Yesterday began and ended with student performances, reminding me that I once described myself as having a "houseful of performing seals." That probably sounds a little edgy, but I loved and still love seeing my children’s joy in expressing themselves through acting, singing, music and movement.
At Renowned Middle School, the 6th graders just finished an expedition about the Four Forces of Nature: Gravity, Heat, Wind and Water. What makes their learning expeditionary is the way in which all the subject teachers work together to open the subject holistically. Math, science, language arts and social studies, even music came together to create an outstanding presentation. In four groups based around the four forces, students created a movement and music presentation grounded in science, history and mythology. The Princess worked in the Gravity group. They focused on the Kobe earthquake and the Japanese story "Earthquake Fish." All the students learned about the socio-economic impact of natural disasters (including Hurricane Katrina and the 1994 Tsunami). Working with a modern dance teacher from the city’s public arts academy, each of the four groups created a movement piece developed from both the science facts and the connected myth, with the central figure (in The Princess’ group, the Earthquake Fish) portrayed in a giant mask manipulated by one of the young dancers. The dances were scored with music the kids created using the program Garage Band. The total effect was amazing! And, oh yes, most of them were dancing in fabric bags, as they portrayed elements being worked on by the forces of nature. Try to pick your child out in a scene such as that…
In connection with the expedition, students have engaged in a service project; here’s a quote from their webpage:
In our current expedition, The Forces Are with Us, we have been
studying the four forces of nature: wind, heat, water, and gravity. As
part of our expedition, we looked at what hurricane Katrina did to the
area around New Orleans. We wanted to do something to help, so we are
collecting art supplies for an after school that is set up in a FEMA
trailer park in New Orleans. The program services about 300 children
who are ages 7-14. They are seeking donations and we are trying to help
them. We are gathering supplies such as pencils, water colors, paint
brushes, scissors, and glue. Please bring any donations to room 212. Thank you for your support.
I am very proud of The Princess who is one of the team leaders for the service project.
Last evening, Snowman sat in on the concert for the school strings program, playing his clarinet on the Radetzky March and the second movement of Schubert’s Symphony #9 in C Major (The "Great" Symphony), which has lovely parts for various wind instruments. Most of the wind players invited to sit in were college students (who, as Snowman pointed out, got paid for their effort!), and he was pleased to be among them.
Ever since he was a little tike, Snowman has shown remarkable sangfroid on stage. In fact, he once fell asleep during a performance of "Peter Pan," in which he played Michael Darling. The Darling children are in bed. When Wendy came to "wake Michael," she found she had to wake Snowman. We must give him full credit, as he leapt up and went on with the play as if he had never been asleep.
Last night there was a long gap between the first piece he played and the second, and as the other music went on and on and on, he began to look more than meditative to me. In fact, during the Handel Organ Concerto, which did not include the winds, I began to worry. You’ll have to forgive me, I’m known for worrying, I can’t see all that well at a distance, and we were sitting in the balcony of a large concert hall. He just looked to me like a person whose eyes were closed. When the Schubert began, and the college girl clarinetist next to him held her horn at the ready, his was still down. Was this a style or timing choice? Or WAS HE ASLEEP?!?!!!
Fortunately, Snowman, as befits his name, is far superior to his mother at keeping his cool. His cue came, and he played beautifully.