Posts Tagged ‘Kate Smith’

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Kate’s Picks

September 29, 2020

Teaching in a Pandemic

Below is a blog post contributed by Kate Smith, Central School, South Berwick Music Teacher. Kate is the 2014 York County Teacher of the Year and is a leader in the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative. Kate has made an amazing list of some of her favorite children’s books with information and suggestions on how to use them in your classroom. THANK YOU Kate for providing not only books but your passion for teaching! The post starts out with this message from Kate…

Kate Smith with What If…

Hello colleagues! If I have learned anything these past six months, it is this: keep your friends close and your ARTS colleagues closer! I have learned so much from interacting with all of you through MALI events, Tuneful Talk webinars, DOE-hosted events, virtual book clubs, Facebook groups and, on the rare occasion, socially distanced gatherings. You inspire me, encourage me, support me, make me laugh, understand the frustration, and your authenticity and vulnerability in these unsettling times remind me I am not alone. THANK YOU. To attempt to pay it forward, I have offered to write a blog post for Argy (I owe her big time), and hopefully there will be something here that will benefit you in some way. Better, I hope you will comment with your own resources and we can make this an even more valuable blog post.

Favorite books Kate is using in her teaching…

WHAT IF by Samantha Berger and Illustrated by Mike Curato. This book came recommended to me by Kaitlin Young, a music teacher at SeDoMoCha and the 2018 Maine Teacher of the Year. It’s called “What If” and it is written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Mike Curato. This would be a great book for art, music, dance or theater teachers and their students.  I used this book to explain what we can and can’t do in the music room this year.  Little, Brown and Company do allow us to videotape ourselves reading the book but with restrictions which you can find on their website.

I’m Going on A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury. This is an oldie (1997) but goodie. It works just fine as a chant. Adding hand motions and body percussion can make this a crowd pleaser, add instruments and they’ll be begging for more. First we acted out the book as a chant and added motions for each obstacle. Then we talked about how to make appropriate sound for each challenge using a drum. Each child had their own drum. We rubbed, scraped, tapped and banged our way to the bear cave and back!

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport. Are you having your students make their own instruments? This book can be inspiring and eye opening. A true story, a quick google search and you’ll find some videos of the actual orchestra to share as well.

 

Mole Music by David McPhail. Another oldie but goodie. This one is great for discussing hopes and dreams with your students, music’s impact on our feelings and emotions (sometimes when we don’t even know it!), and that learning a new instrument takes time and a lot of practice. I once invited a violin player to play while I read. It was awesome. Especially the screechy part at the beginning. 😉

 

We Will Rock Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins, a Maine author with a fantastic sense of humor (if you haven’t read Mother Bruce, you must drive to the nearest bookstore right now.) This book addresses nerves when it comes to performing, in this case, the school talent show.

Because by Mo Willems and Amber Ren, published in 2019. This beautiful book speaks of persistence, hard work, inspiration, legacy, community and discovery. How did this book come to be? I will let Mo and Amber tell you at THIS LINK.  And here is THE LINK to Hilary Purrington’s symphony, The Cold, featured in this book!

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a wonderful book that celebrates the beauty, history and magic of names. Saying them correctly is important and it matters. CLICK HERE for a video of a read aloud and THIS LINK will help to pronounce the names in the book from the author!

I will be reading this book to the students soon, have you used it in your classroom? Some teachers have their students draw their name in an artistic way to show what their name means to them. How powerful!

Please consider sharing one of your ideas or work that you have underway with the Maine Arts Education Blog readers! Email me your ideas at meartsed@gmail.com

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Positive Outcomes

June 5, 2020

What are your thoughts and experiences?

I Invited past Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Leadership Team members to answer 4 questions – both personal and professional. Each day this week another set of answers is being posted. Today’s blog post includes answers to number 3. Please don’t hesitate to share your answers to the 4 questions. To the teachers who responded (so far. THANK YOU for your honesty and sharing your new reality. One word that came up for me as I read your responses was BRAVERY! I am grateful that you’re being brave for the learners across the state!

  1. Name one thing that has been an ‘ah-ha’ moment for you during ‘teaching away from school’? One success.
  2. What have you learned that you didn’t know before the school shut down?
  3. What are you doing to bring yourself joy/to take care of yourself?
  4. When this is all over – what do you imagine might be a positive that comes from the pandemic?

Kris Bisson says it best – YOU ALL ROCK!

The last three days blog posts have been filled with inspiration from the voices of Maine visual and performing arts educators. Today’s post is filled with HOPE. And, as we continue to deal with the biggest challenges of our lives I hope that you won’t forget the struggles that have the possibility of morphing into positives for our communities and the world. It will take all of us to continue working together and supporting one another. Thank you all for the amazing work you’re doing and for being such an inspiration to me and those who you touch in your worlds! Know that I’d love to hear your stories – please don’t hesitate to contact me at meartsed@gmail.com.

IMAGINE THE IMPACT 

  • That we will have made changes to focus on what really matters in our lives. This action will lead us to create teaching and learning environments that focus on relevance, action and compassion. ~ LINDSAY PINCHBECK
  • What scares me is that many educators, parents and administrators are saying “can’t wait to get back to normal”. All I can think about is the amazing things that we have learned to do in the past few months, how easy it is to collaborate, why push all that back into the “box” and “go back to normal”. CHARLIE JOHNSON
  • Normal wasn’t doing it for everyone. I like to think that we will be a much more compassionate group of educators, who, “Take time to smell the roses” with our students and not always operate at such a frenetic pace. I also think that snow days will never be the same again. We now know we can teach remotely on those wintry days! ~JENNI NULL
  • I hope with all my heart this will start a positive shift in education. I think teachers, empowered by the networking, shared experiences and tremendous PD opportunities, will demand change and in fact, be willing change agents. ~KATE SMITH
  • I hope families will continue to spend time together and walk together, slow down from the rush of life many of us were living in. I hope that all who are able will continue to work from home at least one day a week – this would cut the emissions by 20%.  ~SUE BARRE
  • My hope is that as a system we will have a better grasp of what students really need. I think many have seen first hand the joy that the arts bring while staying home with their families. I would love it if that carried over into schools and we begin to see more of a focus on social-emotional health and less on mandated testing. ~JEN ETTER
  • I hope there will be a greater appreciation for all the hard working first responders, grocery clerks, truck drivers and delivery workers. I hope that there will be greater respect and appreciation for teachers. Overall, I hope that the world views the arts as a cultural necessity to inspire, express, and support each other through stressful times. ~HOPE LORD
  • I really hope for a large scale “shaking of the etch -a-sketch” as I always say. We need to teach students how to learn, harness their natural curiosities and allow them to lead the way. Throw away our expectations of how and when things should be learned. I would also like to see a more cross curricular and holistic project based approach to learning. ~SHANNON WESTPHAL
  • I feel the obvious positive will be the appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis. The bigger positive I am hopeful for is a change in society on people being kinder to each other and the planet, seeing the positive effects of humans being out and about less. ~JEFFREY ORTH
  • Families will eat dinner together, take walks together, sing together (I’ve seen some fabulous family sing a longs!) My wish is that they remember it all when this is over and don’t stop those things that are so important! ~LINDA MCVETY
  • Hopefully families will remember what it’s like to be a family and rely less on the screen and more on each other. Times spent outside together will be recognized as sacred and hopefully families will keep going outside together after this is all over. That’s my fervent wish.
    Personally, the positive for me is all the exercise and a little bit of weight loss. I’ve also enjoyed making the teaching videos for my kids. Whenever I run into parents or kids on the trails, they always mention how much they enjoy the videos. ~ALLIE RIMKUNAS
  • Our 7th grade students do not currently have art. Due to COVID 19, our 6th grade Gifted and Talented ART students will be missing a new field trip to the high school for ‘firing’ day. Our district has approved our elementary trip to be moved to the fall and to include the students leaving us for the middle school next year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it inspired the school to create art field experiences for all 7th grade students? …recreate the 7th grade art classes as once existed? ~LYNDA LEONAS
  • When this is over I hope the clean, clear, fresh air so many, especially in cities, are experiencing right now will open their eyes to the beauty of it and have a positive impact on our environment and world for now on.  ~HOLLY LEIGHTON
  • I think one of the positives may be that we have a renewed appreciation for the community-building aspect of the arts. Right now it’s such a void that cannot be filled by technology. Yes, there are virtual ensembles that are beautiful, but they aren’t live. I’ve watched some phenomenal performances online, but for me, nothing matches the aesthetic power of being in the moment and sharing that moment with those around you.
    I think a positive outcome could be that we continue to make use of technological  resources we’ve discovered during this time of exclusively remote learning to change our thinking to how we can customize students’ experiences more. ~BILL BUZZA
  • There are many positives to this situation, but for me the biggest impact has been the ability to slow down without judgement.  I know this will be something I consider upon ‘reentry’ to my dance program. ~EMMA CAMPBELL
  • I hope we never have to use another snow day!  I hope there will be a better appreciation for teachers. ~JANE KIRTON
  • The increased connectivity and support between home and school, and between educators, has been the most apparent to me. It’s human nature to come together as communities during times of need. Even during these times where physical distancing is required, I have felt an increased sense of support and togetherness. This is a positive that’s come from COVID-19, and I hope it sticks around when we get “back to normal”. ~DORIE TRIPP
  • First of all, we have been “taught”, by being thrown into this situation, how to use a variety of resources that will help support our student’s learning. Whether through the use of online platforms, or simply the research of new ideas and possibilities, we have seen that many things are possible. I know I have learned a lot about different programs that I am excited about using in (and out of) the classroom. I think that this will also pave the way for utilizing “remote” learning in other situations as well such as snow days, or other interruptions to our daily schedules helping to support consistent development. It may also be an excellent resource for keeping students connected over extended breaks and bridge the gap of relapse we often see.While we have been separated, we have been able to connect with each other. In difficult times, people rise to the challenges. It brings communities together to fight and survive. It helps us to set aside differences to focus on what is most important. So, while I know this has been difficult, I think like many difficult situations in history, it will strengthen our communities.  ~ANTHONY LUFKIN
  • The one positive I can imagine is renewed appreciation for my real teaching experience, the one in the classroom, face to face, having those moments of greatness and inspiration and activity and noise and sass- from the students as well as me! ~DANETTE KERRIGAN
  • Many people will have adapted skills for distance learning and connecting with others anytime/anywhere. Distance learning is not only about using technology. It is about the human experience and reminding us of our desire for connectivity and the security that we are all in this together. ~LEAH OLSON
  • I have a saying that I have used with my students for a very long time…..”Yes you can, yes you will”.  After this is over I am hopeful they will know the truth in this and it will become. their mantra. ~DIANNE FENLASON
  • My fellow educators will be far more digitally savvy and will continue to utilize a blended learning approach since they now are beginning to understand the value of asynchronous learning. The Arts educators in my District have historically been excluded from targeted professional learning. Now we are actively developing courses and resources for them to continue their learning. The students will understand more about creation versus consumption. Their ability to explore resources and use their creativity with found objects in the Arts has already been exhibited. ~BARB VINAL
  • Professionally speaking I feel much better at technology. Personally I look at this time as a gift with my children. As a mom of teenagers I know they will be “leaving the nest” fairly soon and I truly cherish this time with them. ~ANDREA WOLLSTADT
  • A huge positive to carry over once this is done is the community that we have all done well to foster. Regardless of where we are geographically, people are willing to use any means of technology to help. That drive and ability to foster and support community is my hope of what carries into the after. It has been incredibly meaningful and heartfelt how we as a people honestly are striving to find the good in those around us.  ~IVA DAMON
  • I think we ALL – communities, parents, students, teachers – will all have a greater and deeper appreciation for school and all it entails. It’s been amazing to hear from everyone I talk to that EVERYONE misses it. We tend to spend a lot of time looking at the negative of our schools and jobs and not enough time just enjoying all that is wonderful about it all. I hope there is a lot we stop taking for granted. ~ROB WESTERBERG
  • My hope is that we do not lose the lessons we are learning about the interconnectedness of schools, teachers, and communities. I have reached out to the parents of my students in ways that weren’t really expected before we switched to remote learning. This will hopefully continue to be a priority once we figure out our ‘new normal’. ~LISA INGRAHAM
  • I think that teachers, families and students will be a little more appreciative of one another, and how much we need and rely on one another as we move forward. ~ CARMEL COLLINS
  • I’ve tried to provide very detailed lesson plans for students and families. Initially,  I still received LOTS of questions, “I don’t get its”, etc. That has lessened a bit. I think that sometimes we “overteach” and spoon-feed a lot of information. They are now forced to figure that out for themselves, and probably approach the assignments more creatively.  In any event,  those who are still engaged in their learning seem more resilient and creative. ~SUE BEAULIER
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Bringing Joy

June 4, 2020

What are your thoughts and experiences?

I Invited past Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Leadership Team members to answer 4 questions – both personal and professional. Each day this week another set of answers is being posted. Today’s blog post includes answers to number 3. Please don’t hesitate to share your answers to the 4 questions. To the teachers who responded (so far) – THANK YOU for your honesty and sharing your new reality. One word that came up for me as I read your responses was BRAVERY! I am grateful that you’re being brave for the learners across the state!

  1. Name one thing that has been an ‘ah-ha’ moment for you during ‘teaching away from school’? One success.
  2. What have you learned that you didn’t know before the school shut down?
  3. What are you doing to bring yourself joy/to take care of yourself?
  4. When this is all over – what do you imagine might be a positive that comes from the pandemic?

TAKING CARE

  • Drawing, painting, photographing with other people in mind, and writing hand written letters almost every day to my students and families. Walking in the woods with my dog, watching baby chicks grow and spending time in the garden. ~LINDSAY PINCHBECK
  • I get outside, I get up and move/exercise, I make art and I spend more time with my family. CHARLIE JOHNSON
  • I run everyday and have set workout routines. I am also in an excelerated graduate program for ESL certification, which requires extensive reading and writing. I am loving the courses and am super excited to be making this transition. ~CARMEL COLLINS
  • I’ve made art for myself, and cleaned the basement! ~SUE BEAULIER
  • Long walks, reading, listening to music, Zooming with my group of girlfriends every Tuesday night, and curling up at the day’s end with my furry friend. ~JENNI NULL
  • I read, run, walk, learn to identify bird calls, video conference with distant family, and reach out to friends I haven’t talked to in a long time. I’m learning to give myself grace. ~KATE SMITH
  • Walking – I walk every morning by myself and again mid-day with a family member or friend – I average 7-8 miles a day…it keeps me sane!  ~SUE BARRE
  • This took me a few weeks to figure out… I can’t be everything and do everything. It would be easy to work 16 hours a day in order to get better at remote teaching however that’s not fair to me or my family. The needs of family HAVE to come first— no matter what! In order to help with this I have made sure that when the school day “ends” (3:00) it REALLY ends and the screen goes off! ~JEN ETTER
  • During this stressful time, I am finding joy in some simple activities at home. I am baking bread, sewing masks, finishing some home improvement projects, preparing the garden for planting, playing cards and boardgames, reading, and going for walks. I look forward to kayaking and paddle boarding as the weather warms up. ~HOPE LORD
  • Running, taking my children to the ocean to explore and keeping tabs on the geese by our house who are nesting on some baby geese eggs.  ~SHANNON WESTPHALL
  • I have used this time to get back into the studio and create work. I am striving for at least an hour in the morning and then any other time I can carve out later in the day. ~JEFFREY ORTH
  • I’m taking more walks and getting my life organized. ~LINDA MCVETY
  • WALKING every day. Fortunately, a lovely set of trails just opened up last fall across the field from our house. I have walked the 2.5 miles of trails every single day since March 17th. They are wider than a car and I can walk with a sister or two and still stay distant. I’ve been photographing the frog and salamander eggs in the vernal pools to see what changes are happening. I’ve also been dedicated to drawing every day in a sketchbook. It is not bringing the joy I expected, but seems more like a chore. I’ve got to change how I do it to bring back the joy, but I don’t know what will help. ~ALLIE RIMKUNAS
  • I have been running, hiking or walking every day and that has been helpful to dispel the feeling of isolation. ~GLORIA HEWETT
  • Exercise generally gets removed from my weekly routine during the school year!  A K-6 art room is a fast moving place and my mind equates that daily rush with enough physical activity!  This time period has allowed me to re-set that thinking as I have been working without students in the physical space. Yoga online (Yoga with Adrienne) has allowed me to stretch without hurrying and tone muscles that get “short” attention during the 40 minute rushes within the art room day. One Saturday a month a group of family and friend artists gather for Art Club in my cellar. During this time, Virtual Art Club has been created for EVERY Saturday!  We check in twice a day through Zoom! Due to COVID19, I found that coworkers from other areas of education have been relying upon the arts to balance mindfulness; and, they have joined the art club! ~LYNDA LEONAS
  • I am doing the things I never seemed to have the time to do. I am painting and drawing with a passion, jumping into abstraction not caring about what others would say or how it comes out, painting for fun and as a form of therapy through these hard times. I have also been doing outdoor projects that I have been putting off for years which is my exercise. ~HOLLY LEIGHTON
  • I enjoy working outdoors in the garden, so my wife and I have spent much time in the yard trying to coax spring along. I have to constantly remind myself that my flowers and peas have their own timeline that I have to be patient for. I’m also working on getting caught up on reading Steve Berry novels. And I’ve started to challenge my physical flexibility by starting yoga. So far it’s been relaxing and worth many laughs.  ~BILL BUZZA
  • I love walking in the woods by my house, spending time with my daughter, and reading for fun! Being outside is for sure the biggest thing I do to improve my mindset. ~EMMA CAMPBELL
  • I have been working on our grounds (both camp and home) with my husband. Being outside as often as I can energizes me. ~JANE KIRTON
  • I am actually scheduling times, throughout the day, to take breaks. I create events in iCal to remind me to exercise, go outside, play with my son, etc. As silly as that sounds, I’ve found that it’s easy to sit down in front of my computer and get swept away by emails, zoom meetings, and other professional responsibilities. Scheduling these opportunities to step away has really helped my physical and mental health throughout this process. ~DORIE TRIPP
  • I live in a very rural area and enjoy being outdoors so I have spent much of my time taking in the fresh air. We are usually very busy people, during the week with busy schedules, and often out on adventures on the weekends. This “opportunity” has given us a lot of much needed home time, being together, working on “back burner” projects, and enjoying the space we call home. Researching ideas, creating “virtual” learning opportunities, and just experimenting with ideas has been inspiring. I have finally set up my “at home” studio, something I have been planning since I built my garage 4 years ago. I have had the time to create examples that are detailed, creating a bar of excellence for my capable students. In reality, I have been creating more art than I had been able to do working at school. I miss teaching in person very much, however this has been an opportunity for me to experience student processes and create art that is reinvigorating for me and more effective for students. ~ANTHONY LUFKIN
  • Honestly, I haven’t done the best at self-care because I have felt a need to respond immediately to every communication, training opportunity or video meeting immediately.  If Maine golf courses were open I would be caring for myself much better😉  I have been to our camp a few times to keep an eye on the water level and seeing the returning loons has been awesome. ~DIANNE FENLASON
  • I stick to a routine every day. I continue to dress for work (on the top!) including jewelry. I ride my stationary bike between meetings. I eat lunch with my educator husband as often as possible and I sit outside in the sun when I take a break. ~BARB VINAL
  • I have been doing a LOT of walking, taking a couple breaks each day to get outside. Of course also making art! Recently I tried rug hooking. It has been fun and I am working on making my first pillow. ~SAMANTHA ARMSTRONG
  • I love being outside. The school closure has allowed me to spend more time hiking, biking, nature walking, gardening, playing basketball with my kids, having epic bonfires, and some days simply sitting with the sun on my face. ~ANDREA WOLLSTADT
  • Self-care is so vital right now. I am doing a lot of walking and making sure to be outside as much as the Maine weather is allowing me to be. If you were in the neighborhood, it is now a routine to see me pushing my daughter in her stroller first thing in the morning and then again for her nap in the afternoon. Setting a routine and trying to hold myself accountable has helped. I am teaching online while also juggling my own two small children so those quiet walks have become my time to take a break from technology and enjoy the outdoors! ~IVA DAMON
  • Going for runs when the weather cooperates, zoom meetings with family and friends.~ROB WESTERBERG
  • I love my home. I am thankful to have a happy place in which to weather this storm. ~LISA INGRAHAM
  • I have worked hard to stay healthy, increased my exercise routines, started a garden, read a novel, realized that the time I can give myself makes the time I give to students that much more energized. ~DANETTE KERRIGAN
  • I’m reading a variety of ceramic books! There is so much to learn about in ceramics. I have a space in my home to create so vacation week was really fun working with clay. Exercise is also happening every day.  I take walks outside and appreciate the beauty here in Maine. ~LEAH OLSON
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Shutdown Learning

June 3, 2020

What are your thoughts and experiences?

I Invited past Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Leadership Team members to answer 4 questions – both personal and professional. Each day this week another set of answers is being posted. Today’s blog post includes answers to number 2. Please don’t hesitate to share your answers to the 4 questions. To the teachers who responded (so far) – THANK YOU for your honesty and sharing your new reality. One word that came up for me as I read your responses was BRAVERY! I am grateful that you’re being brave for the learners across the state!

  1. Name one thing that has been an ‘ah-ha’ moment for you during ‘teaching away from school’? One success.
  2. What have you learned that you didn’t know before the school shut down?
  3. What are you doing to bring yourself joy/to take care of yourself?
  4. When this is all over – what do you imagine might be a positive that comes from the pandemic?

SHUTDOWN LEARNING 

  • How resilient the children are and how important intrinsic motivation is. It will lead us through challenging times. High engagement and strong independent voices and projects occurred despite the disconnect, carried forward with the knowledge the students were in charge of their learning. ~LINDSAY PINCHBECK
  • The opportunity for teachers to clarify on the spot is somewhat diminished in the virtual “classroom”, so I have found I need to be much more mindful about what I am presenting and how it might be “read” by students. Having said that I find, just as I did 5-6 years ago when I started doing “virtual critiques” on Google+, that students were much more likely to use the “chat box when asked to offer an opinion. ~CHARLIE JOHNSON
  • I have learned that our school is more than just a vital part of the town. It is truly the heart of the community. We deliver meals weekly by bus to any families in need K-12. We are providing books for each student, as well as sending home learning packets that the bus driver and school nurse deliver to homes. One member of the community is donating masks she has made to the school for anyone who needs one. People are reaching out to one another to check that people are okay, and our superintendent is one of those who reaches out. Everyone is so grateful for the school, the staff, and each other. It is so heartwarming. ~JENNI NULL
  • My “bag of tricks” has certainly grown. I think when we do return to school I will find it much easier to differentiate instruction for my students using new technology that I have learned and relied so heavily on throughout this experience. ~JEN ETTER
  • I’m a technological dinosaur, and a proclaimed skeptic of social media. I still don’t have a Facebook account because I really don’t care what anyone is having for dinner,  and am pretty sure they don’t care what we’re having either. However…this virus has taught me how important social media is…I Zoom with my classes, but also hosted my Mom’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for a virtual 89th birthday party. On the other hand, I have heard from kids and families, about how much they miss us.  Sadly, for some of these kids, we are the only people who are nice to them each day. ~SUE BEAULIER
  • I am going through my certification for ESL teaching, and I was toying with the idea of possibly beginning by teaching online. I now realize after teaching online for the last several weeks that this is not for me. As a teacher I need the physical energy of live students, the vitality, spirit and spontaneous reactions one can only foster through live in person interactions. I love and need the dynamics of a live classroom!!!!
    ~ CARMEL COLLINS
  • I contacted three composers who have written works my choruses are studying and each one of them has agreed to be interviewed by my students in a ZOOM meeting! I’ve created online platforms to help them examine the music, think about techniques the artist has used, passages for them to explore and sing, personal thoughts to ponder about the work, and then they are creating videos to ask their questions of the composer which helps them practice the technique they will use in our official upcoming interview. ~KRIS BISSON
  • Did you know you can change the narration speed in Audible? It’s true. You can also mute kids while teaching them on zoom. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things, to let go the things I cannot control, and to take advantage of free online accounts during pandemics. Oh, and where to find all the really good, free webinars. ~Kate Smith
  • Students are not as tech savvy as I had assumed. I am often leading them through some basics of recording etc…. ~SUE BARRE
  • One major skill I’ve gained is the use of Google classroom to post assignments, grade work, and video conference with my students. I am also learning how to use computer apps on the students’ laptops as art tools, like Google drawings and SketchBook, so that my students can continue to create art at home. I also learned how to utilize the Padlet site to set up visual display boards as a means for students to share their artwork and respond to each other’s art. ~HOPE LORD
  • I have learned to be better at prioritizing myself. It is natural for teachers to always feel the need to do more; it is hard to draw a line. Now that I have a family, it is easier to see the importance of finding and maintaining balance. ~SHANNON WESTPHAL
  • The importance of social gathering and interaction in person and that teaching is harder from a distance then in a classroom. I know that is obvious but it has been a bit more of a challenge. On the other hand, using Google classroom allows for more time for individual feedback. ~JEFFREY ORTH
  • I didn’t know how much I’d miss my kids. Especially now, the 5th graders. I may never see some of them again and it’s distressing. I’ll have to spend all of my spare time at Hannaford when this is over in hopes of running into them. ~ALLIE RIMKUNAS
  • As an art teacher I’ve had to think in a broader way about how best to teach not just art but how to teach students to think creatively. I’ve allowed more independent thinking than I do in my classroom because students bring a wider diversity of materials, time and understanding while working with a packet. They have pleasantly surprised me with their ingenuity. ~GLORIA HEWETT
  • Tech, Tech, Tech and Why to Make Time for It Outside of Class
    Taking the time to learn how to build websites and completing them for each of the two art rooms I teach at in Auburn!  Peek at the Week Learning Targets and Lesson Ideas along with fun at home skill building ideas without expensive art supplies can be posted along with highlights of our art programs such as YAM events. ~LYNDA LEONAS
  • I didn’t know how to use Google Classroom or Zoom which since the pandemic is required, I am learning them and plenty of other sites that are being shared with me. We are all helping each other out. ~HOLLY LEIGHTON
  • I feel like I’ve learned so much in such a short time as we’ve had to totally reinvent our profession literally overnight. At first I was surprised to learn (and be overwhelmed) by how many resources were out there and being offered to us to support continued music education. I’ve learned the importance of just taking a chance and trying something to see if it fits my teaching situation and my students. Just because one product or approach works in one school, doesn’t mean it will work for my students. A specific learning I’ve gained is what a powerful tool the product “Smartmusic” is for the instrumental music program. I had heard about this over the years, but never had the chance to explore it. Now I’m finding it a great tool to provide to students that can give them options to go in any musical direction of their choosing, and a great method of bringing a professional, full ensemble into their personal practice space. ~ BILL BUZZA
  • I think like most educators I have become very well versed in Zoom, or any video chat platform. I have tried to keep this connection with kids because I believe it is important for their social development and mental health. I am definitely slowing down which I am sure is a welcome change of pace for the kids. Trying to be more intuitive to their needs in this complicated time. ~EMMA CAMPBELL
  • I have learned how to set up and use my YouTube Channel, how to use Zoom, how to use SoundTrap and upload. Google Classroom has been wonderful. ~JANE KIRTON
  • I had no idea how to teach music lessons virtually. All of my experience has involved hands-on, in-person learning with children. It has been an enormous learning curve and has felt unnatural, but thanks to social media, professional organizations, and virtual workshops, I have been able to break through to get the job done. I am so grateful for colleagues, across the state and nation, who are willing to share activities, help troubleshoot technology, and problem solve with each other. I know that I wouldn’t have fared quite so well if it weren’t for this support. ~DORIE TRIPP
  • I would have to say I am very impressed with the capabilities of the technology we have been thrown into using, but have also become more aware of the inequities of access in our communities. I am very aware of the broad range of socio economic differences within our communities, but assumed that most people had access to online resources given the progression of technologies in the 21st century. While I still think there is some access, such as through a smartphone, it has become increasingly clear that many of our students do not have the access necessary to utilize the learning opportunities we are resorting to use.  I think and hope that this situation has helped many people gain access to quality online educational resources, and hope that the organizations that have helped make that happen will continue.  ~ANTHONY LUFKIN
  • I learned-in a real way- how important my colleagues were to me-(the other unified arts teachers) for support, collaboration and brainstorming.  I always knew that we were a strong team, but I was in awe of how we came together. ~DANETTE KERRIGAN
  • I’ve learned to Zoom, use Google Classroom and Google Meets, develop a website in WIX, send a Google Form to my students finding out what they have for materials at home they could use for sculpture. I found out everyone has pencils and nail polish. I learned to be flexible with art concepts and use the materials at home. My courses are so material and tool based that I had to forget about that completely and come at it from a different place. Not going to lie, this is hard! Students want to work with their hands so I have been thinking about how they can design with what they have readily available with no stress for the families.  ~LEAH OLSON
  • Throughout this experience (by watching my daughter and son, who attend two different high schools),  I have learned how very different communities and educational focuses vary within our state.  ~DIANNE FENLASON
  • I have learned many things every single day. Although I am now a Digital Learning Coordinator, I have learned from other educators about various online tools, ability to deliver content more effectively and how to really support my staff efficiently. ~BARB VINAL
  • What I have learned is that many of our students do not have internet access at home and they do not  have a device to access online remote learning. What I hope comes out of this as a state is that we find a way to provide internet access and devices to students to make learning more equitable. Especially thinking ahead to next year and how long remote learning might last.  ~SAMANTHA ARMSTRONG
  • I’ve learned that my students (and their families) are resilient and flexible. I’ve learned that my co-workers and administrators are extremely supportive. I feel very blessed to work in my district. People have been reaching out to one another in a myriad of ways and it’s truly heartwarming. ~ANDREA WOLLSTADT
  • Personally, I have learned to bake bread. It is both a lot easier and a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. Professionally, I have learned a lot in regards to both technology and learning to let go of things. Before this I had participated in video conferencing, setting appointments in Google Calendar, and I used Google Classroom, but now it’s normal to host multiple meetings per day. It has become the new
    normal to be sitting with my phone to check emails, one laptop to be running a meeting, and possibly a second laptop to be reviewing notes and materials while also entertaining a baby. Technology is an amazing thing, but knowing where to draw the line is really important. I may be comfortable with it, but that doesn’t mean my students or colleagues are. It also doesn’t mean that at my fourth or fifth meeting of the day I am as energized as I was for the first. Sometimes it ends up being more important to know when too much is too much and to communicate to others when one’s limits are near to being hit. In this new normal where we can constantly be putting so much of ourselves into devices and technology to help others, it’s important to know when to stop and take care of ourselves.~IVA DAMON
  • Good leadership is compassionate, flexible, informed, and hits the ground running! I am incredibly grateful for the decision-making taking place in my school district, at the MDOE, and the State House. The creative ways they have found to support students and teachers has been remarkable. ~LISA INGRAHAM
  • How critical “learning environment” is to student success. I’ve always cognitively known that, but I’ve really internalized it since we’ve been at home. It is quite honestly the linchpin that holds everything else together… never appreciated that to the degree that I do now. ~ROB WESTERBERG
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Ah-ha Moments

June 2, 2020

What are your thoughts and experiences?

I Invited past Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Leadership Team members to answer 4 questions – both personal and professional. Today’s and the next three blog days posts will include the responses. Please don’t hesitate to share your answers to the 4 questions. Today’s post includes answers to the first question. To the teachers who responded (so far)- THANK YOU for your honesty and sharing your new reality. One word that came up for me as I read your responses was BRAVERY! I am grateful that you’re being brave for the learners across the state!

  1. Name one thing that has been an ‘ah-ha’ moment for you during ‘teaching away from school’? One success.
  2. What have you learned that you didn’t know before the school shut down?
  3. What are you doing to bring yourself joy/to take care of yourself?
  4. When this is all over – what do you imagine might be a positive that comes from the pandemic?

AH-HA MOMENTS

  • I am heartened to find that both kids and parents seem to see art class as an important part of their education. I’ve seen great response in student work, parent questions, teacher consideration, when it comes to the projects that I’ve provided remotely. I’ve heard from parents who do not show up for P/T Conferences (ever). The Administrative Assistant at our school expressed that her 2nd grade daughter would not work on her art homework with her. The second grader said, “Mom,  I need Mrs. Beaulier! You don’t even know who Pablo Tabasco is!!!”  We had a private ZOOM in response to that. ~SUE BEAULIER
  • Connecting with the families in our school in new and authentic ways. A deeper understanding for the work we are all doing on both sides has strengthened the teaching and learning opportunities. Building relationships has happened through purpose and we have had more time and direct application for us to do this work. ~LINDSAY PINCHBECK
  • The “ah-hah” moment is realizing the content needs to be about something that ties itself to students, something that gives them ownership, not just a set of criteria to follow. ~CHARLIE JOHNSON
  • Students have been paying more attention to their assignments than what I anticipated. They are really getting on board! ~CARMEL COLLINS
  • I sent a hand-written card to every homeroom student in my Advisory the first day of vacation so they knew I was thinking of them. I wanted them to take a much-needed break from their devices and the card allowed that friendly reminder to occur. ~KRIS BISSON
  • Realizing that the content of what I am teaching is not as important as the connection with students. At school we are so curriculum-driven and as a music teacher, I’m always preparing for that next concert looming ahead. Now, thanks to remote learning, I realize that my students look forward to simply hearing from me…receiving my silly frog video taken along my daily walk, sharing my boomwhacker videos of pop tunes, or asking one of them about a new puppy. It’s all about sharing and realizing that we are all in this together, young and old... ~JENNI NULL
  • I would say the greatest success was the immediate networking between music teachers from across Maine and beyond. What could have been tremendously overwhelming alone became easier through sharing resources and experiences.  Teachers built trust through shared vulnerabilities. Everyone was building the plane while flying it. I was incredibly proud of my profession and the way we rose together to meet the needs of our students, all of our students. ~KATE SMITH
  • Having a parent reach out after “sitting in” on a class to thank all teachers for what we do – in her words – “These past few weeks have definitely opened my eyes to all that you guys have to do. So thank you for that. Teachers are definitely under appreciated and do more than parents know. You guys are my rock stars!” ~SUE BARRE
  • These are not my words but totally ring true! This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon! Our superintendent said this to us on day 1 of distance learning but it took me about 2 weeks to realize what that really meant. For probably the first time in my teaching career I needed to REALLY lower my expectations for what students would accomplish in terms of content and replace that with what I felt was best for them both socially and emotionally. Many kids are really struggling right now and they need relationships with their teachers more than anything. Finding a way to connect and reach as many students as possible is tricky but it needs to be at the center of everything we do in order to try to protect the well-being of our kids. ~JEN ETTER
  • The importance of creativity in teaching all subjects remotely. As teachers we are recreating our curriculum, so that we can deliver instruction remotely. We have had to think creatively to problem solve what means, technology, and resources do we have to teach our students. Many students lack art materials at home, some still have no internet access available to them. However, we are creative teachers and we find ways to connect to our students and inspire them to create art during this stressful time. ~HOPE LORD
  • I have posted a quote by Commissioner Makin above my work station: “Children’s brains are wired for learning.  Learning happens everywhere and doesn’t always require a specific plan of measurable outcome.” This ideology helps me stay focused on the goal of inspiring an art curriculum that is engaging, inspires curiosity and is rooted in the real world. I am so inspired by my children (daughters, ages 3 & 4)and their curiosities and imaginations. I try to harness that sense of wonder to inspire my curriculum. We have to let go of all of the things we are usually required to control; behavior management, rule following, accountability for learning and finishing assignments. For some that is extremely hard to move on from, but if you can you are free to create something really special for children. ~SHANNON WESTPHAL
  • As an observer, I am amazed already at the sheer numbers of resources teachers have put together and are willing to share. Never before have I seen so many businesses reach out to help – from Zoom to media outlets, online courses, apps, state and federal government, non profits and others. We are a world that connects and doesn’t wait for someone to tell us how or when. ~CATHERINE RING
  • The one ah-ha has been the reaffirmation of the importance of the arts to allow people to express their feelings, their joys, their anxieties. My students have used their art as a way to cope with the ‘stay at home order’ and it shows that the Arts goe beyond just an assignment or some standard.  ~JEFFREY ORTH
  • That students want that music connection. ~LINDA MCVETY
  • I joined a few classrooms on zoom and was surprised to see a keyboard sitting behind one of my most difficult students. It was a total surprise and really made me think about my preconceptions of our students. Now I have a new tool to connect with this kiddo-Music! ~ALLIE RIMKUNAS
  • One positive was calling a home without internet to check on an advisee. I talked to a mom for a long time. She was stressed and worried and yet doing an amazing job helping to teach her 5 children. My phone call cheered her up and helped her to realize just how well she was doing in an emergency situation. I will now call and talk to this mother each week because I have a connection with her that I might not have established except through the desire to maintain connection with students and their families. I’ve certainly learned the value of parent teacher relationships. I will never again make an assumption about a parent without truly interacting with a parent in an authentic way. ~GLORIA HEWETT
  • The Joy of Art as Positive Outreach – Adding our art show to the world of tech!!!! Parents (even some that classroom teachers had not had contact with) are responding and replying to the positive outreach from the arts department. We have been working together to gather permission to add students’ work and names online for the new VIRTUAL ART SHOW at two schools! ~LYNDA LEONAS
  • I have always taught by talking to my students face to face, building relationships, giving support and conferencing over their art projects. So now I reluctantly had to learn to use technology to do my job and I was very apprehensive. I have found (ah-ha) it can be effective and even though I  am just learning I can do it and am enjoying it with my students. ~HOLLY LEIGHTON
  • I have been very pleased to see some of my students take ownership of their own learning and embrace this opportunity to direct their own educational experience. For these students, I’ve truly felt like a guide / coach by providing them resources and materials to further fuel their own internal motivation as they choose the areas and skills to explore and develop. In my situation as a band director, I’ve told the students they need to change their mind set from “being a member of the band” to “having the opportunity to develop their own musical ability and interests”. ~BILL BUZZA
  • I have tried to keep my students in a positive mindset by adopting different assignments — I am not trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, we are not in our normal space so I am adjusting my expectations accordingly, which has worked well for me. We are doing things like video choreography, online movement classes, and Zoom interviews with dance professionals. I am actively trying NOT to do the same things I would do if we were meeting in person, I think that creates a sense of disappointment in the kids and for us, this is working well. ~EMMA CAMPBELL
  • Lesson #1 – online never sleeps. ~JEFF BEAUDRY
  • As a music educator, teaching remotely has made me realize, you can’t teach chorus with success unless you are in the same room as your students. When we make corrections, we need to make them as they happen not at a later time. We also desperately need to feel each other in the same room to make the music beautiful. A success would be the new ways I have learned how to use a variety of technology tools that I would most likely never have done. ~JANE KIRTON
  • LESS IS MORE. Initially, I had the idea that I needed to recreate school for students to access at home. After a week or two of juggling my “work from home” responsibilities with my new “homeschool Mom” responsibilities, I got a glimpse into what some schools are really asking of their families. It’s been very overwhelming at times, and so I have been able to change MY expectations and activities to help ease the burden for my students and their families. I have found success in collaborating with my colleagues to create meaningful and creative activities for my students to enjoy at home. ~DORIE TRIPP
  • When schools closed their doors and we were asked to create remote learning opportunities I was intrigued by the possibilities albeit stressed and a little confused by how it would work. I have to say one thing that I have been impressed with, is the capabilities of technology platforms.  I don’t think there is any substitution for the in-person instruction that our educational systems are built on, however technology is constantly improving to give better alternatives when that is not available, like right now. Having done my master’s program completely online, as well as working in several different school systems on different platforms, and using several different types of online programming certainly prepared me for attempting to teach remotely.  At this point in our current situation, I am not getting a lot of participation, however, I feel that I am using due diligence to provide students with many opportunities to develop their understanding and ability to communicate visually.  While we can’t teach in a traditional manner, we can still teach. Where there is a will, there is a way.  It is amazing to see what can be done that would otherwise have been said to be impossible. ~ANTHONY LUFKIN
  • I can still be surprised by my students- in particular those who were historically not as active as I would have hoped and are really doing amazing things in these challenging circumstances. I find myself hollering YES when opening e-mails. This insight will be so helpful in supporting those students in the future.~DANETTE KERRIGAN
  • It was when a student said during a Zoom meeting that she is experimenting even more with art materials.  She said, “You see this?” while pointing up, “It’s a butterfly mobile that I made with dental floss, sticks and colored paper.”  She shared it with the class with no fear at all. Students are sharing stories and ideas about making art I would have never known about otherwise. They are opening my eyes about what is possible right at home. ~LEAH OLSON
  • I made a rap (my least favorite genre of music ironically) video for my students and staff the day before our online learning started in order to encourage everyone and I know it lifted the spirits of all who viewed it.  The “ah ha” was that if we can put aside our uncomfortableness for others, the reward is priceless (I have attached the link below for you)  I will be sending out another one this Sunday providing them some encouragement for the last 7 weeks) ~DIANNE FENLASON
  • It has been so amazing to see that FINALLY Arts educators are getting included in technology training. I have had the privilege of being part of VPLTs (Virtual PLTs) with Arts educators and providing training for hundreds of educators in my District. ~BARB VINAL
  • As an elementary specialist is that it is challenging to make connections with students remotely. Recently I started joining zooms that the classroom teachers or case managers have. This has been a nice way to make a connection with the kids. As far as getting activities out to them we have been doing this through the packets that are sent home and through a facebook page that I set up. ~SAMANTHA ARMSTRONG
  • I have really been able to dig my teeth into some of the technology that I never seem to have time to really explore. I feel much more confident using various applications. I am also extremely lucky to have two musical children who are willing to help me. We’ve been able to put out material that I think is appropriate and user friendly for my students and their families. ~ANDREA WOLLSTADT
  • The personal relationships between teacher-teacher, teacher-student, and teacher-parent are the most important aspects of effective teaching. Regardless of the content I am trying to still teach my students, it’s the relationships and reaching out to others that really matters the most right now. In this new world of teaching virtually, often just a personal email, a phone call, or hosting a Zoom Meeting just to check in matters far more in the grand scheme of things than whether an assignment was handed in on time. ~IVA DAMON
  • Technology and online resources are pretty amazing if you have the time to dive into it and actually figure out how to best utilize it all for your own situation. This is SO happening for me right now, and it will positively impact me and my work for years to come. ~ROB WESTERBERG
  • I was struck by how much I miss making art with my students. This is something that I just took for granted in the whirlwind of the school day. ~ LISA INGRAHAM
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Music Teachers Going Above and Beyond in RSU#35

May 6, 2020

Putting student needs first 

The following four teachers are going above and beyond teaching and reaching their learners in the RSU#35 school district. I am grateful for the work that David, Kate, Bryan and Kris are doing in music education, ‘schooling away from school’. All very humble, missing their students, below are some of their stories including ideas and resources. Thank you all for sharing!

David Graichen

DAVID GRAICHEN teaches Instrumental Music at Marshwood High School in South Berwick

Before school went digital my band students were working on pieces in small ensembles. We were doing this as a “Music in Our Schools Month” project and we were close to completion. I decided that despite articles warning of the difficulty we would try to make separate recordings and edit them together. I want to give my students a sense of working in an ensemble even when we cannot be together. There are many youtube videos showing you how to use programs by adobe, apple, a cappella, and others to complete this task. Each student got a metronome track for their piece and recorded their part and submitted it through google classroom. Thanks to the support of our RSU#35 Superintendent Mr. Caverly and Brian Carroll (our driver) we loaded the district trailer and delivered everything from a piccolo to a 4.3 octave marimba to students at their homes so they could play again.  With the help of a parent, student, and my student teacher Christopher Ciaglo we are working to edit the recordings together and hope to able to post them at the beginning of May. Normalcy and recognizing the connection music has for my students is very important.
David created THIS VIDEO so students would be reminded of school and to communicate how much he misses them.

David and Brian moving the marimba in to the student’s home.

Kate Smith

KATE SMITH teaches at Central School in South Berwick

I teach 389 PreK through third-grade students and I miss every single one. If there is anything I’ve learned from this pandemic, it is that there is no one, easy way to stay connected with students. I needed offline, synchronous and asynchronous opportunities in order to reach as many kids as possible. In addition to sending home Bingo cards with musical activities, I also record and upload videos on my website and send singing telegrams/musical messages to the teachers to forward to their students. Sometimes these musical messages are sung, other times I  dance (like when I taped glowsticks to myself and danced in the dark to “I’ve Got to Move It”), or lip sync with puppets. During vacation, the Physical Education teacher and I hosted a virtual dance party that had 75 families and 12 staff. Starting this week, we will co-teach 30-minute zoom classes with themes like Minute to Win It, Playground Games and Handclaps, and Beat in My Feet.
Kate created THIS SINGING TELEGRAM for her five first grade classes and this very fun lip sync singing telegram below.

BRYAN KILLOUGH (aka Mr. K) teaches Pre-K through 3 at Eliot Elementary School

Bryan has a YouTube channel where he posts amazing teaching videos that he has created for his students. Videos called PATIENCE which teaches the importance of patience, The Beat Song which teaches the concept of Tempo, JS Bach since Eliot Elementary School’s musician of the month of May is JS Bach, and one of my favorites is May is the Month of Maying which is about, you guessed it May – embedded below.
KRIS BISSON teaches music at Marshwood Middle School
This has been a very unique experience for all, but learning prevails. My hope is that my students know how much I care about their learning and their well-being and that we are all in this together. Classroom walls or other walls, we are still connected and creating.

Kris Bisson

Below are some of the learning platforms that she has found successful.

  • FLIPGRID : With Chorus and Guitar/Ukulele Class being performance-based work, I have been using this with great success!
  • Students create videos of themselves (I’ve been doing both “public” and “private” for every assignment) and I can grade and comment (Typed is my preference, or you can video respond). Students can see each other and respond to videos – always positive, and a large part of our Chorus Family Support.
  • PADLET : a chance for students to share personal reflections/responses and for others to share conversation with them. Precise, helps keep thoughts focused.
  • ZOOM and MEET : of course, such a great resource!!!!!!!!!
  • HANGOUTS : for students to ask a question quickly and briefly. So handy. Sometimes starts the need to ZOOM / MEET.
  • GOOGLE CLASSROOM : My organizational tool for sharing all classroom needs, responsibilities, videos, pdfs, you name it!
  • LOOM : I can video and share my picture and voice while sharing my screen to teach the lesson. SO user-friendly, and students are accustomed to the teacher teaching the lesson before completing it for themselves. LOVE this!
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Dance Dance Dance

December 10, 2019

Dance Education grant

Thanks to Martha Piscuskas for providing information for this blog post.She is the interim director for arts education, Maine Arts Commission.

Hunt and Allison Smith

Nearing the gym, through the corridor literally owned and decorated by the K-third grade Central School students in South Berwick, one could already hear the rhythmical claps of a class fully engaged in old-time dancing. Recently I paid a visit to Kate Smith’s music program, where the whole school was treated to a residency with Maine Arts Commission Teaching Artists Hunt and Allison Smith, who played and taught old English, Irish and even Russian dances throughout the  week.

Thanks to the leadership of Kate and the Physical Education Teacher, Kristan Tiede, the school received a Maine Arts Commission Dance Education Grant and funding from the Marshwood Education Fund to bring this duo to play their fiddle, accordion and teach traditional set dances in circles, squares, and lines over three days. The teaching artists held the attention well of the students, no matter which age group. Even parents, siblings and teachers got to join in with a community family contradance one evening. Says Kate, “I know the residency with the Smiths will renew my confidence in teaching units that embed dance in music units in a more thoughtful, appropriate and successful way.  

I love the opportunity to integrate other subjects and collaborate with peers deepening student learning while giving us the chance  to learn from each other.”

I invite you to learn more about the Maine Arts Commission grant opportunities and the Teaching Artist roster.

The dance education grant at the Maine Arts Commission was established in 2012 with the help of Thornton Academy dance educator Emma Campbell and several dance programs and studios in southern Maine. Through a fund raiser performance they have contributed thousands of dollars so students, school communities, and teaching artists  across the state could benefit from dance education learning opportunities.

If you have any questions about arts education programs at the Maine Arts Commission please contact Martha Piscuskas, Interim Director of Arts Education.

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Hike Through History

June 25, 2019

South Berwick

In May I was invited to the Hamilton House and Vaughn Woods in South Berwick for the 25th anniversary of Hike Through History. It’s an annual teaching and learning opportunity in RSU #35 that continues to be a success due to the commitment of many educators and volunteers. It is usually held in town so it was a treat to have it in such a beautiful woodsy setting.

Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Music Educators Kate Smith and Kris Bisson collaborated in teaching traditional dances and music. First they taught the 8th grade students from Marshwood Middle School several dance steps and they turned around and taught the elementary students. In addition, they also taught a few modern dances. Melanie Crowe, Marshwood Middle School art teacher and MALI Teacher Leader worked with students teaching them techniques and they turned around and taught elementary students. Printmaking, weaving, painting on stone and poetry. I was so impressed with the level of engagement of the 500 students who visited and provided the instruction. And, the hundreds of volunteers and parents. It was simply wonderful – a real community collaboration.

All of the photos in the blog post were taken at the two stations where Kris, Kate and Melanie were.

The information below was provided by Julia Einstein, Education Program Coordinator for Historic New England, who plays an integral part in the success of the Hike Through History.

For this year’s Hike, it was all about character studies—and for the grade eight students to look at each person, or family, as a character you can “inhabit” after you have researched the parts of their life. As a result, the student is able to enjoy this way of learning as he/she  steps into the history of the people and of this place that was once the center of the town of South Berwick. This location at Hamilton House (built in 1785) and Vaughn Woods tells the story of the native people, first settlers, the start of America, and how we changed from an agricultural to an industrial nation. Inventiveness and inventions through these times, from a shipbuilding, navigation on water, and early photography.

It was a pleasure for me to be able to write the content for the student’s work in the classroom, as well as to mentor two grade eight classes for this special, new Hike. I, along with a committee of content writers, each put together our topic to include main Ideas, characters to include, vocabulary, possible Activities, and sources for additional Research.

Here’s a brief overview of what I put together:

Hamilton House Walk Through

Topic:  Hamilton House’s long, long, life — three families over 236 years! — and the different ways they lived.

Main Ideas: Did you ever “read” a house? If we learn to “read” the details left behind, a house can tell stories of the people who lived there long ago!  The Hamilton House contains lots of history, as there were three owners, over different centuries.

Possible Activities: A student tour of the first floor of the Hamilton House–a guided walk into 1785 and walk out in 1898 in which the 8th grade students give the elementary visitors the prompts to observe, notice details, and ask questions. Also, create activities or experiences to share the lives of the three different families who lived there.  Why were they there?  What did they value about the house and land?

Inspired by History: Elise Tyson & Sarah Orne Jewett

Topic: Historical preservation, Literary and Visual Arts in the 19th century

Main Ideas: What is “inspiration”? A beautiful, historical place like the Hamilton House can give us inspiration! Elise Tyson would have taken advantage of the recent invention of a (more) portable box camera to move around and photograph outside and inside the Hamilton House. One is able to look into her photographs to study the early days of film photography. It was very rare for women to be photographers during this era! Sarah Orne Jewett would have used her portable wicker writing box to write on site. One is able to read her fiction (The Tory Lover) and non-fiction (River Driftwood) based upon the landscape and characters of the Hamilton House, as seen in these excerpts:
River Driftwood She described Hamilton House in 1881 as being “like a glimpse of sunshiny, idle Italy: the sparkling river and the blue sky, the wide green shores and the great gray house, with its two hall doors standing wide open, the lilacs in bloom and no noise or hurry, – a quiet place, that the destroying left hand of progress had failed to touch.”
The Tory Lover “As for Colonel Hamilton, the host,” she wrote, “a strong-looking, bright-colored man in the middle thirties, the softness of a suit of brown, and his own hair well dressed and powdered, did not lessen a certain hardness in his face, a grave determination, and maturity of appearance far beyond the due of his years. Hamilton had easily enough won the place of chief shipping merchant and prince of money-makers in that respectable group, and until these dark days of war almost every venture by land or sea had added to his fortunes. The noble house that he had built was still new enough to be the chief show and glory of a rich provincial neighborhood.” Due to these two friends’ inspiration and love of history, we are now lucky enough to be able to learn about and experience this beautiful house and grounds.

It was also an wonderful opportunity for me to expand upon a school program that is already in place for grade three students of Central School, “Amoungst Friends, Sarah Orne Jewett and her Circle.”  This circle expanded to her friends Emily and Elise Tyson (later Elise Tyson Vaughn and her husband Henry Vaughn), who she convinced to purchase and restore the house to it’s Hamilton era glory–and in the process to preserve history.  In a visit to all third grade classrooms, I introduced the students to the Hamilton House and guided the students to make a Captain’s Log. When the students visited the house, they were guided to make an observation, both inside and outside in the garden, and record in his/her log, by writing & through sketching. We also played a Maritime Trade Game–with a partner, the students used a World  Map to find the source, the countries from which  “raw” materials brought back to South Berwick by Jonathan Hamilton’s ships. It was a ton of fun–a great way to prepare for the special upcoming Hike.

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In Today’s News

May 21, 2019

Hike Through History with Kate and Kris

I love it when I hear about teachers who are collaborating to provide learning that involves multiple grade levels. Most schools are divided by grade or age level yet in life – family, church, community groups – people are almost always together with all ages.

When Maine Arts Leadership Initiative Teacher Leaders Kate Smith and Kris Bisson were planning curriculum together for the annual Hike Through History for their students, I wasn’t surprised when they told me about their ideas to connect their students through dance. Kris teaches at Marshwood Middle School and Kate teaches at Central School – both are part of MSAD35, South Berwick.

Today’s news article, which includes video footage, is from seacoastonline.com and documents a unit that has been going on for a very long time in the district. In fact, this year Hike Through History turns 25!

From the article

Music and choral teacher Kris Bisson said, “Kate Smith and I designed a curriculum about music and its link to colonial times. So our focus is about dances then and now; it wasn’t just a source of physical enjoyment, but also a chance to be with your neighbors and your town community.”

On the lawn of Central School, eighth-graders worked recently with second-grade students showing them folk dances people did in the early 1800s as music sifted through the air. The dances they have chosen are authentic, matching how people actually danced in Colonial days in South Berwick and surrounding towns. One person called out the dance on a microphone. “Heel and toe, heal and toe, slide, swing your partner!” The eighth-grade students decided to plan this year’s hike around a wedding ceremony so they could show children the old-time dances as well as a few modern dances to demonstrate similarities from the past to the present. The Heal and Toe Polka, Chimes of Dunkirk, the Twist or the Macarena all have commonalities.

You can read the entire article AND see video footage of a rehearsal. It is so fun to watch!

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A Visit to Ashley’s

October 23, 2018

Last week of summer vacation

During the last two days I have posted two stories about Ashley Bryan. The first on the collaboration of Ovations Offstage, Portland Museum of Art and Theater Ensemble of Color to bring to life Beautiful Blackbird. Yesterday I had the opportunity to see the last performance of Beautiful Blackbird at Hannaford Hall on the USM campus. Yesterday’s blog post was about the requiem that Aaron Robinson wrote to celebrate Ashley’s life. It is an amazing story and a wonderful tribute to an amazing man.

Traveling to Islesford 

I was fortunate to travel to Ashley’s home on Islesford in late August. I was lead there by my former student Aaron Robinson. Yes, the same one who wrote the requiem. We were communicating after I read the article in the Maine Sunday Telegram about Aaron’s and Ashley’s collaboration. I had so many questions and Aaron finally said: “Why don’t you go to the island and visit Ashley? If you don’t you will regret it.” So, once I figured out how to make that happen I asked music teacher Kate Smith if she wanted to go along for the boat ride and visit to the island. She was as excited as me (perhaps more)!

We left in the early morning on the drive to Southwest Harbor, hopped on the ferry and arrived in the late morning on the island. Someone kindly gave us directions to Ashley’s: “Go up the hill, make a right, walk to the intersection of the two roads by the grey home with the white fence and turn left. At the next intersection turn right, go down aways and look for a sign low to the ground that says: The Storyteller Pavilion.”  We were greeted at the door by Ashley’s niece, Bari. She suggested that we look around while Ashley finished his lunch. Mouths open, eyes wide we took in the beautiful art, amazing toys, brilliant colors everywhere and the collections of many years. Ashley is 95 and over the years he has collected amazing artifacts from his travels and of course, he has created a fair amount of art as well – which is everywhere.

Ashley’s home

We were in awe in his studio where he carefully creates his stained glass with the use of papier mache and sea glass. His life like marionettes made from treasures collected along the rocky shore were hanging in groups as if visiting one another. We spent some time in the pavilion where we could see his completed stained glass, his early paintings done at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, and several puppets.

We returned to visit with Ashley and shared a cup of tea, banana and molasses bread. We asked questions and listened intently. His perspective so unique and interesting. It was such a pleasure to hear what he had to say. His wit sharp, clarity of words/messages, and smile lit up the room.

We asked how to respectfully teach music and art from other cultures when we are such foreigners to them. He emphatically said: “don’t not teach it for that reason”. He and Bari told a story about a visiting chorus in another country. At the end a woman approached them with tears in her eyes and thanked them for singing in their language and said that no one had visited and sang in the native language.

Kate Smith brings it home
When asked  if he had a special message we could take back to the teachers and students of Maine, Ashley said something along these lines:
“Embrace each day with joy, wonder, discovery and rediscovery.”
I happened to be rereading the book “Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE and other Special Areas” at the time. As I pondered Ashley’s message and the beautiful conversations we had, I wondered how I could bring it back to my school and students in a way that would be impactful for all of us. It lead to a “rediscovery” of our school mission statement which ends with “together we learn”. I pondered, “What does ‘together we learn’ mean?” I began to see it as an anthem, a battle cry of sorts. I put the mission statement to music, making sure to give it a sense of joy. Instead of ending with “together we learn” we begin with it. At each Friday assembly I read a list of skills, knowledge or routines students have learned that week and as each one is called out the students sing “Together We learn” on sol-mi syllables. I have called out anything from ” colors” to “place value” to “cafeteria rules”. It is a fun way to celebrate what others are learning. The kids LOVE it. We then roll right into a roll call in which they stand as grade levels to sing our mission statement: “Challenge, success and love of learning for everyone, every day.” This transformation has added a richness to our purpose as students and teachers and drawn us together as a community of learners.

Both Kate and I were so grateful to have journeyed to the island to meet Ashley. It was a magical amazing day that will be forever in our memories!

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