Plainville Community Schools, 47 Robert Holcomb Way, Plainville CT 06062, (860)793-3200

Middle School Students Enhance Learning Through the Arts

Sixth graders at the Middle School of Plainville showcased their artistic talents and classroom learning during an evening performance for parents and families on December 6th as part of the Bushnell PARTNERS program. The PARTNERS program began in 1996, as a collaboration among General Electric, The Bushnell, and Plainville Community Schools. This collaboration resulted in the creation of an arts based program in which students work together with elementary school staff, visiting artists, and volunteers, to enrich and promote the integration of the Arts and Literacy. The program was expanded to the middle school level in 1996.

The sixth grade performance and exhibit, facilitated by middle school staff members and visiting artists from The Bushnell, was the culminating event for students as part of their study of ancient Greece and The Odyssey. For approximately six weeks, sixth graders studied The Odyssey in both language arts and social studies classes. Through the PARTNERS program, academics were enriched by arts infused workshops held at the middle school on November 30th and December 1st. During the workshops, a number of visiting artists affiliated with the Bushnell led students in sessions on watercolor and pastel posters, marionettes and shadow puppets, poetry, fabric banners, acting / reading theater, masks, and cartooning. Parent volunteers together with volunteers from General Electric and the community assisted students with workshop activities. The results of the workshop sessions were showcased at the December 6th performance.

According to Jan Rustico, middle school language arts teacher and Bushnell PARTNERS program liaison, the visiting artist workshops provide students with the opportunity to work with an artistic medium that they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to use. “At the end of the school year, when my classes reflect on things we’ve done over the course of the year, many students name the Bushnell PARTNERS workshops as their favorite,” noted Rustico. Seventh and eighth graders at the middle school will also participate in Bushnell PARTNERS program workshops later in the school year; seventh graders will study the Civil War, and eighth graders will study World War II.

The PARTNERS program has been a popular one for Plainville students for many years. “The Bushnell program for the Holocaust was a really unique way to present the Holocaust to eighth graders. It seemed like the best way to express the emotions and horror of the Holocaust, more effective than by reading it out of a textbook. I hope that the Bushnell keeps sponsoring the Holocaust program because I really thought it was the best way to teach such a sensitive subject,” noted Plainville High School student Alyssa Chmura.

For the 6th graders, the Bushnell workshops give students a chance to work more closely with a chosen scene from The Odyssey. Mary Scahill and Bob Freimuth, instructors at the middle school, appreciate how the various media used during the workshops reveal their students’ interpretations and understanding of the timeless story. “This version of the story is perfect for this age group. The students love the characters and the challenges Odysseus and his crew must face to get back home to Ithaca.” Student Marc DeMartinis notes, "Odysseus overcame all these obstacles to get home to his family. He's even offered immortality by the goddess Calypso and he rejects it." Adds Nick Forino, “Odysseus is a hero to me because of the loyalty he shows to his crew.”

“We explain to students that many different versions of the story exist because it was a story originally told during ancient times, to both entertain and to teach lessons, then eventually it was written down. The places and characters of the story are, therefore, open to some interpretation. I think the students get comfortable with this idea by the end of the story, and so the Bushnell collaboration is just the perfect ending for this unit,” noted Scahill. “My cartoon was based on the Cyclops. The cartooning was amazing. Mr. Young is a great guy and he helped us along the way,” says Tyler Favreau. Jennifer Kristofik concludes, "You get to use your imagination to create what you think these places and characters in The Odyssey look like. Students get to choose an art form they want to work with such as watercolors or puppets.”

Artwork will be on display at the middle school through December.

Click on a thumbnail to see the full image.

-Posted on December 11, 2006 at 02:18 PM

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