ABS Thursday Notes- November 16, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community             November 16, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     November 17- Early Dismissal                         K-4 Dismiss at 11:45                         5-8 Dismiss at 12 noon Nov 20-24 No School Thanksgiving Break   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein   Einstein was, in fact, a musician. One need not take on the rewarding life of a professional musician in order to gain the benefits of the art. Einstein’s regular violin practice fed that famous brain. Learning to read music is a complicated puzzle. Each note represents not only pitch but also rhythmic value. For a new student to interpret both of these values at once, let alone translate it through an unfamiliar instrument, is challenging. This process has been proven, over and over, to benefit students’ brain development. Studies prove that learning to play a musical instrument helps develop neural pathways in the brain. The ABS music team, Ashleigh Cooper, Chloe Micka, and Peter Wilbur, are fully aware that their challenge is unique. Mr. Wilbur gets K-4 kids learning to love music, introduces them to the basics. At 4th grade, he leans heavily into rudimentary note reading, working with recorders and pianos to provide the upper level teachers with musicians who are starting with a working understanding of the complex task of reading music. In ABS 5th and 6th grades, ALL students take band. Most bands are electives. Our music teachers have no colleagues who can share ideas for instruction and management of required band. Teaching twenty children at once how to play five or more instruments is not like anything else. Each instrument requires a different assembly, hand position, fingering, posture, application of breath, and mouth position, but they must somehow sound together as one. Each child with a broken reed or stuck mouthpiece requires immediate and individual attention. It’s not like teaching writing. They’re loud! You can’t circle the room and peacefully speak with each student as others continue working. They can’t practice during study hall, as they can study math. Their mistakes are public, and corrections are necessarily made in that same forum. And then, unlike other subjects, you must somehow unify all of these beginners to play together, with relative accuracy. It is not a job for the faint of heart. Even beginning band teachers who work with elected band are often referred to by parents as “saintly.” Ms. Hayes and Ms. Cooper, our band saints, love our philosophy in spite of its challenges. They...

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ABS Thursday Notes- November 9, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                          November 9, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     Veteran’s Day-No School Friday, November 10   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen.” – by Thèophile Gautier   Last week, I stopped in to speak with 3rd grade teachers about a possible gardening project. When I reached Ms. Campbell’s room, she pulled me in to show me something, and to share a story. Displayed on one wall, at kid-level, were about twenty postcard-sized art images. Some were well-known paintings. Some were souvenirs of trips she had taken; a carved and painted mask, a lesser known water color artist, a charcoal drawing. She explained that she had invited her students to choose one of these, and to replicate or respond to it, to scale, on a standard 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. They had their choice of various media, and they could execute their copy however they wished. Their version might be a sketch that represented only certain gestures, or it might be an attempt at an exact replica. The main requirement would be to observe the piece deeply. The children’s responsive artworks were posted on the adjoining wall, where it was easy to compare each with the other. One girl chose to use colored pencils to draw the same dense forest landscape she chose. Although her child’s hand expresses its own eye and heart, you can easily tell which work of art was her partner. It’s clear that she became close friends with that painting. The following week, Ms. Campbell’s class visited the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at Reynolda House. They were all enjoying their tour, when suddenly Ms. Campbell heard a gasp. She turned, to see the girl staring and pointing at a permanent collection painting by Worthington Whittredge; one that was not part of the special exhibit. “THAT’S MY PAINTING!” she cried. Her fellow students gathered closer to the artwork with her, and all agreed. Yes, that was her painting. The girl stood entranced for a moment, then looked up at Ms. Campbell, open-mouthed, eyes shining, and asked “Is that the real one!??” Ms. Campbell assured her that it was. It was the real one. When you have discovered a work of art from the inside out, so that you recognize it as a part of you, isn’t it yours forever?   Ms. Quintal’s Class On the News Welcome home and thank you to ElleMari’s dad, Staff Sergeant Jocolby Harrell. He’s been stationed in Jordan on deployment for the last year and surprised her at school! His surprise homecoming was shared on...

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ABS Thursday Notes- November 2, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                November 2, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why Mary Siebert   “It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer.” – Shannon LeFleur   When I need a lift, I watch one. I can get that elevation by watching 8th Graders rehearse their dances for “The Lion King,” repeating lifts and steps again and again. Dance rehearsals are visible to other students as they stride past on their way to the restroom, through the windowed garage doors of the dance/drama studio. The positive example set by 8th grade boy-girl couples, fully focused and rehearsing gracefully in respectful cooperation cannot be over-stated. The choreographer, visiting artist Thao Nguyen, is a graduate of UNCSA. He dances, sings, acts, and choreographs around the area and teaches dance at the Enrichment Center. When I offered Thao this contract I pointed out that, unlike a typical dance studio, our students are not all dancers who have paid for classes. They are public school kids of diverse backgrounds who, while they have performed together for years, do not all identify as dancers. He would need to choreograph according to the strengths of our individuals. He would not be choreographing a show, but choreographing children. Thao listened, then cheerfully and firmly replied that his positive energy would pull them all in. Truer words were never spoken. Jan Adams, the K-4 dance teacher, prepared these students well for success. They are comfortable enough to work together with a new choreographer, risking error in front of their middle school peers. Years of movement, drama games, ballroom dancing, and acting together have given them confidence and fluency. Thao reports that he loves our students’ positive spirit. He says they are not afraid to try. To make a grade-level-wide show possible, other staff must be dedicated, flexible, and enthusiastic. They flow with schedule changes designed to maintain an unchanged amount of time for math and science classes, while grouping appropriate characters together for rehearsal. Like parents who engineer possibilities for their children, ABS’ staff work together to make it possible for our students to work on a group project, stepping back to allow the children themselves to receive the accolades. Drama teacher/director Nick Zayas is logs many hours of organization, planning and rehearsal, including late nights at the Hanes Brands Theatre, where he will assist with tech, load in, and strike. Meanwhile, back at dance class, Thao is coaching: “Enjoy that moment! Doesn’t that look pretty? Yeah it does, trust me. You’re like blades of grass, yes? Do it one more...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 26, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community             October 26, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     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...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 19, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                   October 19, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the history books, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders have arisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing.” – Moliére In a 5th grade Dancing Classrooms lesson, the instructor coaches couples through the tango for the first time, with drama teacher, Nick Zayas, assisting. “Great scorpion shape with those arms!” the teacher calls out. “Demonstrate for us how you did that! Can you see these arms? No broken scorpion arms, only strong, powerful ones!” …this kind of language, humorously appealing to the varied interests of kids while encouraging excellence, is typical of this beautifully crafted curriculum. Individuals rotate, trading partners seamlessly as the dance repeats. (Read that last sentence again…we are talking about ten and eleven-year-olds here!) As always, it’s surprising which of the students seem to float on air, excelling in this particular art form. Some who hesitate to dive into other subjects will surprisingly display intense focus in ballroom dance, asking pertinent questions and executing complex combinations with graceful ease and apparent delight.   Dancing Classrooms is a program of twenty lessons taught at the 5th grade level at ABS, by visiting artist Ann Guill and her assistants. It’s well underway, now. ABS piloted the program with Ms. Guill six years ago. The Dancing Classrooms mission: “To build social awareness, confidence and self-esteem in children through the practice of social dance. Through standards-based, in-school residencies, we use the vocabulary of ballroom dance to cultivate the positive feelings that are inherent in every child. The maturity necessary to dance together fosters respect, teamwork, confidence and a sense of joy and accomplishment, which we hope to bring to every child. Ballroom dance is the medium we use to nurture these qualities.”   Students learn the fox trot, waltz, swing, tango, merengue, and other dances while also learning how to treat one another with respect and social grace. This is a perfect match for us, particularly because Ann and her assistants are teaching the child, not the subject. They are all expert ballroom dancers, but the priority is the social progress of the individual child. It’s challenging at first to 5thgraders, because of the “cootie” factor, but that passes quickly by. They have been dancing with partners since Kindergarten, so it’s not an enormous leap, and our students are accustomed to public performance. This makes them ideal exhibition dancers, and there is an “informance” for parents at the end of the program. They draw...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 12, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                          October 12, 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   The week of October 23rd, Fourth Graders present an art opening at the Ewing Theater at ABS, the result of an extended study with resident artist Diana Greene. [Note date adjustments, below!] Ms. Greene is a published writer and professional photographer and film maker. Whose personal commentaries were heard for years on WFDD’s “Voices and Viewpoints.” Her Literacy Through Photography residency, also known as “My Inside-Outside Self,” has become a favorite tradition for ABS 4th graders. Ms. Green began her 13thconsecutive 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.”   Students are also simultaneously 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. Performances will be at noon, as follows: DeJarnette on Tuesday, October 24th.  Meeks on Wednesday, October 25th and Robertson on Thursday, October 26th, all in the new Ewing Theater at ABS.   MAP results sent home Third through Eighth grade students will receive MAP results in their Thursday Packets today.  Please take some time to review these results.   Overall results show that ABS students in each of those grades achieve higher...

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