ABS Thursday Notes- January 11, 2018

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                January 11, 2018 www.artsbasedschool.com     No School- MLK Holiday Mon, January 15   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’ 7th grade 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 as they expertly introduced and assessed these words and ideas, hoping to fold their content, focus, and humor into script ideas. We explored 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 skilled at inspiring both effort and...

Read More

ABS Thursday Notes- January 4, 2018

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                               January 4, 2018 www.artsbasedschool.com   How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert   “Art is long, life is short.”  – Hippocrates   Ten years ago, I was invited to speak at a Rotary Club lunch, on the topic of The Arts Based School. I slung my guitar over my shoulder and headed out for something of a routine engagement. Little did I suspect that the school was about to make a treasured friend. The guitar was included because I often sing songs from our curriculum, combined with stories and images, to demonstrate arts integration. I faced a room of professional people, mostly men, who were taking an hour to connect with one another and consider how to support their community. I kept my presentation light-hearted, and found them ready to laugh. So, I pulled up my guitar and sang “The Pig Snot Song.” I wrote these lyrics when the teachers requested something that would encourage kids to memorize volume measurements: 4 cups=1 quart. 4 quarts=1 gallon. Pints, ounces, etc. The idea of pig snot was inspired by that old camp favorite; “Great big globs of greasy grimy gopher guts…” (note the alliteration there…) because kids love things that are gross. Captain Underpants, the Goosebumps series, the Monsterjuice series (especially Fear the Barfitron!) are all witness to the appeal of gross-out literature. Laughter is a great accompaniment to what might otherwise be very dry learning. So, I warned my audience to finish their last swallow before I sang. I explained that, when premiering this song for the children, I announced to the children that I had an uncle who owned a pig farm. (Fiction.) I said that he and some scientists had made this amazing discovery: A person can get all the nutrition they need for a whole day, by drinking just one cup of… pig snot! (HUGE EWWWWWWW from the children.) Then, I poured some gloppy green and brown goop (loose Jello,) from a pitcher into a glass measuring cup, measuring precisely one cup. (EWWWWW!) I exclaimed that it really wasn’t that bad. Poured a sample for Mr. Wilbur and some for myself, and we clinked glasses, and drank. (EVEN BIGGER EWWWWW!) And then we performed the song:   Here’s a cup of pig snot, wanna have a snort? If you swallow four of them, you will drink a quart. If you swallow four quarts, you will drink a lot. Cause four quarts is a gallon of delicious piggy snot!   There are additional verses, along the same lines. This inspired a rash of intensive memorization on the part of the kids, who love nothing more than a...

Read More

ABS Thursday Notes- December 14, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                           December 7, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     NC School Report Card North Carolina’s school report cards are an important resource for parents, educators, state leaders, researchers, and others, providing information about school- and district-level data in a number of areas. These include student performance and academic growth, school and student characteristics, and many other details. Report cards are provided for all North Carolina public schools, including charter and alternative schools. The School Report Card website has been completely redesigned for 2017. This interactive website, designed and hosted by SAS, includes printable versions of the North Carolina School Report Card snapshots. For researchers and others who want to dig into the data further, an analytical site is available here. The release of the 2016-17 School Report Card includes two new features. The first is information related to Career and Technical Education — what courses are offered and the number of industry-recognized credentials have been earned by students. The second new feature is a student readiness indicator, which shows the percentage of students entering a school’s lowest grade who were proficient in both reading and math at the end of the previous year. The student readiness indicator, along with information about the percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged, provide context to the test scores and other information that is provided. The new website allows for side-by-side school comparisons. Since schools are structured differently from one another in terms of size, grade levels, student populations served, and the programs offered, the Report Cards should not be used to rank schools. Parents and others should note that the information in the School Report Card, while important, cannot tell you the entire story about a school. Other important factors — the extra hours put in by teachers preparing for class and grading assignments, the school spirit felt by families, the involvement in sports, arts, or other extracurriculars — are crucial aspects of a school community, but are not reflected on the Report Card.     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.  Students with these symptoms will be sent home. You can help us by taking these simple steps: Teach children to wash their hands often. Teach your children not to share food or drink. Teach children to cough or sneeze into their elbows to avoid spreading germs. Keep sick children home. Get the flu vaccine for you...

Read More

ABS Thursday Notes- December 7, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                    December 7, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert “I am still learning.” – Michelangelo Third grade students study the Italian Renaissance as part of an exploration of innovation and its power to initiate change. They study the solar system and body systems through the art of Leonardo DaVinci, who helped create breakthroughs in those scientific fields. The artist and his work are introduced in both art and the classroom. Italy is located on a world map; Leonardo’s biography is explored. Students study Leonardo’s scientific precision in drawing the muscular and skeletal systems. They sing the music of Monteverdi, superstar composer of the late Renaissance, with new lyrics detailing the functions of the muscular system. Renaissance banners are created in art class, along with the Leonardo studies. In dance, they posture and traditional movements of Renaissance dance are studied for grand entrance, a short performance dance, and a celebratory romp, all to be performed at a “Renaissance Spectacle” next week. This year, we are presenting a new “Intermezzo” (also known as an “Intermedio.”) During the Italian Renaissance, exquisite, miniature presentations were developed to be performed between the acts of a play. These “Intermezzi” became more popular than the plays, themselves, and eventually gave birth to opera. Intermezzi were lavishly produced portrayals of Greek myths and other stories, in which performers posed progressive scenes in fluid tableaux. Leonardo DaVinci designed elaborate stage mechanisms for the Medici family’s Intermezzi, dazzling the wealthy at celebratory events. We have created an Intermezzo of the Greek myth “Jason and the Golden Fleece,” taking advantage of our new theater with beautiful new sets designed and painted by Elizabeth Gledhill, with additional set pieces and props by Ms. Christian. The story is narrated by a group of third graders, pre-recorded by sound engineer/composer Bill Stevens (also an ABS dad,) at Ovation Sound. All third-grade students observed filmed re-creations of Renaissance Intermezzi, and are working with Ms. Heidi on gesture and facial expression as isolated elements of acting. This is made possible by the ongoing, detailed cooperation of classroom and specialist teachers. No traditional textbook can hope to compare to this constellation of connections! The result is summed up for me by a comment a 3rd grade boy made last year. “Ms. Siebert,” he said, “I think this school is a Renaissance school.” I asked him why. “Because,” he answered, “we learn about things by using everything. Math, science, reading, and all of the arts.”   3rd Grade Performances of “Renaissance Spectacles” Next Week: All performances are 11:30 a.m., at...

Read More

ABS Thursday Notes- November 30, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                            November 30, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     How We Do It and Why By Mary Siebert “A Well-Tempered Mind demonstrates that by working together, we can make a difference in our children’s lives and replace cultural bankruptcy with a full pocket of good music.  Lord knows we need it.”—Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center “This book should persuade parents and administrators to give education in music its deserved high priority in the schools under their care.” —Walter J. Freeman, M.D., professor of Neuroscience and Molecular & Cellular Biology, UC Berkeley   Five adult musicians perch on teensy first grade chairs, gleaming instruments at their lips. A crisscross-legged group of first-graders gathers curiously on the carpet.  There is a nod, a collective deep breath, a glorious burst of music. Little eyes grow wide and round, little mouths drop open. Wiggles become statues, leaning forward. One little girl turns to stare at me, flushed with delight, as if to say “Can you believe this miracle?” then she quickly turns back. When the music stops, the children sit in bewildered, delighted silence for a moment. The classroom teacher begins the applause, children join in. The smiling musicians introduce themselves and their instruments, and ask the children for comparisons. “What is the same about these instruments? What is different? Which one plays the lowest?” (Demonstrations follow.) The children learn that small instruments play higher than large instruments, just as little dogs have high barks and big dogs have low barks. It is the first day of the “Music, Mind and Learning Quintet” in the 1st Grade. The Quintet has worked with ABS students every year, since we opened our doors in 2002. They will visit first grade classrooms eight times before winter break, linking their performances with the first grade academic curriculum. The work of this distinguished group of professional musicians is chronicled in A Well-Tempered Mind, a book (available on-line on Amazon and from the University of Chicago Press,) by Peter Perret. Maestro Perret is Conductor Emeritus of the Winston-Salem Symphony, former ABS band director, and one of the founders of our school. He was inspired to create the “Bolton Quintet” after reading of experiments in neuroscience which produced evidence that active listening to music helps develop cognitive abilities in children. With five instrumentalists from the W-S Symphony, he designed a cleverly crafted curriculum that links with reading, comprehension, story structure, science, and math. Mr. Perret worked with Dr. Frank Wood, professor of Neuropsychology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, to develop and test the Quintet program. ABS participated in the study,...

Read More

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...

Read More