Monday, December 2, 2013

Thankful for my community and for deep learning through the arts

The spirit for learning continues, long after the Pilgrims: Thankful for having a teacher like Ms. Ruhling, and for the tireless support we receive from our community
I recently volunteered to teach a class on the Pilgrims to my son's second grade class at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School, in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.  I didn't do the usual, reading a book about the Pilgrims. Instead, I showed the beautifully painted illustrations from an old story book called “The Pilgrims of Plimoth.” I asked students to perform a picture they liked in the books: men at sea fishing, women baking or milking a cow, a family sleeping in one room. They collaborated in 3 or 4 groups to work on skits from their chosen images. Then, they were asked to perform their carefully-rehearsed skits, and the audience had a chance to ask questions at the end of each performance. They got so into it, they wanted to keep going.  It showed their creative impromptu ability when given the opportunity. 
Andrea, who is also a Quincy School parent, was supporting my lesson.  She assisted me in mentoring the students on using the recycled shoe boxes that she contributed to the project. Students designed and made the Mayflower using shoe boxes, straws, colored paper, glue, and scissors. Some students chose to make the houses the Pilgrims had built and lived in when they arrived in New England.  They sketched people and other items related to what they performed, and discussed them during our open circle. We closed our circle by talking about what we did and encouraging them to share their thoughts on the project. They thanked us kindly, and with respect. Ms. Ruhling, their teacher, read “The Pilgrims of Plimoth” to them the next day.  The following week they went on a field trip to Plimoth Plantation. 
This is how we engage kids in learning. They have a creative, safe, healthy environment to express their voice freely, and share and collaborate with their peers. This is how we instill curiosity, and this is how they will become avid readers, be inspired to learn more, and be ready for the real world.  This is what an effective arts education should encourage. Creative learning through the arts can be a huge benefit, preventing loss of hope and failure to become great citizens.  But this only happens when we work together and collaborate on ensuring our kids are learning healthy habits of the mind. Our entire community—from parents and children to school administrators and elected officials—is critical for creating and supporting successful partnerships that create opportunities to engage and learn through the arts.  
Thank you,
Sara Mraish Demeter
Founder and Director 

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