In four short days we had formed a community of learners that worked together through thought, feeling, and action to expand the range and depth of our practice as educators. Our final step in this cycle of community building was to perform our new questions and knowledge for each other as we prepared to bring refreshed energy, inquiry, and options back to the learning communities we would soon be forming in our own classrooms, and to share with our colleagues and families at our schools.
On our final day of the institute, we convened at the beautiful empty space of the Lacuna Artist Lofts to create “something from nothing,” just as Shakespeare’s empty stage conjured “cloud capp’d towers” and “gorgeous palaces” through the magic of theater.
Together we practiced making imaginary objects real, first passing around an imaginary ball that we responded to realistically as we imagined transformations in its size and weight. We then each created imaginary objects of our own choosing, interacted with our new objects until they became real to us, and then found a partner to exchange our imaginary gifts with without speaking. Some of the gifts we shared with each other included:
- A dog
- A tightrope
- A jump-rope
- A broom
- A mop
- A spray bottle
- A cell phone
- A nice new car
We then broke up into small groups of 5 or 6, listened to the “Story Corps” narratives we had recorded on our phones, and decided which of our several stories would be most exciting to physicalize. Drawing on our “making it real” exercise, we identified and rehearsed silent actions that included all the participants to represent the narrative of our recorded stories.
- We shared recorded stories in your groups.
- We considered the ones we wanted to bring to performance.
- We problem-solved practical considerations.
- We considered whether the stories we had selected had narrative flow that we could act out.
- We considered whether our recordings were understandable and clear.
Practitioner Developed Criteria for the Making of Beautiful Work
We considered how we had developed criteria for the successful performing of our stories, attending to such aspects of performance as the levels of:
Fluidity / Participation / Revision / Meaning / Use of space / Establishment of Setting
About Arts Integration
In this institute we built our personal knowledge of the power of the arts to advance our learning and our teaching. We explored meaningful texts in meaningful ways by responding to compelling works through a variety of media in a process that Cynthia Weiss calls “parallel processes”. This approach conceives of art forms not as grace notes for “decorating” texts, but rather as multi-sensory modes of experience and cognition that resonate with, parallel, and enrich the depth of any meaningful text that is being explored or created. This expands and reinforces the very concept of narrative plentitude itself.
By incorporating the artful creations that we had already produced throughout the week, we were able to quickly structure our performance of knowledge into a manageable sequence:
- Mosaic of Voices
- Opening: Bio Poem slideshow with volunteers reading
- Story Corps Groups: First Half
- Water Drumming Video
- Story Corps Groups: Second Half
- River of Dreams: I will protect…
And then, we presented to each other – incorporating both live performances and recorded performances, hard copy exhibition artifacts and projected images. We mirrored in real time the hybrid digital/analog world we all now live in as we emerge from a year of pandemic isolation.
We closed the day with a really powerful reflection:
I used to think . . . Now I think
I used to feel . . . Now I feel
A Moment of Respite
Summer of 2021 came with a newly kindled hope. Vaccinations were widely available in the U.S.. Restaurants were reopening; outdoor concerts resumed; people were getting out once again; the CDC announced that if all were vaccinated, perhaps we didn’t even need to wear masks. For this brief moment of respite we came together again in person for an Habla Teacher Institute for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
We wanted to make this experience as memorable as possible. For us that meant moving from a “high tech” to a “high touch” experience. Toffler warned us in his book Future Shock that, as technology advanced, we would have access to increasing amounts of information. He warned that in such a digital world we must be equally mindful of creating “high touch” experiences, in order to keep us grounded in a physical sense of community.
After a year and half of living on Zoom, we wanted our time together to be one of tactile experiences – we wanted to balance our high tech time with an institute that was high touch. Hence we first chose the theme of water focusing on the core text We Are the Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and beautifully illustrated by Michaela Goade. The visual arts team created a host of experiences involving making art with water, from paper marbling to painting with watercolors. Our musician in residence from Mexico City, Darío Bernal Villegas, introduced us to water drumming and we experimented with ways to collaboratively create soundscapes with found objects and pools of water. Picture the scene. The sky was cloudy and air thick with barely a mist of drizzle. Kids swimming pools were set up outside. Teachers in small groups selected random found objects such as empty bottles, hoses, pipes, and pots. They gathered around the pools. They splashed together, they played together, they laughed together, and they created and performed together.
As we moved through our planning we realized the theme of “protection” was just as important as the aesthetic of water. What do we protect? How can we protect our world? our students? ourselves? each other? These powerful themes of water and protection were the catalyst for one of the most powerful and moving weeks we’ve ever experienced as a community of educators.
Much gratitude to the Habla community and Summit communities, to all of our extraordinary teachers and students for being resilient and maintaining, despite all the challenges, a great sense of Alegría and hope. In the words of We are the Water Protectors:
With our songs
And our drums.
We are still here.