One of my most favorite things to read is the Edutopia magazine. They have excellent articles and insights from teachers all over the nation and across the curriculum. As a teacher at university, I am always inspired by my fellow teachers doing some excellent work for students before they hit my classrooms and thought I would share with you, two particularly amazing ideas and projects.
The first involves using art and music together for students — teachers using the 9 Muses of ancient Greek lore to introduce and examine various examples of their specialty through youtube! If you don’t remember the 9 sisters, there was Calliope who ruled epic poetry, Clio who worked with history, Erato loved lyric poetry while her sister Euterpe was fascinated with music. Melpomene was the muse of tragedy while her light hearted sister Thalia, loved comedy. Then there was Polyhymnia who specialized in choral poetry and Terpsichore, the dancer. Finally, Urania governed astronomy.
In her article, Shari Wargo demonstrates how each of the muses discusses examples from youtube to help students understand the history of all such performances, reconnecting them to the ancestry of rap, hiphop, movies etc. A completely new and at the same time, ancient way of learning about the performative arts! Interestingly, the word muse, has the same root, as music. The sisters, with their dedication to the performative arts, founded learning in a preliterate world. They remind us that before we were homo sapiens ( knowing humans) we were homo narrans (story telling humans).
Likewise, while November is a long way off, it is National Novel Writing Month, and as a teacher who battles with students to write 5 pages, I am amazed at what kids who participate in this program accomplish in one month. A novel in a month! How many authors could do that kind of work? Yet, the kids do and they do it with amazing tenacity in a collective act. As one student reports, “it is not even about having your work read, it is about having written it.” In November 2008, more than 1.6 million words were written in a month! In the same year, nearly 120,000 adults from at least 45 countries became authors. You can too! The program is free for schools and has an excellent website which walks teachers through the program and how to prepare. Perhaps the greatest thing emerging from this program is the fundamental change in the relationship young kids have with books and writing. I have seniors who are afraid to write. I wish they had had this opportunity to unleash their power as a scribe!
From the Muses to the power of the scribe, if you are homeschooling your kids, you might be interested in the annual contests run by the Home School Legal Defense Association, for art, essays, poetry and photography. The poetry competition runs from May 1 through June 1, while the photography competition is coming up this summer and has a submission period beginning July 1 and ending August 1. Check out the website for a host of tips and resources for preparing your work for the competition. It’s a great event and every year, hundreds of home school students from around the country and even around the world raise thousands of dollars for the Home School Foundation’s Special Needs Children Fund.
“[The Muses] are all of one mind, their hearts are set upon song and their spirit is free from care. He is happy whom the Muses love. For though a man has sorrow and grief in his soul, yet when the servant of the Muses sings, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses to men.”
So, welcome the Muses into your life this Springtime and revel in their gifts as you celebrate the performative arts — arts for all and all for arts!