November 11th, 2008
Katherine Beim-Esche, General Music Teacher, Sorrento Springs Elementary–
I had several goals in mind when designing this field trip. Firstly, I was interested in providing an opportunity for my students to hear live music and to see real art in an authentic viewing experience. Secondly, I wanted my students to begin to see connections between art and music. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I wanted to encourage my students to actively experience the music and art. To accomplish these goals I developed a focus for the experience which was to find elements of Musical Theater in art.
We discussed the different elements of a Musical Theater story: Character, Plot, and Setting–adding musical and dance styles. Students charted these elements in different Musical Theater scenes. They found story elements of songs by noticing details and then asking questions. After watching Harold Hill sing, “Ya Got Trouble,” students answered questions about the scene and thought of questions to ask the character Harold Hill. Students also started thinking about the roles of the people who bring this story to life: Playwright, Choreographer, Composer, Actor, and Set Designer. They thought about the role of each of these people and how they contributed to telling a story in Musical Theater.
Students, then, were given the opportunity to see a real Musical Theater performance live at The Sheldon entitled “The American Musical.” In between songs the performers and the musical director discussed these same elements of Character, Plot, and Setting. They also reinforced information about the roles of the Playwright, Choreographer, Composer, Actor, and Set Designer in Musical Theater. Students loved watching this live performance and recognized many of the songs and concepts. We stopped for a quick picnic lunch and then moved on to The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. Our visit to The Pulitzer was structured, yet open for individual experience and discovery. Students were divided into six groups and were to visit six different stations. I gave each student a booklet which provided a place for reflection and creation at each station. I used a template rather than individualizing each page to allow for alterations in the activities according to each individual group’s interests. Each station was manned by a teacher and a gallery assistant who had been given a specific activity. The instruction to these station leaders emphasized that if the activities needed to be tweaked to accommodate a group’s interests, they were encouraged to make these changes. What remained consistent was an instruction to “notice” and “wonder” at each station. Creation was at the heart of each activity. This creation could be documented in a designated place in the booklet. Each station connected a piece of art or architecture with Musical Theater. To help the students experience the piece at each station, they were asked to become a different role found in Musical Theater: Playwright, Choreographer, Composer, Actor, and Set Designer. Students reflected in their booklets, participated in an activity based on the focus piece, and then reflected once more. Example activities: Students created dance movements responding to the movement and lines inherent in The Pulitzer’s water garden. Students wrote a plot of a play inspired by a landscape drawing. Students wrote a character study for a portrait and then created an impromptu scene acting as the character.
We spent two hours at the museum, and the time flew by. The students were engaged and eager to learn. Each activity took students away from merely thinking whether they liked the art or not. They focused their attention on what they saw and then further into asking questions, making connections, seeing patterns, and creating meaning. Many students were so inspired by their experience at The Pulitzer that they want to come back again.
POST FIELD TRIP
At the conclusion, students wrote a post field trip evaluation in the booklet. Then, in class, students created their own Musical Theater scenes. Each student assumed one of the roles we had studied for their group: Playwright, Choreographer, Composer, Actor, and Set Designer. We performed and videotaped these scenes in class. This culminating activity allowed students to put into practice all that they had learned.
This was a truly rewarding experience for me and my students. It was such a pleasure working with The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts. They were so very accommodating in helping make this field trip possible.