School Assemblies are fun, participatory, educational and filled with positive messages. I include stories and songs, as well as movement, humor and meaning.
I have done many elementary school assemblies every year, on topics ranging from the environment to multi-cultural understanding. Children and adults come away feeling good. One third grader said, “This is better than recess!” Teachers and principals respond with similar enthusiasm, to the messages, the humor and to the attentiveness and involvement of the students.
I offers specific themes, but he also often customizes programs to fit the interest of a school.
School visits can consist of assemblies, classroom visits, time in arts specialist rooms, or demonstration sessions for teachers. In addition, I offer professional development for staff in the areas of tableau, storytelling, oral narrative and connections to writing, arts integration, and music. Although these topics can be addressed in one session, meeting with teachers around a topic for an hour two or three days in a row encourages and allows teachers to implement strategies, reflect on their learning, and then add new skills. I have found that this type of professional development is a more effective way to influence teachers’ practice.
I lead artist-in-residence experiences for students of all ages, though most of my work has been with elementary schools. My residencies focus on songwriting and/or storytelling. A typical residency can include:
- Writing a School Song
- Working with classes or grade levels to create songs or verses that reflect curricular or other areas of interest.
- Teaching students to perform folk tales
- Leading students in creating stories based on archetypal forms, such as Trickster Tales, the Hero’s Journey, or Pourquoi (why) Stories.
Residencies incorporate the Kennedy Center definition of arts integration in order to promote greater student engagement and connections to previous learning.
Residencies can include performances, recordings of student work, videos, slide shows, or publications.
I also co-lead some residencies with his dear friend and fellow musician Tom Pease.
I have performed and led residencies in international schools in England, Greece, Switzerland, Romania, Spain and Egypt. I have also presented at international school conferences, including Beaconhouse Schools for Tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur, LISA in the United Kingdom, ECIS in Barcelona, and SGIS in Switzerland.
In recent trips to International Schools, there have been some consistent themes and interests.
- Every school or conference saw the value of stories in teaching, and workshops help teachers implement related ideas.
- Schools recognize the importance of creativity. It isn’t only about the arts, but music, drama, movement, and visual arts nurture creative capacity in students.
- Schools are exploring mindfulness practice with students. The connections with kindness, as explored in my book, Beyond Nice, are strong and immediate.
- Early Learning. Brain research confirms the value of focusing sustained attention on this critical time of life. The balance between learning through play and focusing on academics and assessment continues to be a challenge for many early years educators.
- Professional Development. Teachers everywhere are excited to learn practical, hands-on, and relevant strategies.
- Joyful Engagement. Students and teachers want to feel connected and immersed in what they are learning, and with the people with whom they are learning.
International schools offer unique opportunities for artistic exploration. The rich mixture of cultures, languages, and experiences makes for a dynamic environment for learning and creating.
On the other hand, kids are kids around the world. They love to sing, laugh, hear stories, and participate in arts of all kinds.