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Teachers and Students Go on Adventures in Art

by Natalie Goodnow, Artistic Associate

Theatre Action Project (TAP) teaching artists Frank Nappi and Lindsay Palmer had the unique opportunity to craft linked curricula for their 2nd grade after school classes at Hornsby-Dunlap Elementary. They focused on the work of four artists: Frida Khalo, Rosa Bonheur, Salvador Dali and Faith Ringgold.

Actor Frank Nappi guided the students through an interactive process drama framing the entire semester as an urgent quest. He began the semester by showing students a short video which he filmed with another Teaching Artist, Miss Kate Shaw. She was in disguise as the mysterious super villain, “Z” who explained that he had magically captured teachers from the students’ very own school and transported them into famous paintings by artists such as…you guessed it– Frida Kahlo, Rosa Bonheur, Salvador Dali, and Faith Ringgold! Z cackled that the students had no hope of ever rescuing their teachers, because they knew nothing about art!

After seeing this video, the students could not wait to prove the mysterious Z wrong!  With visual artist Lindsay Palmer, the students:

  • Learned about the historical context in which these artists lived.
  • Asked big questions about why and how these artists engaged in discussions of activism about the social issues of their time.
  • Created their own artwork inspired by Kahlo, Bonheur, Dali, and Ringgold.

Back with Mr. Frank, the students engaged in narrative pantomime and improvisatory play to further explore the artists’ work. Using just some tape lines on the floor, and a lot of imagination, the students crafted a magical airplane that could journey straight into the paintings themselves, where Mr. Frank used narrative pantomime to guide students through the worlds of the paintings, their sights, sounds, smells, and textures, their people and places, and then finally (through the power of improvisatory play, also known as make believe) to rescue their captured and beloved teachers.

I’ll venture to say that the students retained much more historical knowledge than they would have had they been taught it in another way. The arts-based teaching strategies gave them a compelling need to learn that information, and also fun and hands-on ways to learn. They also learned social-emotional skills such as teamwork, confidence, and leadership, as they strategized how to work together to create these works of art, and to rescue their teachers.

And that’s how it works! Theatre Action Project uses the creative arts to activate the social, academic, and emotional development of young people. In school, after school, in our communities, every day!

Special thanks to Teaching Artists Frank Nappi and Lindsay Palmer for all your hard work this semester, and for ACE Afterschool Program Coordinator Jennifer Corrigan for your support!

Wrapping Up the School Year in Del Valle

by Natalie Goodnow, Artistic Associate
This May, we concluded our first year of after-school programming in Del Valle ISD. We are so pleased and so proud of our collaboration with the new ACE (Afterschool Centers on Education) programs in the district!

I have the great pleasure of working with our Del Valle elementary school campuses and teaching artists as a team lead; here are some of the highlights we saw as students and Teaching Artists (“TA’s”) shared their work with their communities this spring.

Hillcrest Elementary
TA’s Peter Mendoza and Claire Augustine’s students shared poems and visions of peace at Poetry for Peace Night.

Baty Elementary
With TA’s Irina Kaplan and Jean Claude Lessou, students wowed parents with a super scary zombie dance!

Popham Elementary
Students exploring stories with TA’s Ben Schave and Diana Leon in our Storybook Theatre curriculum shared artwork, original scenes, and favorite games with their families and friends.

Smith Elementary
One of Lillie Hollingsworth’s (TA) classes showed a trailer for their original movie, “Zombie Girl,” and the other two performed their original play “Kai the Lion,” about a lion with a blue mane who isn’t accepted because his friends because he’s different. Keep an eye out for Lillie’s film about the class!

Hornsby-Dunlap Elementary
TA Stephanie Chavez’ younger students performed a narrative pantomime based on the book “Super Cilantro Girl” (one of my favorite stories!), her older students performed their very own play, as did Lucy Miller-Downing’s (TA) fabulous 2nd and 3rd graders, all Hollywood-bound! TA Frank Nappi’s classes shared some of the stories they’ve read and masks and costumes they’ve created this year.

Del Valle Elementary
A TAPstravaganza! One of TA Mitch Bowman’s classes of students displayed their artwork in their very own gallery, including a sound and light installation. Another class gave a drum performance, while the other two showed fantastic films. One of Lillie Hollingsworth’s classes also showed two films, and the other shared three dances – all created by the students!

Creedmoor Elementary
Lindsay Palmer’s (TA) students shared their original puppet creations, and Kate Shaw’s (TA) saw the debut of their original play. At the end of the event, several students took the microphone to talk about the ACE program; one said,

“Thank you so much for having this program. We learned so many things we never learned before. This is the most fun I ever had in my whole life!”

Wow, can you believe all the things we created in Del Valle this year! And that’s just in one of the six area public school districts we work with! And now, we’re already beginning our summer program. I can’t wait to see what our students and Teaching Artists cook up next! Are you a TAP student, teacher, parent, or principal at Del Valle? Let me know how your year went. I’d love to chat with you and get your perspective on the year.