ABS Thursday Notes- November 14, 2019

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                          Nov 14, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com  November 22- Early Dismissal                      K-4 Dismiss at 11:45                      5-8 Dismiss at 12 noon Nov 25-29 No School Thanksgiving Break   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “The golden way is to be friends with the community and to regard the whole human family as one.” – Mahatma Gandhi   The visiting and resident artists at ABS are an important part of our learning, and quickly become part of the family. Beyond these personal relationships, we have developed partnerships with local organizations who contribute to our experience of the community as an extension of the classroom. Here are just a few examples:   SECCA (The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.) With ever-changing exhibits of local and national artists, SECCA is uncommonly welcoming to students. On-site lessons, performances, attendance at exhibits, staff meetings off site, meetings with artists, and even exhibitions of our students’ work are all part of our relationship with this generous organization.   UNCSA (The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.) We have partnered with each department at UNCSA and are inspired every year by their dynamic students and faculty, who generously lift us up with their energy and expertise. Dancers, musicians, film makers, visual artists, actors, general studies students, and professors from all these departments have learned and created together with us. The possibilities are endless.   The Hispanic Arts Initiative. This organization brought us musicians, dancers, lecturers, and artists. They advised us in authentic dance and costume design, built costumes for us, found us a Mariachi band, suggested curricular materials, and participated in our fundraiser. Although they recently disbanded, their impact on us is a lasting one.   Reynolda House. We have never had a year when some of our students didn’t tour this local treasure. We often design our own tour, based on current studies at each grade level, and the staff has supported our creative ideas, even crafting activities to support them. We walk their wooded trails, picnic on the lawn, stroll through the gardens, visit the grand home interior and listen to their pipe organ, attend special exhibits, and focus on permanent collection pieces that fit into specific studies.   The Winston-Salem Symphony. We attend youth concerts at the symphony whenever they correspond with our schedule, and now we participate in their new Carnegie Hall “Link Up” connection. The conductors have visited, symphony players have performed and worked with our students, and the Bolton Wind Quintet, which originated at...

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ABS Thursday Notes- November 7, 2019

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                          Nov 7, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com    Veteran’s Day-No School Monday, November 11   How We Do It and Why Mary Siebert      “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” – Halford E. Luccock   Courtney Hedgecock, an ABS 6th grade teacher, is working on her master’s degree. For a text set based on the theme: “What does it really mean to be a friend?” she had already found plenty of text. She asked for suggestions of well-known friendships in the arts.   She was delighted when I suggested the famous buddies Haydn and Mozart, because she had a soft spot for Haydn’s music. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) invented the string quartet. Mozart whipped off six string quartets in Haydn’s honor, tinkering masterfully with his pal’s invention. (My favorite of Mozart’s “Haydn Quartets” is the fourth one, nicknamed “The Hunt”. If this link doesn’t work for you, you can search for: Mozart quartet K. 458) Ms. Hedgecock and I agreed that the instruments themselves, in a string quartet, function as friends do. They are all different, and each plays its unique part. Together, they are something new, with life of its own.   The “magic” of our school culture was Principal Hollis’ topic at a recent staff meeting. It’s a quality often remarked upon by visiting schools and artists, and something we want to nourish and sustain. Ms. Hollis asked the teachers to share what builds and sustains this positive school culture. She began by reading a series of responses to a survey ABS teachers completed last year, sharing what they love about teaching here. There were answers about children and teaching of course, but there were also abundant comments about the pleasure of working with one another. Collaborating with and sharing experiences with a creative, skilled staff is rewarding. There is a lot of mutual admiration and support among our staff; a lot of humor, and a strong sense of awareness and trust that everyone is fully committed, doing the best they can. Rich and lasting friendships spring from these interactions.   One of the challenges teachers in traditional schools often face is isolation from their colleagues. They close the door and teach, disconnected from fellow educators. Instead of collaborating to improve instruction, their limited contact sometimes becomes detrimental, not nourishing, tending toward gossip and complaint. The infrastructure of the school must expect, support, and provide time for collaboration, if collaboration is to occur in a positive way. It takes...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 31, 2019

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                          October 31, 2019 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 dancers, 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, teaches voice, and choreographs professionally around the area. When I first 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 danced 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. Director Jordan Brown and music director Amber Allen find small moments to work with individuals and groups and rehearse full cast scenes on the facsimile of the stage we painted in the outdoor courtyard last year. They re-group and reschedule every day. 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 time, because it’s so beautiful it wrenches my heart.” He cues the music and they do it again, every one...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 24, 2019

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                          October 24, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com    Life Gets Busy; Take a Moment to Celebrate ABS!   How many of us clearly remember getting the news that our children were selected through the lottery to attend ABS? Becoming an ABS family was not by chance or because of location – we all chose to apply for that lottery! Many of us made that choice specifically because we wanted something different in education. We wanted a different approach to learning that would give our kids new experiences and broader, richer opportunities than they might have received elsewhere. We wanted our children to be in a place that fostered a love of learning.   At ABS, the Annual Giving campaign is as original as the school we chose for our children. The written request for donations that we received in our Thursday Folders is another way we experience how ABS is different. We are asked for support with a single letter requesting a single donation to help keep our school running in its amazingly unique and different way from so many other schools. This is not a request to sell wrapping paper or candy or fruit (or even mattresses!) We do not have to keep up with an order form, beg family and friends to order, and deliver merchandise. We do not have to pay for candy that is eaten rather than sold. We do not have to wonder why only 60% of the money raised actually gets to our children.    At ABS, we can make a single donation of any amount knowing that 100% of it will be used to continue making ABS the amazing school we knew it was on lottery day.    As parents, we often must juggle our jobs, school and volunteer commitments, family obligations, our kids’ sports and hobbies, LIFE… it can be easy for a request for giving to get lost in the fray, or to feel like one more task or obligation to fulfill. We hope you will take a moment to remember why you chose ABS, and how simple it is to make a difference for our kids.   Thank you all for considering this opportunity to be different and to support our unique school!   Sincerely, Sam Pearce and Becky Dickson     Annual Giving! This is our final week of the Annual Giving Campaign, which will draw to a close on October 31. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has contributed to date; thank you sincerely! If you’ve...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 17, 2019

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                          October 17, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com    How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” – Plato     This week our new classroom faculty are attending a training seminar, where fresh ideas for effective arts integration will be shared, developed, and honed. ABS is beginning our sixteenth year as a member of “A+ Schools of North Carolina,” a signature program of the NC Arts Council, an agency of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.  A+ originated in Winston-Salem as an experimental project supported by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts.   The A+ organization defines itself as “a whole-school reform model that views the arts as fundamental to teaching and learning in all subjects. A+ Schools combine interdisciplinary teaching and daily arts instruction, offering children opportunities to develop creative, innovative ways of thinking, learning and showing what they know. In A+ Schools, teaching the state’s mandated curriculum involves a collaborative, many-disciplined approach, with the arts continuously woven into every aspect of a child’s learning.”   Our school developed independently and unaware of the A+ network, until we discovered their parallel values and goals, and joined them in the summer of our third year of operations. Now, we have built friendships and relationships that buoy and inspire us, and we benefit from our membership via staff development, visits from A+ Fellows, (our dance teacher Jan Adams is among them,) meetings, and on-line connections with like-minded educators. We also provide tours for schools who are considering joining the network, so they can see a model of arts integration. With Other A+ teachers, we sing and dance and draw and improvise. We examine state standards in other subjects such as math, science, language arts, and social studies, and we investigate new ways to help kids discover the connections between and among them all. A+ always alerts us to upcoming changes in curricular expectations from the state, and their team of energetic, creative experts make suggestions for arts connections that we can use as springboards to new goals.   To learn more about the A+ Schools organization, visit https://aplus-schools.ncdcr.gov/about   The 5th grade Dancing Classrooms Exhibitions Time Change: We must change times for our exhibitions. Please mark the following times in your calendar and join is in the Ewing Blackbox Theater in the MLK building of ABS. Each exhibition lasts about half an hour. –       Ms. Frazier’s class: 10:00 a.m. Tuesday,...

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ABS Thursday Notes- October 10, 2019

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                          October 10, 2019 www.artsbasedschool.com    How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can’t get to any other way. The next thing you know, you are flying among the stars.” – Faith Ringgold, from Tar Beach   I saw a post from a Facebook friend who mentioned “Bee Bucks;” a reward system at her children’s school. You earn Bee Bucks by being kind, empathetic, responsible…and then you can spend them on stuff like pencils and candy. I expressed dismay that the school (an “International Baccalaureate” program in the Northwest,) would use this monetized approach to teaching compassion. How well has that worked in our adult world? Where is the depth of learning about this critical set of skills?   First graders at ABS are engaged in a progressive exploration of self, family, and community, with experiential and literature-based lessons introducing the city of Winston-Salem as their own ever-changing and growing city. We teach NC state-required goals about change over time, geographic representations and terms, the interaction of humans with the environment and local community through this study. We also aim for the students to feel that this is their town. According to first grade teacher Kathie Fansler, one of the most powerful and challenging lessons that this study provides is perspective.   Students consider and discuss the Three Little Pigs as architects who chose diverse building materials. They ask themselves the following questions:   Q: What is an architect? Q: Why was the third pig the most successful architect? Q: How could the third pig have made her house even stronger? Q: What are the properties of good building materials? Q: Why did the third pig have to work so much harder to make her house?   Like the Three Little Pigs, our town’s architects thought about form, function and materials. First graders look at buildings in Winston-Salem, identifying and evaluating the materials our builders chose. They visit Old Salem and notice how the old buildings were constructed in the 18th century. They learn the names and identifying characteristics of the Winston-Salem skyline, in our modern downtown. They take a downtown walking tour and think about the building materials needed for a skyscraper compared to the materials needed in Old Salem.   There is a rich opportunity embedded in this study for encountering multi-layered versions of perspective. Students draw maps of the classroom, considering how the room looks from above, compared to ground...

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