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Spotlight: Arts for ELL+SWD in Manhattan

Spring is finally in full bloom in New York, and Arts Horizons is preparing for the end of the school year and planning the launch of our summer programs. We are pleased to announce the fifth post of a series in which we spotlight two more of our partner schools in Manhattan that received an “Arts for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities” (ELL+SWD) grant:  PS 184M: Shuang Wen in Chinatown and PS 79M: Horan School in East Harlem. This is Arts Horizons’ fourth season participating in this initiative, and we have announced our 10 partner schools for this academic year in a previous post.

Through this grant, participating schools “receive funding to create new or expand existing partnerships with arts and cultural organizations with experience serving English Language Learners (ELLs) and/or Students with Disabilities (SWD).” Our visual and performing arts programs for Literacy Development and Socio-emotional Growth effectively engaged these student populations through hands-on workshops that stimulated creativity, vocabulary development, speaking, and other communication skills.

At PS 184M, three AH teaching artists – Pat Russell, Navida Stein, and Jeannine Otis – conducted residencies for grades 3, 4, and 7 in Circus Arts, Storytelling, and Musical Theater. AH teaching artists Mansa Mussa and Natalie Alleyne have been part of an extensive visual arts program with District 75 elementary school students at PS 79M. Let’s take a quick visit to their classes!

Earlier in April, AH program coordinator Kiran Rajagopalan attended (and videotaped) the final performances of Jeannine Otis’s 7th grade and Pat Russell’s 3rd Grade classes at PS 184M. Jeannine is an award-winning singer, songwriter, actress, and author, and she is co-director of Theatreworks USA’s production “Freedom Train.” Pat is a multidisciplinary theater artist and longtime teaching artist who specializes in clowning, circus skills, facepainting, and puppetry.

Jeannine’s 7th grade classes presented “Message Songs,” an uplifting series of student-selected songs centered on the theme of social justice. A student representative from each of the three classes spoke briefly about their song choices and how they related to issues they have experienced at school and in their communities. “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson, “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent, and four songs from the megahit musical Hamilton were performed to a packed audience of students and parents. Jeannine even had a guest drummer, bassist, and spoken-word artist STARDA as part of the ensemble!

Immediately following “Message Songs,” the auditorium was transformed into a circus with the assistance of several parent volunteers who hung up pennants, student artwork, and other paraphernalia. Pat’s 3rd grade classes then paraded into the auditorium and performed tricks, skits, and gags that wowed and amazed a second group of students and parents. Students juggled scarves, balanced feathers, played tug-of-war with an imaginary rope, tumbled on mats, performed magic illusions, and did tricks with hula hoops! The 45-minute show ended with an engaging Q&A in which students asked other students about all of the tricks they saw.

Grand Finale of PS 184M’s 3rd Grade Circus Arts Performance with Pat Russell

It was a monumental undertaking to coordinate the logistics of these performances, and we thank visual arts teacher Ms. E-Anna Soong for all of her effort in their organization and execution. We also thank the principal Ms. Chiu and assistant principal Ms. Mee for welcoming us into their schools.

Kiran then travelled uptown to visit noted mixed media artist Natalie Alleyne at PS 79M, and he observed her students creating collage portraits with such enthusiasm and concentration. Most students were instructed to create collage portraits using bits of construction paper and gluestick. Several students had already completed their collages in a previous class, and they learned how to use a tile cutter in preparation for next week’s lesson of transforming their collages into mosaics. The paraprofessionals and teachers were critical support to Natalie and her students, and we thank them for their assistance throughout the residency.

For further information on applying for the Arts for ELL+SWD grant with Arts Horizons as a partner, please contact Dena Malarek at 201-567-1766 ext. 108 or dena@artshorizons.org. The deadline for new applications and renewals is Friday, June 8!

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