2012 - 2013 Educational Year In ReviewWe’ve had a very full and fantastic Arts Integrated year of learning for students and professional development for teachers. Here is a glimpse of our year.
October and November – 2012
Students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members were thrilled with the quality of the multi layered, Arts Integrated learning experience of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. With the school wide theme of “Social Responsibility – Doing the Right Thing” as a backdrop, the Lizzie Bright story dealt with a disturbing time in Maine history when eugenics was considered to be the height of scientific theory. Eugenics linked race and poverty to intelligence levels and further concluded that any part of society or behavior that was considered immoral was a genetic trait that could be passed from one generation to the next within a family or culture. The resulting conclusions were disastrous for many, including the inhabitants of Malaga Island, a mixed race community at the heart of the Lizzie Bright story.
Our Arts Integrated learning began with middle level students reading Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, a work of historical fiction, by Newbery Award winning author Gary Schmidt. Following this focused reading, a student cast from third through twelfth grades staged the adaptation of Lizzie Bright, written by award-winning playwright, Cheryl L. West. Ms. West said of her adaptation, “I knew it was going to be a play that featured the importance and drama of the sea."
Both content and setting of the Lizzie Bright story seemed a perfect fit for our student learning objectives as well as our community, and through these dramatic roles, students explored the depth of their assigned characters as well as larger social issues of prejudice, stereotypes, ancestry, gentrification, and belonging.
In late November, following the Lizzie Bright performance, DISES hosted author, Gary Schmidt, who thoroughly engaged students with some fantastic storytelling in the morning, and very thought provoking writing exercises in the afternoon.
The grand finale of our Lizzie Bright exploration was a trip to the Maine State Museum in Augusta. Mr. Schmidt traveled with middle level students to see “Malaga Island – Fragmented Live” an exhibit detailing the history of families evicted from Malaga in 1912. The museum staff invited Malaga descendants to meet with the author, and three generations of the Griffin family joined us from Hartford, CT. History came alive for our students when Laura Harrison, a fourth generation descendant spoke with them about the impact of Malaga’s history on the lives of her family members, and challenged students to be activists; to speak up for themselves and others, when necessary, to prevent unjust situations similar to the events of 1912 on Malaga Island. We couldn’t have asked for a more potent learning experience.
After returning to DISES, middle level students conducted a change drive, raising money for the educational scholarship fund that will be made available to descendants of the Malaga community.
December - 2012
In early December, Deer Isle/ Stonington Elementary School teachers attended a professional development workshop with children’s author and Kennedy Center teaching artist Amy MacDonald entitled Embracing Our Differences – Writing About Diversity. This hands-on writing workshop looked at the art of writing short…how to boil a complex thought or idea down to a few memorable words. Amy took the difficult and abstract topics of diversity and tolerance and helped teachers find ways to get students thinking and talking about the topic, and then to write short, powerful quotes reflecting their expanded understanding.
This distillation of ideas about diversity and tolerance raised student awareness and helped to create a climate that would prevent bullying.
Amy continued with classroom coaching for the remainder of the week following the workshop and students developed their own short powerful quotes on the topics of tolerance and diversity.
January - 2013
In January, with the focus of Play Writing, Deer Isle/Stonington High School creative writing students worked with New York based playwright and actor John Cariani for two weeks. Fast paced dialogue exercises set the tone of the workshop encouraging students to work quickly, creatively and collaboratively. Each student created a script that was performed for an audience of thirty community members by the professional cast of Last Gas, a play written by Cariani, concurrently in production at OHA. Students were able to see their initial drafts go from page to stage with professional actors presenting the scripts in a Readers’ Theater style. All participants of the workshop are invited to further develop their scripts for a summer 2013 production of short plays being staged at OHA.
March - 2013
High School students gained a deeper, more personal engagement with Shakespeare’s text and language while visiting artist Melody Bates was in residence in October 2012 and again in March of this year. Through close examination of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, students strengthened their understanding of, and facility with, advanced grammar, vocabulary, verse, and thought structures found in Shakespeare’s writing. Improvisation, reading aloud, sound and movement exercises connecting to the text allowed students to further deepen their understanding of character, history, motives, and possible futures. Back in the classroom, students adapted a scene from Romeo & Juliet. All students are invited to participate in a summer 2013 workshop with Bates as well as her production of Romeo & Juliet & Zombies to be staged at OHA in the summer of 2014.
A student workshop, Creating Character Based Adaptations, brought the characters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to the chopping block in an exploration of adaptations with the Deer Isle/Stonington Senior AP Language Arts Class. New York based actor and writer Justin Badger engaged students in physical activities designed to get them functioning as a group. Then combining movement with memorized text, students delivered portions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth while remaining aware of the group as a whole. Students then made lyrical adjustments to songs they had chosen to represent Macbeth and Lady Macbeth allowing for the experience of taking Shakespeare’s story that has been heard, read, and performed for over five hundred years and make it their own. Following the workshop, students attended Congratulations, Macbeth!, a cabaret style adaptation by Badger and co-writer/actor Stephanie Dodd. Badger and Dodd were joined by were joined by actors Sarah Englelke as Hecate and Brian Silliman as Banquo. Back in the classroom, students created their own adaptations of the Macbeth story.
This has been a great year for Arts Integrated Learning and we look forward to a full roster of exciting programming for next year…stay tuned!