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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ABS Thursday Notes- October 5, 2017

Thursday Notes                            Published for the Arts Based School Community                                                              October 5, 2017 www.artsbasedschool.com     No School-Monday, Oct 9   Children and Grief -Amanda Sullivan, School Counselor Recently, we have all watched as the world has reacted to the tragic events in Las Vegas.  And, close to home, we have experienced the unexpected loss of Liz Green’s baby daughter. Despite our best efforts to shield them from distressing news, our children absorb all that is around them, good and bad.  For that reason, it is best to be prepared on how to handle discussions about tragic events and grief with your children.   Though similar in reaction, there are some differences when talking to children about tragic world events and personal experiences of grief. Let’s start with tragic events and dramatic news stories.  Whenever a tragedy like the massacre in Las Vegas occurs, it is natural to be curious and want to learn as much as possible through the news and other public communications.  But remember: your children are listening, too, and processing things much differently than adults do.  It is important to limit your child’s access to television news, as the news tends to be more graphic than they can handle.  When discussing the event with your child, it is important to keep your information short and factual, without a lot of personal reaction.  Start by asking them what they have heard so far.  Then give a short and concrete answer to their questions.  For example, in regards to Las Vegas, you might say something like, “There was a tragic event in Las Vegas, a town very far from here, and a lot of people were hurt.  The police and medical professionals responded quickly and were able to get everything under control and help those who needed it.  The person responsible will not be able to hurt anyone again, and the people who were at the event all came together to help each other.”  Make sure to focus on as many reassuring facts as possible, like help from the police and medical professionals, and how everyone pulled together to support each other.  Avoid making political comments and avoid talking graphically about what happened, like the weapons used, and specifics about how people were hurt.  End on a reassuring note, that these events do not happen often, and there are much more positive events in the world every day than bad things like this.  Our media tends to focus on the negative for sensationalism, but it is important for kids to know that the good in our country far outweighs the bad.   Here are two good links that talk further about handling tragic events with your children: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Talking-To-Children-About-Tragedies-and-Other-News-Events.aspx...

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