ABS Thursday Notes-March 21, 2019

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                     March 21, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “To forget a Holocaust is to kill twice.” – Elie Weisel   Brundibár is a children’s opera by Czech composer Hans Krása, based on a cheerful folk tale. It is widely regarded as the finest opera ever composed for children to sing (with an adult orchestra.) It premiered in 1941, at a Jewish orphanage in Prague. In 1942, Hans Krása was arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned at Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp, where an estimated 33,000 people died of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. 88,000 people were sent from Terezín to Auschwitz and other death camps. The Nazis allowed the children of Terezín to perform Brundibár at least 55 times at Terezín, routinely shipping the young singers to death camps afterward, to be replaced by a new cast of children. When the International Red Cross visited Terezín in 1944, the Nazis theatrically staged the camp as a temporary showpiece to refute growing allied suspicions that Jews were being exterminated. Terezín was staged with a new Kindergarten, a park, flowers, rich food, and concerts. The prisoners were dressed in fine clothing. Just before the arrival of the Red Cross, the Nazis shipped 7,500 people to Auschwitz, to create more open space. The opera Brundibár was performed for the Red Cross visitors, to demonstrate how happy and productive the children of Terezín were. Red Cross representatives reported to the world that Nazi prison camps were safe, clean, and pleasant. Immediately after the Red Cross departed, the cast was sent to Auschwitz to be killed. This innocent little opera has carried the weight of its terrible historical context, ever after. The Arts Based School’s 7th Graders perform Brundibár annually, as part of a state-required study of World War II, the Holocaust, and genocide. One year, a surviving cast member, Ela Weissberger, visited us and shared memories of the friends she had loved and lost. She stood with our students to join in the “Victory Song,” and asked us always to remember her friends. Memoirs of children who lived at Terezín, the testimony of surviving cast members, historic video footage of a Brundibár performance at the prison camp, and the experience of singing the very notes those children sang, help us consider the Holocaust through the eyes of young victims whose memory we keep alive through this project. We sing in solidarity with those lost friends.   Brundibár will be performed by all ABS 7th graders with a professional orchestra, next week on Thursday, March 28, at 7:00 p.m. at First Presbyterian Worship...

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ABS Thursday Notes- March 14, 2019

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                            March 14, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com       How We Do It and Why by Mary Siebert   “Misbehavior and punishment are not opposites that cancel each other – on the contrary they breed and reinforce each other.”  ― Haim G. Ginott   Anyone who volunteers during a school day can see that, even with our wonderful kids, managing a large group of children can be challenging. At ABS, we teach self-discipline as a basic skill. To help our students grow into productive citizens, we avoid rigid tools of punishment and reward. Our teachers are experts at Positive Discipline, which recognizes behavioral mistakes as opportunities for learning. The word “Positive” in this title does not mean that we wink at disruptive behavior. We strive to be clear, firm, and nurture growth. Rewards are intrinsic to accomplishment, and do not appear in the shape of little candies or toys. We recognize that self-management must be taught with the same individualized instruction that we apply to math or reading.   Corporal punishment is legal in North Carolina but is rapidly disappearing. (It has never been used at ABS.) In lieu of paddling, schools try a variety of other techniques. In many traditional classrooms, there is a “card” system, providing each student with four colored cards, or perhaps a little boat on a little ocean. The cards or boats are placed in a wall display, labeled with each child’s name. A child who makes a behavioral mistake is directed to walk reluctantly before uncomfortable classmates, to flip the card from green to yellow, regressing through the colors, if the objectionable behavior continues. (The boat might progressively sink.) The card or submerged vessel is a constant reminder of an earlier error, permanently discoloring the day.   Most students never flip a card, but can predict who will, day after day. Often no progress is made – the same student is still card-flipping at the end of the year, and the only thing everyone (including the card-flipper) has learned is: that student is “bad.” There are many reasons why a child misbehaves, including (but not limited to) immaturity, lack of food, lack of sleep, trouble at home, allergies, hormones, habit, illness or boredom. It is never because the child is “bad.” There’s no such animal. But if a child is taught that she is bad, she might very well attempt to grow into that expectation.   Regardless of the cause, each student must learn how to function productively and positively in a classroom setting, and must allow others to learn, unobstructed. Positive Discipline recommends that a...

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ABS Thursday Notes- March 7, 2019

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                             March 7, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com       How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein   I enjoy word puzzles, number puzzles, and mysteries. So why don’t I enjoy scheduling? It’s a puzzle, after all. It’s not my strongest skill. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, there’s no final satisfying picture to admire. Instead, the emails roll in: “We are on a field trip that day! There’s no school that day! I’m scheduled to be in two places at the same time!” There’s always some detail I overlooked. I feel foolish and frustrated, then back to the computer I go. And if it snows? Do over. Scheduling feels like a waste of creative energy, but it is an unavoidable bedrock of our commitment to the arts. Those beautiful performances and exhibits with sixty kids in them require time and practice. We use the scalpel of scheduling to preserve math, science, reading, writing. We juggle PE, Spanish, art, drama, dance, music. Our Spanish teacher helps at rehearsal. Our art teacher watches half of the kids while the other half rehearse. The classroom teachers create packets of work that can be done while waiting during rehearsal. Kids bring books and clipboards and lunches. Drama and music teachers expand their day to develop staging, conducting, notating music, rehearsing visiting musicians, attending performances. They make sub plans for the classes they miss while we are at the theater. Mr. Brown works on staging while caring for his baby, returns the U-Haul late at night after the show. Ms. Gledhill watches Ms. Farrell’s baby on Saturday, so Ms. Farrell can build costumes. Ms. Boudreault teaches herself African drumming in the evenings, to accompany second graders by day. You get the picture. Why don’t we just have the same schedule every day, like other schools? Whoever wants to be in the show would stay after school to rehearse, while other kids go to soccer or swimming or karate or piano. We ask ourselves this question several times each year. We keep coming up with the same answers: Our shows (with the exception of Lion King, but that’s another story,) are broadly rooted in the curriculum. The performance is richly informed by learning in most every subject. The rehearsal deepens that learning. The performance develops valuable and rare skills: managing stage fright, moving and speaking with confidence while you are observed by the public, working as a team...

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ABS Thursday Notes- February 28, 2019

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                        February 28, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com     Conference Days- March 1- Early Dismissal,                         K-4 Dismiss at 11:45                        5-8 Dismiss at 12 noon                               March 4 No School   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.” – Friedrich Nietzsche   If you have ever studied a language foreign to you, you’ve probably found that a fast-talking native speaker will move on to the second sentence while your brain is still scrambling to translate the first…and you miss the second one entirely. This can be especially stressful if you are engaged in an urgent conversation. Until you are fluent, speedy communication leaves you frustrated and shut out. One of the challenges of transitioning from elementary to middle school math and science is that these subjects require a student to learn not only more complex concepts, but its related vocabulary as well. It’s a new language. Many a pre-algebra student who learns key words will find herself struggling to recall their meanings after a summer off, still mentally translating while the teacher moves into new ideas. That student might conclude that she is “bad at math,” before she’s really had a chance to try it. At ABS, we frequently use movement and music to help us understand concepts from other disciplines. Our students dance the perimeter and area of a 2-dimensional space, for example. We don’t polish those activities into performance quality, so parents rarely get a glimpse of them. On March 14, the ABS sixth grade will perform math and science concepts through dance, with the intended side benefit of making them more fluent in some new vocabulary. This project is inspired by John Bohannan’s “Dance vs. Powerpoint” TED talk. SECCA further fueled the idea by offering multi-media possibilities in their performance space, where we can combine dance, music, and film in one setting. ABS’ 7th grade advanced math teacher, Jennifer Lewis, helped develop lists of vocabulary that, if deeply imbedded in kids’ understanding, would smooth the transition into 7th grade work. We incorporated the content, focus, and humor employed by 6th grade teachers into script ideas. We explored the “personalities” of the bossy coefficient, the ever-changeable variable, the lonely constant, and the conceited exponent. We are dancing the overall function of the exponent, and in science: the response of atoms and molecules to thermal energy. Film maker Tom Green assisted his wife, our Curriculum Coordinator Liz Green, in developing video that supports and clarifies the concepts. Art teacher Elizabeth Gledhill leads students in a project that employs the...

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ABS Thursday Notes- February 21, 2019

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                               February 21, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” – William Shakespeare, from As You Like It   Romeo & Juliet on the Border is the culmination of many varied elements of study, for fifth grade. Students studied America’s Reconstruction via the western cattle drive era of the late 1800s. Cowboy poetry of the era, maps of cattle trails and biomes of the west, paintings and photos from the era, cattle trade economics, changing roles of women, influences of technology, and recognition of the mixed ethnic demographic of the original cowboys were all studied in preparation, and much of it was incorporated into the script adaptation.   Period folk songs and dances from America’s west and Northern Mexico were carefully researched with the help of the Hispanic Arts Initiative, who also helped design and build the vivid Mexican costumes. The students’ “Dancing Classrooms” study at the beginning of the year made it easier for Jan Adams to choreograph complex partner dances.   Shakespearean English was studied, its iambic pentameter, its clever names and insults and hidden rhymes. It was translated first into modern vernacular, and then into turn-of-the-century cowboy phraseology.  The original Shakespeare is preserved in heightened moments of emotion.   The timeless story elements, its clashing cultures, fear and intolerance of strangers, and the challenges of resolving differences and sustaining peace were recognized as immediate and current, even in a fifth-grade classroom.   ABS counselor Amanda Sullivan will teach reflective lesson after the show, in which students will consider how the ending of the story would have changed, if Romeo had called 9-1-1. What if he had used strategies for coping with depression or discouragement, such as seeking help from a grown-up or allowing time to pass before making a rash decision?   Heidi McIver, who directs the show, also choreographed stage combat, while teaching students that violence in theater is just the opposite of real violence: safety is the number one concern. You always let your opponent know when you’re coming. You position yourself to prevent an actual strike. The “victim” is always in control, only giving the appearance of a struggle. Students learn never to perform these moves out of class, especially not in front of younger children who might then try it themselves. In this way, we learn about the inner workings of the power of media.   Every student is in the show and, regardless of the size of the role, every student receives all of the...

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ABS Thursday Notes- February 14, 2019

Thursday Notes                             Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                           February 14, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com   Snow Make Up Day- February 18   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Elen sila lumenn’ omentielvo, a star shines on the hour of our meeting.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring   Here is short Valentine about the value of greeting our students as they walk in the door; a school-wide practice that stokes our hearts for the day. Ms. Hollis and I alternate weeks, greeting at the entry doors to the MLK building, and Ms. Raper greets daily at the 7th Street building. At our location, we see:   -The smiling little boy who bends forward, spreads his arms backward, and zooms to the entry like a happy bird. -The brothers who run to the door, stop for a quick hug, then continue. -The child who hid behind Dad’s legs for two years, but now stops to say hello and share a poem he wrote. – The excited announcement: “Today is my birthday!” – The proud children bearing their finished projects, built at home. – The crying child who misses Mom already but is comforted by a momentary snuggle, then bravely carries on. – The child who enters blearily, sleep-deprived. Perceiving this at the start allows us to inform teachers and scaffold support over the arc of the day. – The shiny-eyed child who announces, “My baby sister was born last night!” – Many kids whose paths trace the curving pebble mosaic serpent at the entry. – The child who appears downcast but is revived by a call to a parent to bring in a forgotten lunch, costume piece, or T-shirt for a field trip. – The parents who greet us with a smile and a “Good Morning!” – The many children who stop before walking through the door and burst out with “GUESS WHAT?!!!” That’s always good news.   GUESS WHAT?!!! We love our school.     NO AFTER-SCHOOL CLUBS OR ENSEMBLES FEBRUARY 25-MARCH 1 Ensembles teachers will be off-campus for the 5th Grade production of Romeo & Juliet on the Border during the week of February 25. Thank you for arranging now to pick up your student at 2:45! (If you have a 5th Grader, see the next item!   LATE PICK-UP FOR 5TH GRADE on Monday, Feb. 25 AND Tuesday, Feb. 26 5th graders will be rehearsing at the First Presbyterian theater until 3:30 on February 25 and 26. Please pick up your 5th grader at the dismissal tents between 3:30-3:45 on those days.   ABS Summer Camps! ABS is excited to offer Summer Camps this June and July! Join ABS staff on adventures that explore science, arts, movement,...

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