ABS Thursday Notes- May 21, 2020

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                         May 21, 2020 Mon, May 25 No School Memorial Day   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Film is incredibly democratic and accessible, it’s probably the best option if you actually want to change the world, and not just re-decorate it.” – Banksy   The NC Standard Course of Study requires 6th graders to develop an understanding of “the emergence, expansion, and decline of civilizations and societies in the ancient world,” from the beginnings of human society through 1450.   This is a dramatically broad swath of time and events for 10-11-year-olds to digest in a few short months. The grand scope suggests the art of filmmaking. Through years of developing our 6th grade film project, we find that the prospect of performing in their own short films is a great motivator for kids’ research. In a 2016 “Nation’s Report Card” video featuring ABS, an 8th grader reported that this project inspired and transformed the way he approached research; an influence that has stuck with him.   After deep research on Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Mansa Musa, each class shared what they thought were the most critical details from their assigned leader’s story. They helped construct rhymes for lyrics that were set to upbeat musical theater classic songs, providing a Monty Python-esque sense of absurdity that inspires kid humor and silly anachronisms; desirable attributes for this project. They visited Ovation Sound to pre-record their soundtracks with Bill Stevens in a professional recording studio, then developed ideas for a shot list to make their movies.   Visiting artist Tyler Hickman, a freelance filmmaker, worked with Mr. Brown to film the three numbers, inspired by students’ storyboards and ideas for shots. Kids learned first-hand that movie making is grueling, fun, time-consuming, and requires a lot of “hurry up and wait.” On campus, we saw the Great Golden Hordes of Genghis Khan, outfitted in furs, helmets, and plastic weaponry, battling in the nooks and crannies of our campus. On another day, pilgrims accompanied the richest man in the history of the world, Mansa Musa, king of the Malian Empire, on his way to Mecca. They danced joyfully through the desert (you know, that place where the grass has been worn away by a little too much soccer?) scattering gold to the peasants and inadvertently crashing the economy of Egypt in the process. And Joan of Arc, surrounded by her soldiers and inspired by a vision, led the French to victory in the Battle of...

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ABS Thursday Notes- May 14, 2020

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                         May 14, 2020 How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.” – Igor Stravinsky   Each grade level at ABS takes on a large-scale project that demands disciplined, focused preparation for four to six weeks. These productions are typically conceived and created at the school. (One or two are rented works, interpreted uniquely.) The productions are flexible enough to be somewhat fluidly adapted to each class. They are initially inspired by examination of the grade-level state standards. Ideas can sometimes be seen to converge across disciplines, if they are examined together rather than only as isolated subjects. The state recommends this exploration of interrelated ideas as an effective way to teach.  For example, the NC State Standards detail five defined strands of ancient world history for 6th grade. Their guidance is: “The standards are organized around five strands and these strands should not be taught in isolation, but woven together in an integrated study that helps students better understand the ancient world.”   Weaving together subjects as disparate as science, social studies, math, and language arts into dance or theater is a rewarding way to create energized, richly integrated study. (For one thing, it’s fun, and fun is a great motivator for learning. Even Stravinsky, the fellow quoted above who composed The Rite of Spring, and whose personality was described as “peremptory” and “severe,” could be playful. He incorporated “Happy Birthday to You” into one of his pieces.) It’s not uncommon to use this practice in other fields. An accomplished artist, scientist or athlete isolates processes or ideas, studies or perfects them, and then re-synthesizes them. Richer understanding and more precise execution then allow the individual to respond to real-world challenges…such as a performance.   This year’s productions will be different, because we anticipate constraints. Fortunately for us, our teachers and specialists are accomplished creatives. We are accustomed to collaboration, and we have well-established practices and infrastructure that allows us to adapt to change with fresh ideas. Once we know what the federal, state, and local guidelines are for protecting our students, staff and families from the Coronavirus, we will reinvent this year’s productions accordingly. We’re preparing multiple possibilities now, so we’re able to head in any direction. No audience? No problem, we’ll adapt a video or live-stream version. Wearing masks? We’ll incorporate it. No touching? OK, we’ll dance differently. Quarantine...

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ABS Thursday Notes- May 7, 2020

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                         May 7, 2020 How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Joy is the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” – David Steindl-Rast    Mr. Denegar was the best piano teacher in Missoula. He was a formidable, wiry, middle-aged bachelor with thick glasses, an edgy voice, wretched breath and a large old white German Shepherd which slept under the piano bench and passed gas all through the lesson. Mr. Denegar was fond of cooking with things nobody in Montana ate in those days: garlic, mushrooms, turnips. Overall, it was a fragrant experience to attend a piano lesson.   He was demanding and precise, and although he was intimidating, he was genuinely dedicated to moving each student forward. When he moved away to Seattle, we, his students, breathed a sigh of blended relief and disappointment, and went our separate ways, with less trepidation and less momentum. As the years passed and I became a professional opera singer, I recognized how extraordinary Mr. Denegar’s teaching had been. My piano skills were life skills.   After years of searching for him, I finally tracked down a street address for Mr. Denegar, two years ago. It appeared that he might still be living, though in his 90s. My long letter of gratitude was fulfilling to write. I felt and acknowledged that he had opened a rich and beautiful world to me, which had transformed my life. I mailed it off as a message in a bottle, never expecting it to reach him. When I received his long, tightly scripted reply, I was surprised and delighted. He was not only alive and well, but still teaching! Still boasting about his young students’ accomplishments. And very glad to hear of me and my brothers, and our various adventures in music and other careers.   Almost everyone has a teacher to thank. It is a marvel how the gift of beautiful teaching, even for a short time, can continue to fill us with gratitude decades after the fact. Your own children will recall this time, when their parents and their teachers worked together to keep them growing. They are grateful for little details you might overlook in your busy day:  the gleam of morning light onto your kitchen table, which brings that comforting sense of home. The delight of having their dog nearby, all day. The great relief of stepping outside to see the rainbow, or take in a breath of spring air. The reassurance of seeing their teachers face on...

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ABS Thursday Notes- April 30, 2020

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                         April 30, 2020 First Friday Sing! Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Friday Sing! Join Mrs. B. and Mrs. Siebert ( and a few special guests) for a Friday Sing video. Finishing touches are still being applied now, so watch your email tomorrow for a Friday Sing Link, and share with your students whenever it works best for you.   School Closure Updates  Last week Governor Cooper announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.  We will continue with distance learning through the end of the 2019-20 school year.  We are working on a plan for staff and students to retrieve personal items and return school property such as library books and musical instruments.      The State Board of Education approved a Statewide Grading Policy for K-11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and extended school building closures late last week.  State leaders believe it is important that grading policies positively impact as many students as possible, validate the efforts of students and all those supporting remote learning, and address issues of equity and excellence.  It is the intention of the policy to ensure no students receive a failing grade and that students’ grades as of March 13 serve as a minimum or a hold harmless point.       Grades K-5 Grades K-5 students do not receive letter grades.  Teachers will provide year-end written feedback for students/families based on their learning this school year.  Academic and social/emotional feedback will be used to help transition students into the new school year.  Grades 6-8 Grades 6-8 students will receive a final course grade of PC19 (Pass) or WC19 (Withdraw). Teachers will provide year-end written feedback for students based on their learning this school year.  Academic and social/emotional feedback will be used to help transition students into the 2020-2021 school year.   WC19 does not mean the student failed the course and does not imply grade retention for middle school students. WC19 means there is a lack of evidence the student mastered the course standards.   Middle school students enrolled in high school courses (Math I or Math II) will follow grading options listed below: Students will receive course credit but, as in existing policy, the grade will not be counted in the GPA calculation.  Option 1:  Report the numeric grade, their highest grade representing either their learning as of March 13 or as improved through the semester as remote learning continued.  Students will receive course credit.  The numeric grade and...

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ABS Thursday Notes- April 23, 2020

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                         April 23, 2020   Flexible Fridays The Arts Based School has adjusted our weekly academic schedule following the WS/FC school system example.   The new schedule provides Friday as a Flexible Day for students with no new academic assignments.   For Fridays, teachers will encourage “leisure learning” such as taking walks in nature, playing board games, doing arts activities. This schedule change will not increase academic assignments Monday-Thursday.   Teachers will continue to be working on Friday, available to connect with students and support their learning.  We will begin this new schedule this week, April 24 will be the first Flexible Friday.   Graduation Preparations The ABS Middle School Specialists are crafting a commencement video for students this year, in case we are unable to gather in the traditional way. To do this, they need the help of 8th Grade students and their families. Watch for an email from Mr. Rambach or Ms. Hendrix with details.     Music Festival This Weekend The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County is offering a virtual music festival this weekend.  Under One Roof, a Benefit for North Carolina Artists [ncarts.us20.list-manage.com]. Is scheduled this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening from 8 to 9 p.m., to raise funds for NC artists, who have lost income due to the many cancelations of arts events.  It will be broadcast on Twitch and Facebook. Performances and special messages from: Anthony Hamilton, 9th Wonder, Fantasia, Ben Folds, The Hamiltones, Jim Lauderdale, Tift Merritt, Steep Canyon Rangers, Chatham County Line, Joe Troop of Che Apalache, Petey Pablo, and more.     A Note from our School Counselor- Amanda Sullivan Ah…week six of our stay-at-home school! I’m still missing all of the smiling faces at ABS, but I’m trying to take this opportunity away from campus to learn a bit more about myself and my family and the way that we interact with each other, particularly during a time when leaving the house is highly restricted.  Shelter-in-place has given all of us a chance to do some soul-searching.   One thing that is meaningful to me right now is learning more about how different personality types react in times like these, living in close quarters.  Being at home with several people on a seemingly unending loop takes a lot of patience, and distinct personality types respond in very different ways to being alone or being in groups.  I am currently sheltering at home with three other people and two dogs in a relatively small space.  As I type...

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ABS Thursday Notes- April 9, 2020

Thursday Notes                        Published for the Arts Based School Community                         April 9, 2020 www.artsbasedschool.com  Spring Break   April 10-April 17 No Distance Learning   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”   – Christopher Robin, from A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh   Even the most organized among us knows how to improvise. No matter how meticulously you plan it out, life is constant improvisation. If you construct a structured and predictable mirage for yourself, you can wake up in a hurry by bringing a baby into the picture. All of the books and videos and wise grandmas in the world could not have prepared you for your unique child. There are moments along the way when you may say to yourself “AHA! She is acting like a two-year-old!” But those fleeting landmarks can be just as confounding as they can be reassuring. Because eventually they don’t line up, and the truth is, we are all improvising. Sometimes more than others.   Experts in the theatrical art of improvisation will coach you to “listen, breathe, react, respond.” You always have to keep breathing. If you fail to breathe, your brain loses its quicksilver magic and can easily lock up. You might experience a moment of blankness. Or terror. So it’s important to listen to what is happening, or to carefully observe, and to keep breathing.   To follow the next steps, (react and respond,) the actor thinks:  “Yes, and…”     Let’s say you are improvising a scene with a partner, in front of an audience. Your partner picks up a stone and says “Oh look! An armadillo!” Now, if your response is “That’s a rock.” you’ve killed the story on the spot. But if you move in, wrinkle your brow at the rock and exclaim “Oh dear, it’s been injured!” then you and your partner can keep the story afloat. In your head, you have to say “YES!” to the armadillo, and move forward into the “and.” The “and” is your creation, built upon the restrictions presented to you by your partner, or perhaps by a virus. But first, you have to keep breathing and then say “Yes” in your head. “Yes, this is the new reality for now, and…”    The same is true for emergency caregivers. They expertly observe and listen. They keep breathing, stay focused. They make a decision, and they act on it. For these skills and commitments, we are deeply thankful.   The arts and sciences use...

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