ABS Thursday Notes- March 23, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                        March 23, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “(Young people) must be able to solve problems, communicate ideas and be sensitive to the world around them. Participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities.” – Clifford V. Smith, President of the General Electric Foundation.   Yesterday, we had a visit from the federal government. In a good way. Through our association with A+ Schools, we were selected, along with only three other schools in the nation, to participate in a series of interviews and video coverage for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or “The Nation’s Report Card,” which collects current data for the Department of Education. The NAEP supplies information for anyone in the U.S. who is interested in K-12 education. Although this is typically done through more traditional assessments, a film crew was dispatched to visit and interview us this year. Curriculum Coordinator Liz Green arranged a schedule for the film crew based on their request to see middle school students engaged in dance and drama in particular, and the arts in general. The film crew reported that they were “blown away” by our middle school. I sat in on two of the four classes they visited, and was pretty impressed, myself. The crew observed and filmed: African Drumming with 8th graders and visiting artist Bill Scheidt of Tam Tam Mandingue Drumming. A session in “Mr. Bill’s” drumming circle is calming and uplifting, while delivering cultural expansion and drumming’s proven benefits to reading and language skills. Communal cooperation, physical and aural attention to rhythmic complexity and detail, and collective release of positive energy are grounding and beneficial. By 8th grade, our students are impressive and confident drummers. Math and Science Dances with 6th grade and Ms. Adams. Students explored movement describing the individual properties of elements and molecular structure, including some dramatic lifts. They worked together in groups to create danced models of molecules. The film crew marveled that every student was engaged, actively problem-solving, and enjoying themselves, with no hint of reluctance. The crew was also surprised to learn that this was not a dance elective…it was an entire 6th grade class studying science through movement. Electronic Music and the Science of Sound Waves with visiting artist John Ray. John is a master of the double bass and electric guitar, and he manipulates sound with computer technology. He demonstrated some of his composition processes with 6th grade, since it is his music that will provide the sound track for the very science dances 6th graders worked...

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ABS Thursday Notes- March 16, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                      March 16, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     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 also related vocabulary. It’s a new language. Many a pre-algebra student who learns key words will find herself struggling to recall their meanings year later, 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’ve never polished those activities into performance quality, so parents rarely get a glimpse of them. This year, for the first time, the 6th grade will perform math and science concepts as part of their “Living Textbooks” production, with the expected 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’ 7thgrade teachers helped develop lists of vocabulary that, if deeply imbedded in kids’ understanding, would smooth the transition into 7th grade work. I observed 6th grade teachers Danielle Tarmey and Yvonne Leab, as they expertly introduced and assessed these words and ideas, hoping to fold their content, focus, and humor into script ideas. We are now exploring the “personalities” of the bossy coefficient, the ever-changeable variable, the lonely constant, and the conceited exponent. We are dancing the function of the exponent, and the response of atoms and molecules to thermal energy. Rehearsing these terms repeatedly, while embedding them into body memory and the musical mind, adding a sense of play to ideas that are sometimes dry, may transform a reluctant students’ feelings about memorization into delighted anticipation. Choreographer Thao Nyung is miraculously...

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ABS Thursday Notes – March 9, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                          March 9, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” – William Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet   To prepare for 5th grade’s complex production of Romeo & Juliet on the Border, students studied America’s Reconstruction via the western cattle drive era of the late 1800s, period folk and popular songs and dances from America’s west and Northern Mexico, 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. (By most accounts, the rugged escorts of cattle across the prairies in the late 1800s were 20% African American, 10% Hispanic, and the majority of Caucasion cowboys were recent immigrants.) Bob Moyer, founder of Shakespeare Lives! and former director of the UNCSA high school drama program, joined ABS teachers in introducing students to Shakespeare, the reconstructed Globe Theatre, and the timeless story elements of Romeo and Juliet.  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, taught a lesson in which students considered how the story would have changed, if Romeo had called 9-1-1, and 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. Director Heidi McIver introduced and choreographed complicated stage combat, while teaching students that violence in movies, TV and 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. Shakespearean English was studied, its iambic pentameter, its clever names and insults and hidden rhymes. We translated it first into our own vernacular, and then into turn-of-the-century cowboy phraseology.  The original Shakespeare is preserved in heightened moments of emotion.  The Hispanic Arts Initiative helped develop the project, assuring cultural accuracy of music, dance, and costumes. Students write...

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ABS Thursday Notes- March 2, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                March 2, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     Early Dismissal- Friday, March 3 No School-Monday, March 6   Dear Fellow ABS Families, On a Saturday morning in January, we rolled in wearing everything from business casual to ball caps and jeans…even some favorite red cowgirl boots made the cut!  Some of us are simply community volunteers with a passion for children’s education, some are former ABS parents, some are world renowned artists, others are college professors, bankers, lawyers, real estate brokers, & professional fundraisers.  But on that Saturday morning, we were djembe drummers.  When Mr. Bill told us to follow his lead on the djembe drums, we did.  Our faces flushed red with nerves, but we were all excited and there were a fortunate few who felt at ease with the rhythm.  Regardless if Mr. Bill’s invitation was met with anxiety or enthusiasm, for all of us, those drums became a release.  Over the next 15 minutes, the ABS Board of Directors drummed our hands red and it proved to be the smoothest of transitions into tackling our goal for the day – discussing ABS’ very bright future. Playing the drums, finding our rhythm – both literally and figuratively, prepared us for one of the most thought-provoking discussions yet.  Everyone should have this musical, mental preparation and at ABS, they do.  Because of our custom-made, arts-based curriculum – crafted by our faculty and staff – all 517 of our children receive this phenomenal gift.  This kind of experience is just one of many, many ways our children are preparing themselves for a full life of community, independence, respect, and compassion.  The experiences found and created at ABS are hard to define – it’s different for each family, each student.  It’s impossible to place a value on and, at the same time, difficult to believe that it all happens on a very limited budget.  As ABS families and friends, we are invited to experience the magic of ABS for ourselves as volunteers, but we’re also invited to contribute financially to ensure the experiences are consistently enriching each year. Hopefully, you’ve noticed our children are not asked to sell coupon books or wrapping paper. We’re not asked to sponsor our child in a booster-thon and we will never be asked to buy our own child’s artwork.  This is not an oversight; it’s intentional.  In turn, we ask our parent community, once a year, to make a donation to the Annual Giving Campaign.  We ask you to open your hearts and think...

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ABS Thursday Notes- February 23, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community February 23, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com       How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” – Thomas Jefferson   Matt Mayers has been a dedicated volunteer in Winston-Salem for the thirteen years that he has lived here. He and his wife Katherine were inspired by the late Lula Leake, associate vice president for academic affairs at Wake Forest University, who suggested that two people might attempt to live from the salary of one, freeing the other to do needed work for the community as a volunteer. Matt has volunteered full-time in this model, to the great benefit of our community. He is a philanthropist who makes his generous gifts in time, labor and intellect. He is the father of the popular “Cobblestone Farmers Market” in Old Salem, a weekly gathering place that draws countless shoppers, families, organic farmers, musicians, and artists together from every neighborhood across the region each Saturday of the growing season. Although he describes this development as “almost an accident” which stemmed from the expansion of the Triad Buying Co-op, that’s the kind of accident that only occurs through persistent, dedicated, hard work and creative vision. Eventually, he landed a grant that allowed him to hire a professional coordinator of the market, and stepped back to watch it thrive. He continues to connect sustainable practice farmers with consumers in our area as a volunteer for the Co-Op. We at ABS are also beneficiaries of the sustainable growing practices that Matt Mayers encourages. In the past year alone, Matt volunteered at least twenty hours weekly at The Arts Based School, where he impacts the lives of all our 520 students and our staff. This is Matt’s final of twelve years as a volunteer for the school, because the youngest of his children will graduate this spring. He has been a constant and reliable source of assistance and inspiration at ABS. When ABS first decided to transform our gravel surroundings into gardens, Matt was the first volunteer in line. He helped dig holes for the mature trees that grace the playground next to the MLK building, back when they were teeny saplings that he had somehow managed to procure at sharply discounted rates and transport here himself. It took about two hours to dig each of those holes; the gravel and hard-packed dirt were like reinforced concrete. The shade structure near the church playground? Matt built it. The lush, terraced gardens bursting with arugula, lettuce and spinach? The wood reinforced pathway steps between the two buildings? Matt’s work. The gardens at the...

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ABS Thursday Notes- February 9, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                             February 9, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com       How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   Next Tuesday’s lottery will fill 26 open spaces, placing over 400 students on our waiting list. The procedure for the lottery is dictated by the state, and we follow each step with care. We have no influence over who is accepted and who is not. State regulations dictate that we place siblings of ABS students, children of full-time ABS employees, and children of board members at the top of the list, but other than this, placement is by lottery. This is accomplished by assigning a number to each applicant, writing that number on an individual Bingo ball, and allowing the turning ball machine to randomly release one ball at a time. The process is continued through all applicants, until each of them is placed either in a class or on the waiting list. It’s exciting for us that our school is beloved and that so many families hope to join our community. It’s also painful that we have to turn many away. We hope that children who are not able to attend ABS will encounter schools invigorated by the current educational reforms which lean toward the National Education Association’s “Four Cs”: critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. The arts are a natural conduit for this “21st Century” learning, so our approach is rapidly gaining attention. One organization that helps share ideas and support teachers and administrators who are striving toward arts-based instruction is the A+ Schools program of the North Carolina Arts Council, of which we are a member. From their website, this statement describes the A+ focus: In A+ Schools, arts education is approached in three ways: through arts integration – bringing together arts and non-arts objectives to create hands-on, experiential, connected and meaningful learning experiences through pure arts education – developing understanding and comfort in the elements, principles, history, processes and works of  each art form through arts exposure – creating opportunities for students and staff to experience artistic works and performances in both their school and their community   We are proud to be a member of the A+ Schools network, which is now expanding from its Winston-Salem origins to become international, with new schools in Africa and Europe. We hope that all American schools will continue to integrate the arts into children’s learning.   Parent Council Meeting – Feb. 17-  Our next meeting is Friday, Feb. 17th at 8:15am in the Cafe of the MLK Building. Lindsay Deibler (lindsaydeibler@gmail.com) or Julee Nunley (julee@thenunleys.net)     Class Rep Meeting in February! Please join us on Friday, February 17th immediately following the Parent Council meeting for a brief Annual Giving training session.  We...

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