Students in Upper School Performing Arts had a very energetic and creative master class in Drama! They read a synopsis of a play, Willy Wonka, and then put on the ENTIRE show in a one minute pantomime. Their creativity in designing their scenes showed that they clearly understood the sequence of the show’s plot and could pick out the most important elements to highlight for the audience. There was lots of laughter and risk taking on stage! What a great success … and terrific practice for our Spring musical!
As we kicked off our unit on Puerto Rico, eighth grade Spanish students studied various cultural aspects of the country. They did individual research projects on the island’s music, food, dance, geography and history. They had a great time presenting their projects to their classmates … many of them in Spanish!
As we enter peak cold and flu season, the eighth graders are learning all about ways to stay healthy, and how to suggest to others to do the same. In the spirit of school wellness, the eighth grade Spanish class made posters and presented them to the class. Suggestions on how to stay healthy include getting enough sleep, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limiting the intake of spicy memes. Students have been using affirmative informal “tu” commands to give recommendations to their classmates on how to enter 2018 with smart, healthy habits. Falling asleep to heavy metal? Not recommended.
A friend told me recently that the only graduation speech he attended in the last 20 years that he can recall had a prize winning scientist advise everyone to grab something reactive and blow it up, to see how fun science can be. Well, the 8th grade at Unquowa was studying the reactive metals in column one of the periodic table, so why not test the book learning and drop Sodium into water and see if it indeed blows up. It does.
Eighth graders recently completed a very thrilling performing arts unit focusing on Arthur Miller’s masterpiece, The Crucible. Each week when we met, we analyzed the play’s themes, characters, and reflected on these elements as they connect to today’s world. Students were captivated by the plot, particularly the components that were rooted in the actual history of the Salem Witch Trials. While reading, many students gasped out loud as they learned the fates of their favorite characters. This exciting part of eighth grade drama class is one I look forward to every school year, and it did not disappoint!
A week before Halloween, the seventh and eighth grade humanities classes ventured into New York City for a field trip to explore how the freedom of speech is exercised through protest and art.
Our first stop was The Museum of the City of New York. The students took guided tours of the “Activist New York” exhibit highlighting the history of social activism in the city. Then, the kids were given the liberty to explore the issues or displays that inspired them. Conversations about nuclear disarmament, environmental rights, civil rights, and women’s suffrage filled the halls, impressing our docents with our students’ level of inquiry and maturity. Having worked up an appetite walking through the history of New York, we hopped on the bus and traveled downtown to eat lunch together atop a boulder in Central Park. With full bellies and renewed energy, we began the second part of our journey: to view Ai Weiwei’s city-wide multimedia installation titled Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.
A short walk from where we ate, standing at the southwest corner of the Park, was Ai’s Gilded Cage, a circular golden structure standing twenty feet tall. The students entered its doorway, interacting with the art by moving the turnstiles within and immediately grappled with its meaning. Questions regarding its shape, color, location, and features rang out as we once again returned to our bus for one last stop: Greenwich Village.
Ai Weiwei’s most talked about installation sits below Washington Square Park’s iconic archway at the southernmost point of 5th Avenue. Our students reveled in the culture that defines the Village. Street performers, eclectics, and passersby pulled their attention, but in the end it was Ai Weiwei’s Arch that stole the show. Arch, a massive chrome birdcage-esque edifice, all but obstructs the entrance to the park save for a larger than life cookie-cutter passageway. Our students took pictures, played with their reflections in the mirrored interior, and a few even interviewed other visitors appreciating the Chinese dissident’s most anticipated installation.
We arrived back at school well after the sun had set, but it was only the beginning of our scholastic discourse. Prior to our excursion, the students close-read and analyzed Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again” and “The Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, researched Ai Weiwei’s biography and art, and reviewed the function and purpose of installation art. Armed with that knowledge and the experiences gained at the museum and parks, both seventh and eighth grade classes discussed the purpose of our trip, the historical impacts of the protests that define New York’s progressive past, and interpreted Ai Weiwei’s Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. The discussions, downright scholarly, demonstrated precisely our mission in the Humanities Department: to develop critical, creative, and unafraid minds to examine and contribute to the multiple perspectives and historical conditions that shape society and culture in an ever-changing world. Our mission is to foster global citizenship through cultural awareness, understanding, and empathy. We could not be more proud.