Students find China with more than a map

SPENCERTOWN – Third graders from Mary E. Dardess Elementary School celebrated their study of China and its people at Spencertown Academy on Sunday, April 1. It was the academy’s first artsVoyage Family Day of 2012.

During their studies, students examined objects from everyday life, used spoken and written language, and learn about the art, literature and music of China. This unit is part of the common core curriculum for Social Studies in third grade, which focuses on communities around the world.

“This is the third year of this program,” said Maryanne Lee, executive director of the Spencertown Academy. “It began as a pilot program and grew to add more and more of the school’s core curriculum.”  Lessons are designed by utilizing the current social studies, English Language Arts lessons and even some math and science.

Earlier this year, the same group of students came to the Academy for an exploration of Venice. During their visit, students made scale drawings of the canals.

Abigail Brownell, the district’s music teacher, brought her third graders to perform traditional Chinese music using hand bells, glockenspiels and a gong. The Spencertown Academy arranged for Ms. Brownell to travel to New York City to learn about Chinese music and she was able to take that experience back to the school.

Thomas Lee worked with the students on the Chinese unit as a teaching artist, coming into the classrooms during the school year. He said of Sunday’s event, “This was a culmination of a six-week project. The best part was that we had this whole activity planned where [the students] would be drawing and writing and it turned out that we didn’t even have to tell them what to do. They saw a pot of flowers and sketch paper and pencils and they just sat down, picked up their pencils and began to draw.”

The Family Day program was free and featured an array of artists and performers. Besides the music, the event included poetry, art displays and the making of Chinese kites.

The artsVOYAGE is an arts-in-education program offered by Spencertown Academy Arts Center in partnership with public schools throughout Columbia County.

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