The gates of Wonka’s factory are now closed, but our 6th-8th grade cast and crew members are still “unpacking” a wonderful experience after our Musical Theatre Project unit in Performing Arts concluded last week with two fabulous performances of “Willy Wonka Jr.” As members of a performing ensemble, all students have been learning that it is important to reflect upon their participation and progress in the spring musical. Through written responses, students shared how they felt they grew as a performer (and person) by being on stage together. In addition, students were asked to share their theatrical design projects, which were also a component of the Musical Theatre Project. Students did graphic renderings and some hand-drawn images depicting their own individual set, costume, and prop designs for the show’s specific characters and/or scenes. We are truly proud of the entire cast and crew’s dedication to this exciting project.
The seventh graders have been busy these two weeks sharpening their conversational language skills. They recently created a fruit market and worked with other students to develop a script for conversation about buying and selling fruit. The Instagram photo frame integrates artwork and elegant Chinese characters.
The fifth graders created colorful St. Patrick’s Day posters. They have been learning vocabulary specific to Irish culture and have enjoyed comparing and contrasting those traditions with Chinese culture.
Twenty-four 7th and 8th grade students traveled over spring break with Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Knebel and our Spanish teachers, Ms. DeAngelis and Ms. Fernandez, to work and vacation with the Dominican Foundation for Marine Studies or Fundemar in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic. As Ecotourists, our students learned about and worked towards coral reef restoration and marine mammal conservation. As global citizens, our students met community members affected by the loss of the reef and learned how to make crafts and projects to help rid the reef of invasive species. They snorkeled in bleached out and not bleached out reefs to compare the levels of biodiversity – the difference was striking. Other highlights included a cultural exchange with Dominican youth, visiting the six hundred year old first capital of the the Americas and exploring underground limestone aquifers. Oh yes, practicing speaking Spanish, beach time, bargaining in souvenir shops and a whitewater raft trip were also on the itinerary.
With the drumbeat and chant from our kindergarteners, the excitement of performing to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Dog began from the first moment. Students performed songs and chants using their own traditional crafts as props and introductions and background were given by our older students in… Mandarin and English!
Making these crafts gave students the opportunity to learn the Chinese traditions involving food, decorations and the history of this holiday. Very quickly each student knew the character – 福（fú, luck and happiness)and the traditional gesture for wishing a good Chinese New Year with the expression – 恭喜恭喜 ( gōng xǐ gōng xǐ). Students in third and fourth grade were very proud of themselves when they made their 福（fú）character crafts. As students learned in class, when福(fú）is upside down, it means “luck and happiness have arrived.” There are several upside down 福（fú）characters in the first grade students’ crafts, so luck and happiness have just arrived around us at Unquowa. Upper school students also made their own 春联 ( (chūn lián), adding happiness and best wishes to the celebration.
As you are watching this video full of our students’ enthusiasm and talent, we wish you and your family 狗年大吉大利 (gǒu nián dàjí dà lì)…luck and prosperity in the Chinese New Year of the Dog!
Seventh-grade humanities class figuratively travels around the globe to delve into culture and current events. We learn about other peoples through literature, history, art, and film, but sometimes, we seek understanding through a somewhat unlikely curricular source–food. Food is a medium, a nourishing social art, which invites others to experience a culture through a language of flavors and a palate of aromas. We celebrate with food; we heal with food. Our students recognized this while reading I Lived on Butterfly Hill, a coming-of-age novel set in an allegorical depiction of Pinochet’s rise to power in Chile. Throughout the novel, the protagonist, Celeste, lyrically revels in the power of food. Of her grandmother’s journey to Chile as a WWII refugee, she learns, “Abuela suffers from an illness called nostalgia, which is often cured with a sprinkle of love, some lemon, a few raisins, and many slices of avocado.” The contrast of flavors and textures triggers sensations, awakens memory, alerts us to the present, and quite literally keeps us full.
As Celeste matures in her own journey as a refugee in Maine, she finds the strength to persevere through writing, reading, and preparing the comfort food of her culture, sharing them with her newfound friends. Celeste shares the food of her culture as both a celebration of difference and connection. Following Celeste’s example, seventh-graders collaborated with our kitchen staff to research and design the school’s lunch menu last Friday, sharing the knowledge during this unit. Chef David and Chef Jessica, always open to student collaboration in the kitchen, visited our humanities class sharing items and culinary knowledge with our seventh-graders. Each seventh-grader presented a salad, main dish, soup, side, and dessert, sharing their research and rationale. Our chefs selected recipes from student presentations and prepared them for our school lunch. Before we ate, seventh-graders introduced the meal to their peers and faculty. We were impressed with our student appetites for knowledge and understanding. Their presentations were emblematic of their appreciation of the novel and the history of Chile. We learned that food is a universal element that blurs the borders that we create between cultures.
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!