ABS Thursday Notes- September 21, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                        September 21, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why Mary Siebert   “It is difficult to know oneself, but it isn’t easy to paint oneself either.”- Vincent van Gogh   Diana Greene’s Residency with 4th Grade On Wednesday, October 25th at noon, Fourth Graders present an art opening at the ABS Ewing Blackbox Theater, the result of an extended study with resident artist Diana Greene. Ms. Greene is a published writer and professional photographer and film maker. You may be familiar with her personal commentaries, which were often heard on WFDD’s “Voices and Viewpoints.” TheLiteracy Through Photography residency, also known as “My Inside-Outside Self,” has become a favorite tradition for ABS 4th graders. Ms. Green began her 13th consecutive year with our students last week. Here is her description of the program:   “Excellent writing and sharp photography are linked by the primacy of strong images.  By combining these two art forms, students draw profound connections about the power of detail, the essence of composition, and the need to plan before execution and revise for perfection.  Literacy Through Photography teaches students the centrality of their personal vision and shows them how to translate that vision onto the page. Each student will compose self-portraits, setting up shots with a partner, using a digital camera. The self-portrait is then shot and printed in black and white.  Students will then write a narrative to accompany their self-portraits.  Text and portraits will be mounted and displayed. An opening reception will be held, celebrating the work, the young artists, and the power of art in education.”   During this time, students are also creating vivid self-portraits in art class with Ms. Messick. These three dramatic self-portraits in photography, drawing, and writing (considered precious keepsakes by ABS parents,) are displayed side by side, and we celebrate with a reading and screen projection of the portraits by each child in the theater. Through this process, each child investigates and details the exquisite individuality of each young personality and each face, each unique point of view. When we honor both the child and the child’s self-expression through this formal reception, we make a powerful and memorable statement of support to each student: we honor your work, and we love and celebrate you.   Flu Season As you know, flu can be easily spread from person to person.  We are asking for your help in reducing the spread of flu at ABS.  The symptoms for the seasonal flu and H1N1 are the same: fever of 100 degrees or more, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, and feeling very tired. ...

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ABS Thursday Notes- September 14, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                  September 14, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “The play’s the thing.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II Scene II   The Arts Based School’s theater department is unique in its very existence. When schools cut programs due to funding scarcity, drama (along with dance) is the first to be cut, provided it existed in the first place. We value drama as a discreet art form, which also provides students with skills that allow them to easily participate in integrated lessons during academic instruction, which might incorporate drama skills. Bob Moyer (“Mr. Bob”) has been a resident artist at ABS since the school began. (See bios of Mr. Bob and the entire ABS drama team attached.) He has worked all over the world with children and teachers for decades, and studied with Viola Spolin, who is credited with groundbreaking ideas that transformed improvisational theater. Mr. Moyer has equal or greater experience and expertise in teaching acting to children than any expert in the field. Mr. Bob says that most people can’t act with any notable skill; but it’s the one art form that people think everyone can do, because the skill is transparent. Learning to act like you’re not acting is very challenging, and requires both practice and natural aptitude. Bob says that, at every other school he has visited, acting teachers try to get students to do what they can’t do. But at ABS, we discover what kids can do, give them an opportunity to do that, and then build on success. Our students don’t start out as “theater kids.” They are typical students with atypical opportunities. According to Mr. Bob, most ABS students who aspire for larger roles in our upper grade level performances would never have considered being in a show at all, without the K-4 training and culture of ABS. By the time they reach 8th grade, their collective theatrical power is breathtaking. In Kindergarten through 4th grade, we have developed techniques that rotate casting, even during a single performance, to make it possible for every child who wants to play a leading role to do so. We tailor the lines to the ability of the student, so they will experience success and feel confident. All students participate in the ensemble and are taught basic techniques: posture, vocal projection, gesture and facial expression, stage direction, finding the light, avoid upstaging, etc. There are adult supports during the performance, from on-stage guidance to side-coaching and narrating. Some students become so interested in acting, dance, music, (… or soccer, or karate,) that they begin taking private lessons outside of...

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ABS Thursday Notes- September 7, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                  September 7, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “If you are human, you are biased.” – Howard Ross, Everyday Bias   Before students arrive at the start of each school year, the ABS staff meets for training. We review procedures for everything from ordering supplies to medical emergencies. We provide philosophical introductions for new teachers, and we examine our in-house culture, working to improve our communication and to awaken fresh creative energy. This year, Principal Hollis invited the staff into an important conversation about bias. She and Assistant Principal Raper had attended an inspirational presentation by Howard Ross, a diversity consultant who helps organizations identify and shrink workplace bias. That experience provided a platform for Ms. Hollis to invite us all to confront our individual internal biases. She began by stating that she is not an expert at leading this conversation, nor am I an expert at writing about it. But we agree that we must talk, respectfully and openly, about anything so critical to the well-being of our students and their families. We are listening, and we are talking together, with the hope and expectation that we will be schooled. According to Ross, “Bias is nothing new. It can show up in the way we perceive someone’s race, gender, age, disability, dress, accent, speech patterns, mannerisms and so on. For the most part, we tend to view bias as a result of people’s intention to hurt others. However, neurocognitive research confirms that bias may very well be as normal to humans as breathing. Studies have confirmed that people have biases about almost every dimension of human identity. Virtually everyone has them, and overwhelmingly they are unconscious.” Our mission to meet the needs of every child at ABS requires that we adults open our minds and learn about culture, upbringing, or life’s experiences that differ from our own. We might believe ourselves to be free of judgment regarding race, gender, age, disability, and so on, but our brains are not as deeply trained as we imagine them to be. We don’t have the answers. This is just the beginning of a safe and supportive conversation among our diverse community. We want to learn all we can, about how to respect one another, speak to one another, support one another. Over the years, we have tackled this in various ways. We required every staff member to attend a three-day “Dismantling Racism” workshop, with the Institute for Dismantling Racism. With students, we introduce the concept of “stereotypes” at Kindergarten, with the recognition that we all assume wolves are...

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ABS Thursday Notes- August 31, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                       August 31, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     No School-Monday, Sept. 4   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “What sitting will not solve, travel will resolve.” – Fa-Digi Sisòkò from The Epic of Son-Jara: A West African Tradition        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 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 original saga as told by a great Malian griot, (or jeli – the keeper of history through story, dance and music in African oral tradition,) Fa-Digi Sisòkò. It was full of humor, strange and wild imagery, adult content, 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 did not resemble the westernized picture books we had been using. The story was clearly one for adults. But many of the available African folk tales for children were “Americanized” and inauthentic, adapted by authors with no African heritage. A notable exception was Tololwa Mollel, a native Tanzanian children’s book author with a background in story-telling and children’s theater. I found and befriended him. 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 several years ago. He approved of and contributed to our process of adapting traditional stories for re-telling by our 2nd graders. Sitting is not the most effective way to discover African cultures; instead we get active. Our second graders are just beginning the process of making the move from listeners to story-tellers. Working with drama teacher Heidi McIver, who teams up with their classroom teachers, the students have been introduced to the basics of the African continent. They will soon begin developing a unique retelling of a story from...

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ABS Thursday Notes-August 24, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                       August 24, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing…both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.” – Stacy Horne, Time Magazine, 2013   Last spring, my teen daughter and I hulled the gallons of fragrant strawberries we’d picked together. She set herself up with headphones and a movie on her computer, to make the task fly by. I thought about the days of prepping fresh produce with my mom when we sang together in harmony. My immediate family sings non-stop, so I didn’t protest my daughter’s high-tech diversion this time; I was just happy to have the help. But I did feel a pang of nostalgia. Mom no longer knows who I am, but she remembers all of those songs. When we consider progress in terms of technology, most of us think immediately of computers, smart phones, GPS, social media, and the quicksilver innovations of the Age of Information. But for young students, we push much further back. They study technology that transformed stone and clay into shaped tools in the ancient world. Spinning, weaving, agriculture, telescopes, weaponry, the printing press, medical research, all of this is innovation and technology that transformed us. There is also the life-changing technology of radio. Before radio, Americans shared folk songs by gathering on the front porch with instruments, voices, and a heart full of songs and stories. Every story changed as it passed from one storyteller to the next. Every singer sang a distinctly unique version of each song. Well before current research proved the physiological and psychological benefits of singing together, folks were reaping those benefits. The delights of shared singing faded from our culture when radio brought us recordings by master performers. We thrilled to those sounds and quickly began to view the popular versions as the “only” versions. There is a bittersweet side to much of this progress. Just as we lost flavor, nutrition, and the joy of harvest when we moved away from locally grown foods to industrially produced groceries, we lost variety and health benefits when we stopped singing together and allowed the radio to sing for us. In the spirit of the front porch, ABS students sing together. We sing in the classroom. We sing in the music room. We sing in theatrical productions. We memorize facts by singing, and at K-4 we gather together once every month, raising our 300+ voices in unique ABS arrangements of songs that will last a lifetime. This tradition ofFirst-Friday Sing sometimes extends through 8th grade in...

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ABS Thursday Notes- August 17, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                           August 17, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     First Day of School –Wed, August 23rd   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Simply put: when aesthetic purpose precedes exposure and sales, art plays the upper hand.” – Bill Lasarow, ArtScene 7/26/2010   I re-run this little article every year, because it’s both important and fun to think about.   At ABS we assume that our students get plenty of exposure to popular music, television, movies, commercial art, and coloring books. (If not, it’s usually because their parents intentionally choose to omit these things from the environment.) We try to give our students more exposure to art that requires them to “put some skin in the game.” We don’t dislike entertainment, but we know we have a short time to introduce them to art. When introducing our new staff to this concept, we offer them a sample of a Hostess Twinky, and ask them to compare it with a bite of a handmade pastry from a local artisan bakery. The adjectives they use to describe the two foods are collected on the board, and the Twinky lines up perfectly with descriptions of “entertainment”, while the artisan masterpiece lines up under “art.” The artisan bite is uniformly considered to be satisfying. The Twinky was repugnant to some, but was delightful comfort food to others; it’s predictable taste, texture, and packaging bringing back happy childhood memories. (We hope to create more nutritious memories for your children to recall!) Enjoy the following suggestion of the differences between art and entertainment:   ART                                                                              Expects you to “chew” Provokes and challenges Changes us Operates on multiple levels Is open to a variety of interpretations Is nuanced and subtle Nourishes Puts value on inner depth Created for meaning     ENTERTAINMENT                                                         “Goes down easy” Stays in the “comfort zone” Amuses us Makes a single or a simple point Is more one-dimensional Is obvious Satisfies the “sweet tooth” Puts value on the external Created to sell. [- Quoted from Randal Swiggum – the American Choral Directors Association]   ABS Student Handbook The updated Parent/Student Handbook is now available on our website Parent/Student Handbook If you would prefer a printed paper copy, stop by the front desk.   Critical Volunteer Need As of right now, we have 57 of 72 shifts filled for pizza day helpers. There are 3 shifts available for every Friday we’re in school between now and the end of 2017. Here’s the link for parents to sign up…  https://www.helpcounterweb.com/ci/signup/12580dab530   As of right now, we have 19 of 540 shifts filled for morning traffic helpers....

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