BECAUSE today my beautiful students created GOLD I tell you. I watched young men and women (who are not considered by the system to be strong students) shine. Ms Pallavi Rana and I watched them with tears in our eyes show their beautiful drawings and visual art with pride. I saw their other teachers look at the art- a mixture of collage, drawing, painting, and writing with pride. It was a great day to be a teaching artist.
This summer Story Tapestries had an opportunity to work with the same set of students for 20 days.....THIS is a rarity in our work. We often come in, teach and perform for short periods of time. OR we get to share the tools of the arts with educators through professional development workshops. BUT this July 2014, we had our own classroom full of eager 4th and 5th graders ready to learn. Our focus was not performing, but creating visual art. We used pencils, sequins, markers, collage paper, colored pencils, watercolors, pastels, and yarn. The students drew pictures, created designs, wrote poetry, and shared their story through art.
MOST importantly: They shared themselves. At first, we heard this time and time again....Am I doing it right? Can I do this? Are we allowed to use ……. on our art?? Our answer: Do you think you are doing it right? Do you think that would balance out your picture, your words? OUR goal was to EMPOWER them to make decisions, to show them that they CAN do it. Our job was to guide them. We saw many of our students grow into powerful young adults who believe in themselves, who believe that they have the ability to make the right decision for them, who believe that they are capable, intelligent humans. All I have to say now is.... these 60 youth know what they want, know what they believe and have the skills to make it happen.
It’s 5:15 pm and it’s almost time to leave the Book Festival for the day. All around it had been an incredible day, starting with the first group of people from the Nationalization Ceremony stopping by to take books and make a small donation to Story Tapestries. To the children who dragged their parents over to create art using crayons, makers and sparkles. To the adults who willingly sat down to create art with their child. To the people who simply asked “What is Story Tapestries? Why are you part of the book festival?” All day long I explained that Story Tapestries believes in the power of the arts to change community, to teach young and old, and to empower the next set of young leaders to step up to the challenge of leading. Writing is an incredible form of creative expression of ideas, beliefs and history. Writers are artists and Readers are those who love to escape, to imagine and to live in the worlds the authors create.
Once again, it’s 5:15 pm and I was thinking about packing up. Yet, a face popped up around the corner, a child’s toothy smile, “Can I make something?” My tired mind said “Noooooo!!!!” My heart said “Of course.” My heart won and I sat down with the two children who were ready to create. The mom and the grandma settled into chairs and began to talk. They loved the art supplies and the simplistic nature of the project. Thirty minutes later the girls were still going strong. They were uninterested in leaving. Honestly, it no longer mattered that the day was done and everyone around me was packing up. What was important was their smiles, their desire to create, and their focus on the work at hand. They stayed until 6 pm when their adults dragged them away with a promise to make time to do art at home. The mom had told me that she did not like too much mess and therefore rarely let the kids create on their own. However, she was so impressed with her children’s focus and imagination that she was making plans to visit a store immediately and purchase art supplies.So often we at Story Tapestries go into a classroom and the teacher explains to us that the biggest problem they have with the students is concentration and imagination. I have heard more times than I can count: “My students have no imagination!!” At the Book Festival this was not an issue, imagination was everywhere, in the people attending the festival, the vendors, and the authors. The day was full of people inspiring young authors like the two girls in my booth at 5:15 pm. The day was jam-packed with storytellers and musicians at the Imagination Station all using story to expand the minds of families. We at Story Tapestries look forward to next year’s “Inspiring More Authors to Discover the Power of the Written Word!”
Help these stories continue to be told by joining us for Bonus Day! The next YouthSpark Bonus Day is just around the corner on June 25th! Microsoft will be matching all donations at 100% and there is $200,000 in matching funds!
Thank you for your support!
"That's weird." We had just started the first activity of the first day of a new residency at the Oakcrest Community Center in Capitol Heights and already I had a student who didn't know how to react to what I was throwing at him. We were going through the four actor's tools of Body, Voice, Mind, and Imagination, using our bodies and voices to show each tool. Fortunately, after a few sessions, we have learned to all be "weird" together as we learn about storytelling, theatre and team-building in our after-school residency. Now the students make requests of me for activities they want to do and they even lead some of the warm-ups that may have seemed a little weird to them on our first day.
This partnership between the Washington Performing Arts (formerly WPAS) and the PG County Department of Parks and Recreation is a five-session residency where I am working with students from grades 2-6 to create our own version of the story of Thumbelina that we will perform for their parents during our last session. The students also now know that team-building for us is called ensemble-building (one of our French theatre words) and that our goal is not the performance, but what we learn in our process together.
Thank you so much for being a part of this process so that opportunities such as this residency are made possible!
We may be just a few months into the new year, yet Story Tapestries has been moving full steam ahead with our programming. Story Tapestries Master Teaching Artist Debbi Arseneaux shared about such programming in a Story Tapestries blog post about her recent residency experience: “I am thoroughly enjoying these classes and the process of creation with these students. They are smart, funny, insightful, thoughtful and their enthusiasm each time I arrive is infectious.”Debbi taught a five-session residency in two 6th grade classrooms at Washington Yu Ying, a Chinese immersion public charter school in Washington, D.C. In meeting with the classroom teachers prior to the residency, it was decided to focus some of their goals on creating a script from an existing story and connecting it to Chinese culture and history. The team chose Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella Story from China and Debbi led the students in creating tableaus to physically recreate the story as well as their own lines of dialogue and monologues based on the story. Debbi then “combined all their ideas into one script, making almost no edits…this is THEIR script, no question.” The students then performed their script for fellow students, accomplishing another goal from the residency’s pre-planning: that students would gain experience in performing for peers. So a journey that began with the click of a “donate” button ended in great success, as Debbi puts it: "I am so proud of the great work these students have been able to accomplish in such a short time. Their scripts are funny, bilingual, and demonstrate an understanding of key ideas and themes. I am certain that the teachers will be able to apply many of these techniques in future lessons and projects. I feel incredible satisfaction knowing that we will have accomplished all the goals we set for this process, and then some. And the students have clearly had a blast doing so."
Thank you for being a part of this journey.
Our Impact, Your Impact, the Arts IMPACT
Today was the last day of school before break. A Kindergarten student came up to Arianna Ross, our Executive Director, and said "Thank you. I do like school. But I love coming to class when you are here. Can you come every day?"
Sadly, we can't come every day. Our time at a school is finite. However, our goal is to build sustainable arts integration programming in every location we partner with across the country. We have partners now in MD, DC, VA, FL, NC, LA and CA. AND we are planning to spread the gift of arts to other states even as we write this e-newsletter.
WE know and you know the value of the arts. We just have to convince everyone else through our actions. The more we do, the more we can change our community.
A NOTE From the Executive Director:
We at Story Tapestries wish you and yours a Happy Holidays. Thank you for the gift of supporting the arts and education. We look forward to seeing where 2014 takes us. I believe that we are at the edge of a cliff towards great expansion. We get calls on a weekly basis from donors who wish to support our programs. At the same time, we get calls from schools who need financial support to bring the arts to their communities. Just $35 can make sure a student experiences an in-depth 5 day artist-in-residency program. $55 gives 3 adults professional development training to benefit hundreds of children.
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