ABS Thursday Notes – September 24, 2015

Thursday Notes                           

Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                        September 24, 2015



How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It’s their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education… it’s like a precious gift. It’s like a diamond.” – Malala Yousafzai


Yesterday was a typical day for me. In early mornings I pulled small groups from 7th grade study hall to prepare their opera. Five other staff members took turns covering my greeting and dismissal duties, supporting this performance opportunity for students.

Next, I met with the Kindergarten team. We reviewed their Musikgarten materials. This curriculum includes quality recordings, songs, poetry, stories, and musical games. Nothing gathers the attention of a disparate crowd of twenty wee spirits like a hearty singing and dancing game. When this is linked to our study of weather and the changing seasons, it’s even better. There is the leaf dance during which we listen to music and move like falling leaves, generating vocabulary. How do leaves move? Zig-zagging. Swooping. Twirling. Here is the North Carolina standard for Kindergarten that we are integrating: “Give examples of different ways objects and organisms move (to include falling to the ground when dropped ): • Straight • Zigzag • Round and round, back and forth • Fast and slow.”

I then met with a visitor who is certified in the Dalcroze Eurhythmics method of teaching music. This century-old approach to understanding and internalizing structure, rhythm, and musical expression is taught world-wide, but certified teachers are scarce. She described the method passionately, emphasizing the importance of feeling rhythm in the body and improvising. I told her we shared that philosophy at ABS and described various ways that we integrate the arts and core academics. She suggested that the Dalcroze method could be implemented to teach science. I noted that we do something a bit like that here. (Remember the leaves?)

She asked how we managed to make accommodations with classes of twenty or more in a public school where the range of capability is broad. I replied that the arts work beautifully for this; students can work at their own level within an artistic project. For instance, we use improvisation to generate new roles and lines in theater projects, generating moments unique to each cast.

We toured the MLK building. In art class, we found Ms. Messick with twenty 2nd graders, observing intently as they sketched the contours of a great mountain. Two students near us explained that they were drawing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and then returned to sketching, each at their own level of capability. I asked where that mountain was located. They stared at me. “AFRICA.” one student said firmly and slowly, apparently assuming that I was either daft or teasing.

In music, Mr. Wilbur was working with twenty more 2nd graders. They clapped a beat together energetically. He stopped and said “It’s important that you feel this with your entire body. Let me see you use your whole body to feel the beat.” And boy, did they! Every one. He moved on to more complex rhythms as we departed, and when next we passed, they had added drums, dunun, djembes, and more complexity.

In dance, Ms. Adams had twenty more 2nd graders creating cloud formations in groups, following a rubric generated by the students. They improvised formations where each member of the cloud connected with another member, using multiple levels in the space. (State science goal: Understand change and observable patterns of weather that occur from day to day and throughout the year.) They solved problems together as they moved from shape to shape, a student holding another’s raised leg, a student lying on the floor and reaching up. One child broke away, angry and pouting, and Ms. Adams called to him: “Come here! Help me decide which group is the most interesting.” “Who is using lots of levels? Who is connecting with everyone?” He was immediately drawn back in while standing beside her to assess.

The visitor observed a 7th grade rehearsal with fifty students. Small clumps improvised moments of pantomime and dialogue as we created an enormous outdoor market scene, adapting characters to fit students. These accomplished actors can quickly make a stage picture without direction, creating levels and sightlines. They appear fearless.

All of the values this visitor and I discussed had been magically demonstrated in this brief walk-through! She left, hoping to contribute in some way, someday.

Next: I introduced 5th graders to Haydn’s Emperor string quartet through a song about the order of operations in math, coached three more 7th graders, and met with the 4th grade teachers and MLK arts specialists. After a long field trip, the teachers were still energized, discussing their upcoming “Landform Documentary” performances, and Heidi McIver’s coachings to prepare students vocally for their SECCA art opening in November. Betsy Messick demonstrated how 4th graders are making strides to create enormous self-portraits with oil pastels for this event; a task that requires personal courage, not only in technique but in believing their pre-pubescent selves worthy of a work of art.

Principal Hollis and I sat a while, discussing the day’s adventures. She keeps the ship upright and healthy while I’m running from stern to stern. There are always important details to share about upcoming events, kids and parents, budgets, tests, regulations, personnel, calendars, and new ideas. We realized it was 5pm, and adjourned. This was a ten-hour work day for Prinicpal Hollis (short, by her standards.) Ours is a fully committed crew, making a typical day a precious gift; It’s like a diamond.


ABS Family Directory

Each family will be receiving one copy of the ABS Family Directory.  For students in the MLK building, it will be sent with the oldest sibling in his/her Thursday Packet.   For those in the 7th St. building it will be sent next Thursday.  Thanks to each of you for your timely response in updating the directory information.   Unfortunately, some updates where submitted after publication and we were unable to make those changes for this year’s printed directory.


Don’t Be Late!

School begins at 8:15am.  Students should arrive at school between 7:45 and 8:10.    Students are counted tardy if they’re not in their classroom at 8:15am. The student entrance is locked at 8:15 a.m. After 8:15 a.m., parents must park and escort their child(ren) to the front office entrance and sign in.


Box Tops Collection: Monday, Sept 28

Please send in your box tops with your child on Monday morning. Volunteers will be at the doors to both buildings to collect box tops. This is a simple way to support the school financially.


Book Fair Begins Next Week!

Monday, September 28 through Saturday, October 3.

Come get an early start on holiday gifts. The proceeds benefit the libraries at ABS.

Volunteers are still needed to staff the book fair in the MLK and 7th Street Buildings.

  1. Click this linkto see our Sign-Up on VolunteerSpot: http://vols.pt/gtyRJz
    2. Enter your email address: (You will NOT need to register an account on VolunteerSpot)
    3. Sign up! Choose your spots in either MLK or 7th St. Bldgs – VolunteerSpot will send you an automated confirmation and reminders. Easy!

    Note: VolunteerSpot does not share your email address with anyone. If you prefer not to use your email address, please contact me (Amy Archambault @ aarchamb@gmail.com) and I can sign you up manually.


Fall Fest will be next Saturday October 3

Come share in the fun and games. Food trucks will be there. The cost is $5 per child. Caregivers are free! The time is 12 to 3 pm. (Rain date is October 10.)


Service Club News

K-Kids and Builders Club members will participate in Clean Sweep on Saturday, October 3, from 9:00 – 12:00 at Salem Lake


School Skating Party

Come roll into a new year on Tuesday, September 29  at Skate Haven (120 Hood Drive, W-S, NC), from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. K-Kids is sponsoring this all-school event to raise money for the many charities they support. Bring $5.00 per person for entry and skate rental.  All ABS families are welcome!


Welcome to Ms. Smith

As you may know, some of our 7th and 8th grade students have the opportunity to take advanced math courses at ABS. This means the math teacher has some classes that include more than one course in the same hour. To help both the teacher and students navigate this, we have been looking to hire a teaching assistant to help with math teaching in 7th and 8th grade classes.

We are excited to announce that Ms. Hakimah Smith is joining our staff as a math teaching assistant for 7th and 8th grades. She will be at ABS five days a week during math classes to work with students and assist Mrs. Lewis.

Ms. Smith has recently taught in a long-term sub position at Southern Guilford High School. She also taught in a long-term sub position at Southeast Middle School in Guilford County. Ms. Smith has one more math course to finish next semester before she graduates from Bennett College.


Calling All ABS Musical Parents!


Ms. Hayes would like to invite any parents that play a musical instrument to come and play with ABS band students (this invitation is open to all parents at ABS – not just band parents).

Another way to accumulate volunteer hours is for parents to run mini-sectionals (pull a small instrument group & work with them on particularly difficult passages or techniques).

Parents interested in doing mini-sectionals will have to pass a background check.  Ms. Hayes has the info on background checks.

Any interested parents, please reply to Chloe Hayes, ABS band instructor – chayes@artsbasedschool.com.


Lost and Found

ABS will be donating all lost and found on September 25.  Please stop by before then to claim any personal items.


Around Town…


UNCSA to present Community Festival Saturday, September 26, 2015



Salem Band (established in 1771 and one of the USA’s oldest bands) is presenting a free concert for the Winston-Salem and Triad community.

FallFest “John Williams Spectacular” will be performed at Salem Square in Old Salem this upcoming Sunday –  Sept. 27 – at 3pm .

We invite everyone to bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy this special afternoon of music.  Also, expect extra excitement at the concert as we will be joined by Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers!


(Rain date is Tues, Sept. 29, at 7pm – although the weather forecast for this Sunday looks good!)