Posts Tagged ‘Amy Cousins’

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Glorious Celebration!

December 18, 2018

Maine Excellence in Arts EducationLast Tuesday at the State House Complex the celebration for the Maine Excellence in Arts Education was held. The Maine Arts Commission (MAC) was proud to invite young artists and musicians from throughout the state and recognize them for their accomplishments. Over 250 attended the ceremony including 160 students from SeDoMoCha (Dover-Foxcroft) and Marshwood (Eliot) Middle Schools, 45 teachers and students from 9 Maine schools/districts. The chorus students had never met each other yet they came together and sang America, the Beautiful (arr.

Marshwood Middle School music educator Kris Bisson and SeDoMoCha School music educator Kaitlin Young share conducting America, the Beautiful

Ruth Elaine Schram) which started the afternoon program in the Hall of Flags. It was amazing and moved many in attendance to tears. The visual artists were recognized for their individual artwork by Julie Richard, the MAC Executive Director and Charles Stanhope, the MAC Chair.

Students from Marshwood, under the direction of music teacher Kristine Bisson, performed a piece called The River Sings its Song. The original lyrics and music were written by the students during a collaboration with Kris and Brian Evans-Jones. Brian is a teaching artist and a poet who did a residency during the 2017-18 school year. Students made the connection between an unused bridge in their community and their place in the world as young adolescents. During the performance students shared the story of the work which you can read below:

  • Rowan: Our school is comprised of students from Eliot and South Berwick, Maine as well as from Rollinsford, New Hampshire. There are nine rivers in these three communities, with some that flow into each other, much like our student body blending two independent states. We could easily connect to our rivers and bridges since most of us spend time near them in our towns. WE CAN RELATE.
  • Sylvia sharing part of the story

    Kelsey: We took a field trip to the bridge and river to discover the history this area has experienced. We were inspired by the natural beauty as we saw a great heron fly from its spot at the river’s edge. We wrote about the decaying bridge and the babbling river as the driving force that keeps going forward no matter what the season or changes might bring. This is how we feel about our own paths in life: nothing is impossible. WE HAVE PURPOSE.

  • Samantha: We learned about the native Americans, early settlers, and modern-day dwellers at this site. + We wrote a grant to work with a poet-artist-in-residence, Mr. Brian Evans-Jones, to help us dig deeply and gather thoughts into one complete lyric. + We learned how to create music that fit our thoughts and translate into comfortable melodies our voices could sing. + We trusted our fellow students to share our honest thoughts and ideas which led to a larger collaboration with our entire class; and later, the entire chorus of seventy-six students. WE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER.
  • Julia: Our composition has two sections: one slow and solemn section for the bridge: abandoned, destined to be removed; another section for the river: always moving, reaching forward, regardless of destination, an unpredictable path.  The bridge is presented at the beginning, for this is what you see from afar as you travel the road. But surrounding the bridge, always, is the river. The river holds hope: providing power still, for our town. It is cleansing. It is peaceful. It is free. WE CREATE OUR LEARNING.
  • Marshwood Middle School Music educator, Kris Bisson, conducting the chorus.

    Eva: BRIDGING ADOLESCENCE: A RIVER FLOWS THROUGH USIN 2007, THE GREAT WORKS RIVER BRIDGE IN SOUTH BERWICK, MAINE WAS CLOSED BY THE STATE DUE TO DETERIORATION. IT WAS TOO EXPENSIVE TO REPLACE.   ONCE A SCENIC DRIVE ON VINE STREET, IT NOW COULD NOT BE TRAVELLED BY CAR, BICYCLE, OR FOOT. WHEN OUR CHORUS TOOK A FIELD TRIP TO EXPLORE, WRITE, AND DISCOVER THIS BEAUTIFUL AREA, MANY OF OUR STUDENTS HAD NEVER BEEN HERE. 10 YEARS OF OVERGROWTH COVERED THE ROAD AND SURROUNDING AREA THAT HAD BEEN DORMANT. WHAT COULD WE DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

  • Sylvia: PEOPLE BUILD BRIDGES, BRIDGES BUILD COMMUNITIES, COMMUNITIES BUILD OPPORTUNITIES. MARSHWOOD MIDDLE SCHOOL CHORUS DECIDED THAT WE WOULD EMBRACE OUR COMMUNITY AS OUR CLASSROOM. The metaphor of ADOLESCENCE being a BRIDGE was an easy one to relate to because there is a path before us;  yet we cannot predict the journey. And travelling the path is something we all have to do… sometimes together… sometimes alone… or sometimes with help…The elements of nature, history, and a sense of belonging are important to the human spirit. AND THIS IS WHAT WE WROTE…. WE HAVE POWER.
  • Kendra: We learned that a new footbridge for bikes and pedestrians is being planned by a local neighborhood organization. We wanted to help with this effort and held a school-wide Talent Show. We donated our proceeds to the Bridge Brigade towards the one-million-dollar cost of this project. We even had a model of the footbridge on display in our school to help spread the word about the efforts being made to keep a bridge in this location. WE EDUCATE OTHERS AND MAKE AN IMPACT. 
  • Students sharing the story, Hall of Flags, State House

    Dani: Beyond the notes, our students learned about each other and themselves. This project helped us to become reflective writers. We respected everyone’s personal ideas and many times offered encouragement to each other. We experienced creating melodies and harmonies that were designed entirely by us. We recorded melodies and emailed them to Mrs. Bisson or went to the piano to play what was in our heads so we could share with the class. And we shaped them all into one cohesive work: “THE RIVER SINGS ITS SONG”. WE COLLABORATE, AND TOGETHER,WE GROW.

  • Sabrina: In November of 2018 the State Department of Transportation removed the existing bridge. NOW THERE IS A VOID. We experienced history. We saw a bridge in need of repair. We learned that it wasn’t going to be healed. We witnessed photos of its removal. We witnessed loss. We would like to include two reflections from our chorus members to share the impact this project has had on our own development: “As we have experienced composing, practicing, and reflecting, I have developed a strong emotional connection with this piece. It symbolizes the change of our town landmark, but also the change I now see in me.
  • Kendra: “The struggles of adolescence are travelled by all of us and therefore, all can relate to this piece. The river’s emotions are brought to life in this lilting piece full of sorrow and mystery. Hope intertwines and creates crescendos of joy. Let the river sing its song!”

The performance was video taped in its entirety and posted on the Marshwood Education Foundation (one of the projects’ funders) Facebook page and by Senator Shenna Bellows. I suggest that you take a few minutes and watch and listen!

SeDoMoCha Middle School Chorus

Students, under the direction of SeDoMoCha music teacher Kaitlin Young, performed Glorious. And, incredibly glorious it was! The song was based on the composition performed by Macklemore, featuring Skylar Grey. The additional lyrics and choral arrangement was created by the SeDoMoCha Middle School Chorus which was based on their developmental transition. The audience was moved by their words and obvious passion for singing.

Olivia Larson, grade 4, Hancock Grammar School. Art teacher: Jane Snider

Thirty-six students representing nine schools along with their art teachers were recognized for their artwork which is part of an exhibit in the State House Complex including the Governor’s reception area, the Health and Human Services committee meeting room, the Education and Cultural Affairs committee meeting room, and MAC. This is a “first” time exhibit – the student work hangs in the same location as their teachers. The schools and teachers included in the exhibit are listed below. All are teacher leaders with the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. Grade 4 student from Hancock Grammar School, Olivia Larson was so excited and proud she said: “This is the best day of my life”.

  • Gorham Middle School, Teacher: Amy Cousins
  • Hancock Grammar School, Teacher: Jane Snider
  • Jonesport Elementary and Jonesport Beals High School, Teacher: Lisa Marin
  • Marshwood Middle School, Eliot, Teacher: Melanie Crowe
  • Maranacook Middle School, Readfield, Teacher: Hope Lord
  • Oxford Hills High School, South Paris, Teacher: Cindi Kugell
  • Brewer High School, Teacher: Lori Spruce
  • Richmond Middle School and High School, Teacher: Jeffrey Orth
  • Waterville High School, Teacher: Suzanne Goulet

Amy Cousins, Gorham Middle School art teacher and two of her students receiving their certificates from Argy Nestor, left and Julie Richard, right

The pride was evident in the faces of students, teachers, family members, and legislators. The art is on display at the following locations until April 31, 2019:

  • Maine Arts Commission
  • Cross Office Building second floor North and South corridors
  • Education & Cultural Affairs Committee room 202
  • Health & Human Services Committee room 209
  • State House, Office of the Speaker of the House
  • State House, Governor’s Reception Area

If you’d like a map that includes the location of each piece email me and I’d be glad to email or snail one to you.

Below is a video created by the Maine Arts Commission Marketing & Communications Director Ryan Leighton. You can see photos of the artwork at THIS LINK and photos of the day at THIS LINKI hope you’ll visit the exhibit.

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Another Arts Teacher’s Story: Amy Cousins

May 20, 2014

This is the eighth blog post for 2014 and the third phase of the Maine Arts Assessment Initiative of this series sharing arts teachers’ stories. This series contains a set of questions to provide the opportunity for you to learn from and about others.

Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 10.24.31 PMAmy Cousins has been teaching in one form or another since she was 19 years old. She has been in public education, as an art teacher, for 17 years. Amy teaches Middle Level Art and Alternative Education (Integrated Arts and Outdoor Education) at Gorham Middle School. She teaches approximately 300 Art Students and 15 Alternative Education students.

What do you like best about being an arts educator?

I LOVE the creative part of lesson planning and figuring out how to engage all students. Teaching art is about observation. Who are my students? What do they respond to and what engages them to be creative problem solvers? It’s wonderful to watch students wrestle with ideas and concepts and come up with their own solutions.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

1.) Exploration – The freedom to explore.
2.) Ingenuity – To foster ingenuity.
3.) Challenge  – The ability to challenge in unique, individual ways.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Assessment is the key to validating what we do as art teachers. It helps students recognize their strengths and what they need to work on. A good assessment tool guides students through the process of making, analyzing and interpreting their  art work. As a teacher it helps me to craft lessons that meet the standards, but still embrace artistic license.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the arts assessment initiative?

The benefits have been plentiful but the biggest gift I have received from the MAAI is camaraderie. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet and be energized by individuals from all over the state! They have given me new ideas, helped problem solve the old ones  and have revitalized my desire to teach.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Not sure yet, ask me when I am 94!

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?

Time. There is never enough time to get it all done! We only get a brief glimpse of our students during the course of a year. In some cases as few as 35 hours. That doesn’t allow students enough time to fully explore all the endless avenues of art, nor does it allow for retention of concepts, techniques or processes from year to year. I consistently feel like I am taking 1 step forward and 4 backwards.

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

Think that’s another one you are going to have to ask when I am 94.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Remember your job is to not only to educate students but to engage them in manner that leaves them craving for more.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Right know I would do just about anything for about 20,000.00 to buy a classroom set of iPads. So I am going to take this opportunity to shamelessly advocate for my cause. Anybody want to make a donation????

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

I have made a gazzilion mistakes in my life and I don’t regret any of them.  Mistakes are how we learn. If you regret them, you haven’t learned anything.

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Workshop at MECA

March 23, 2014

Maine College of Art, Portland

EVite-AmyCousins_final

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