Target Arts Residency At Ellis Elementary

Posted 11 November 2011 12:00 AM by Phillip Bergman, Teaching Assistant

Today marks the end of our third week of instruction at the David A. Ellis Elementary School in Roxbury, MA. Over the last three weeks, teaching artist Maurice Parent and I have faced our own unique set of challenges and successes teaching a class of 30 fourth grade students including a small group of Special Education students.

For the majority of the students, their exposure to the arts is limited to what’s on telivision, the internet, and top-40 radio. Most of the students have never seen a live performance, much less had the opportunity to perform themselves. Maurice and I have used a wide-range of techniques, source materials, and approaches to bring even the shyest fourth graders out of their shells. From grooving to Michael Jackson’s music to get them moving and comfortable in their bodies, to analyzing episodes of Spongebob Squarepants to grasp the basics of dramatic structure, we’ve had a lot of fun teaching the students that it’s okay to express themselves in their own unique way. Over the last three weeks, we’ve discovered that everyone in the class has their own unique set of talents – maybe something the students weren’t able to see even in themselves. (At least six of these kids can moonwalk. I mean REALLY moonwalk.)

Last week, the students attended a performance of 360 Theater’s PETER PAN, an immersive live/digital spectacle that we hope showed them all the possibilities that live theater has to offer. The students will be introduced to a world where children have all of the power. Using that as a springboard, we hope to develop a short presentation where the fourth grade “Big Class” will share the world they would like to create for themselves with the rest of the school just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Maurice and I have begun to develop a deep affection for all of our students, and hope to see them surprise their communities with all of their latent hidden talents, just beginning to emerge.

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