We all enjoy the fun and excitement of Halloween but find that costumes and accessories make it very difficult to concentrate.  Also we do not want students to bring candy in their lunch bags for snacks.  Although it can be delicious, high sugar snacks should not replace a healthy snack.  Thanks for your help!


Around Town…

Boxcar Children is opening next weekend at Hanesbrands Theatre at the Milton Rhodes Art Center in downtown Winston-Salem. The production is directed by ABS middle school drama teacher Nick Zayas and features ABS Kindergarten student Jacob Koerner, 5th grade student Quint Johnson and 6th grade student Ella Marion in significant, starring roles. Performances are November 6-8  at 7:00pm and a Sunday matinee at 2:00pm.  Tickets are $14 and can be purchased now online at eTickets or at the box office one hour prior to showtime.