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last updated: Wed, Jun 25th, 2014

Feeling the music 

Fifth-graders displayed some fancy footwork and fourth-graders made merry music as part of a recent four-day workshop by Young Audiences New Jersey & Eastern Pennsylvania, an arts education organization based in Princeton. 

Sponsored by the Flanders Parent Teacher Association, the workshop was a multi-cultural immersion as dancer Liliana Attar and percussionist Josh Robinson brought the sounds and soul of Latin America to Mountain View. 

Ms. Attar, originally from Argentina, worked with the fifth-graders and taught them a variety of dance steps including the cha-cha, salsa, merengue, and bachata. 

Mr. Robinson, along with Mountain View art teacher Laura Murdoch, helped fourth-graders create their own drums from big tomato sauce cans (donated from Valentino’s Pizza), packing tape, and duct tape. Then with the conga drums, bucket drums, maracas, and guiros he brought with him, Mr. Robinson taught students the rhythms and sounds of a range of Latin American music types.

Both performance artists also discussed the role of art as a communications form that uniquely expresses the feelings and creativity of the performer.

The culmination of the workshop was a performance for parents and first- and second-graders that featured drum and dance demonstrations, as well as an interactive audience lesson on dancing the merengue.

“One of the goals was for students to open their eyes to new experiences,” said Laura Rutan, school music teacher who helped coordinated the workshop and activities. “They stepped into a new situation, with guest instructors and with a bit of trepidation not knowing what to expect. And in a short amount of time, they saw that they could create something beautiful that they could truly be proud of. It was amazing.”

This was the second year in which Young Audiences came to Mountain View. Mr. Robinson visited last year and conducted drumming workshops with both the fourth and fifth grades.

Second-graders Tanirika Koripella, Bianca Barbieri, and Johan Chacko get a preview of one of the second grade films

Student films hit the big screen

On June 20, the red carpet was rolled out in front of the Bow Tie Succasunna Cinema 10 in Roxbury for Mountain View’s third annual 2nd Grade Film Festival. A dozen films created by the second-graders were screened for family and friends.

The project melds realistic fiction writing, which is a key component of the second grade language arts curriculum, with visual communication skills. It also helps realize the second grade technology standard in the Common Core State Standards that calls for students to illustrate and communicate ideas and stories using digital media tools.

The second-graders studied the themes and narrative components of realistic fiction and learned how to turn their own real-life experiences into short fictional stories. Each film has a theme or message, a hallmark of realistic fiction, such as the importance of helping others, working together to solve problems, effective communication, forgiveness, asking for help when you need it, hard work and preparation, and positive thinking.

The three second-grade classes functioned as mini-production companies. Each class selected story ideas from a list of suggestions that the students had generated. Then came the task of figuring out how to dramatize those stories in school using limited resources and time.

From there, it was an immersion into moviemaking. Students worked in small groups and were actors, prop-makers, storyboard artists, and even cinematographers as they created their short films, which are each approximately five minutes long.

“It was a lot of work,” said Tanirika Koripella, member of the team that produced “The Horrible Halloween, a film about students banding together to help a classmate whose Halloween costume is accidentally soaked with water. “There were so many steps and things to do.”

The whole project, though, taught students much more than the filmmaking process, technology, and the way to dramatize events that are inspired from real life.

“Working collaboratively was a very key part of this activity,” said Sherri Clemente, second grade teacher. “The students learned how to accept the thoughts and ideas of others, and to compromise.” 

The films were shot on Flip cameras purchased several years ago through a Flanders PTA grant and private donations. Kindergarten teacher Laura Markowski, one of the co-founders of the film festival in 2012 when she taught second grade, coordinated the editing.

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