Thursday Notes – September 25th, 2014

How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” – Bert Lance (…and everyone’s Dad.)


I am sometimes asked why we perform the same shows every year: “Romeo & Juliet on the Border” at 5thgrade, “Peter and the Wolf” at Kindergarten, and so-forth. The question is a fair one, since most school productions change every year. One year it’s “The Music Man,” the next year it’s “Oliver.” However, these are theater productions, involving only students who audition, and are typically rehearsed after school. Our productions include the entire grade level, and they are not for “theater people” only. We call them Living Textbooks.

Each grade level at ABS has a Living Textbook production: a large-scale project that demands disciplined focused preparation for four to six weeks. These productions are not rented works written by others. They are, with rare exceptions, conceived and created at the school, with the input of students and faculty. They are inspired by examination of the grade-level state standards, which suggest a topic. The state guidelines can be seen to converge, if they are examined together rather than taught as isolated subjects. This is natural, since life itself occurs all at once. An accomplished artist, scientist or athlete isolates processes, studies or perfects them, and then re-synthesizes them. Richer understanding and precise execution then allow the individual to respond to real-world challenges, such as a performance.

When we prepare our productions, each teacher focuses on an isolated area, while making references to connecting material. For example, 3rd 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 while the art of Leonardo DaVinci, who helped create breakthroughs in those scientific fields, is introduced in art. They locate Italy on a world map and study Leonardo’s biography. They study Leonardo’s scientific precision in drawing the muscular and skeletal systems, and learn that he sometimes created dramatic spectacles for the Duke of Milan. Meanwhile, students sing the music of Monteverdi, the superstar Italian composer of the high Renaissance, with new lyrics detailing the functions of the muscular system. In drama class they study the ancient characters of Commedia dell’Arte, which were prevalent during Leonardo’s time but still appear throughout drama and literature and even in today’s cartoons.. In language arts, students assist with generating lines, by improvising a dramatic moment and capturing new ideas. They learn about observation and descriptive writing by recording these moments precisely, in writing. Together, they develop a play which incorporates all of the above.

No traditional textbook can hope to compare to this constellation of connections.  When we add costuming for sixty children (at some grade levels,) durable sets, and annual collaboration with other organizations and artists in our community, the production’s roots become deeply set. These Living Textbook performances are greatly anticipated by students, who attend dress rehearsals. Younger students recognize that their turn is coming to participate. Older kids look back fondly at their earlier experience (meanwhile, refreshing the associated knowledge.) We make adjustments when the state curriculum changes, or when we see room for improvement, but generally we would not change these Living Textbooks any more than we would decide not to teach geometry because we taught it last year.



Our next Parent Council Meeting will be held on Friday, October 10th at 8:15am in the Teacher Resource Room.  If you would like to suggest agenda topics, please submit them no later than next Thursday, October 2nd to Michelle Lawrence (



Mark your calendars for family fun at the ABS Fall Fest on Saturday, October 25th from noon-3pm at the 7th Street Building & Courtyard!  We’ll have games, music, food trucks and more!  Interested in volunteering?  Contact Tommy Priest (



Picture Day-Oct 3

Smile!  October 3 is Picture Day!  All students will be photographed to be included in the school’s yearbook.  Proofs will be sent home along with information if you would like to order.


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.
  • Children must be fever-free for 24 hrs before returning to school.
  • Get the flu vaccine for you and your children.


ABS Scholastic Book Fair

The Annual Scholastic Book Fair is coming Oct. 6-10 to ABS. Mark your calendars! The online fair opened yesterday and will run until Oct.14. Check out our school’s book fair homepage: The online book fair will have many more titles than we will be able to include at school, so make sure you check it out and share with grandparents and people that live out of town. See the attached letter for more information. Both fairs help the school earn money to buy books for our libraries and teachers!

Also, please consider donating to our gift certificate fund so that all of our students are able to purchase a book. Angela Wise in the front office will accept those donations.

There are still volunteer opportunities available. Please click on the link and sign up to help if you can! There are still several empty spots that need to be filled!

Happy Reading!!



School Skating Party

Come roll into a new year on Tuesday, September 30  at Skate Haven (120 Hood Drive, W-S, NC), from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. K-Kids is sponsoring this all-school event to raise money for the many charities they support. Bring $5.00 per person for entry and skate rental.  All ABS families are welcome!


K-Kids News

The K-Kids are raising money to help with ebola relief in Guinea in honor of the great djembe player Mamady Keita. Mamady is the teacher of our drum instructor Bill Scheidt. Our club has already pledged $250. Go to this web site to learn more and to donate to this urgent cause.


Activity Fee Overdue

Each family is required to pay $30.00 per year per child to help cover the costs of our extensive curriculum enhancement activities, including field trips and art trips.  Checks should be made out to The Arts Based School and turned into the front office. Also payable online at


Around Town… 

Launch party for This Miraculous Turning by Joe Mills (husband of Mrs. Tarmey and father of Noelle and Benjamin) Thursday, October 2, at 7 pm at the Artworks Gallery on Trade Street.


You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown: Oct. 10 – 26

ABS teachers Nick Zayas (5th-8th drama) and Becky Koza (4th grade) will be playing the roles of Lucy and Schroeder in the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Broadway’s Best Theatre Company in Mocksville. Call 336-575-4446 or visit for details and reservations.