Class 1's Creative Community

Class 1 students recently took part in their first arts integration experience this year, devoting their time to a daylong exploration of sustainability, equity, innovation and empathy through cross-curricular workshops. With guidance from both their arts and homeroom teachers, this “creative community” thrived throughout Lower School spaces. 

In the Black Box Theater, students underwent a transformation from Chapin students to thoughtful astronauts assigned a special mission in drama class.

Lower School Head of Arts and Integration and Drama teacher Sarah Bellantoni explained to the young actors that they must leave Earth to explore a brand-new planet. “Do you accept this mission?” she asked, to which the students enthusiastically replied, “Yes!”

Thus, off they traveled to Planet “Dars X5,” to create a livable and sustainable community. They split into three small groups representing the key areas of survival: shelter, food and water. Each group of astute scholars recounted the many ways they determined that they could maintain their community. 

“We can collect snow and filter it until it’s clean,” noted a water group member. A student in the food group suggested “planting different fruits and vegetables for crops to eat and splitting the food equally,” and the shelter group discussed building homes from rocks and mud. “We should be equitable,” one student declared.

A few floors down, inside Lower School Music teacher Eddie Wiernik’s classroom, the students shed their astronaut personas and transitioned into musicians. However, before they could play any music, the students were required to build their own instruments - using only recycled materials. 

Using their innovative minds and a plethora of items, such as empty yogurt containers, paper towel rolls, rubber bands, plastic water bottles and balloons, the excited first graders carefully crafted harmonicas, ukuleles, trumpets and drums. 

Once everyone had an instrument to play, the class came together in front of the piano to add to their “community song.” The first two lines had already been written by the first group of Class 1 students to attend the music workshop. “This is our community song, let’s all sing and play along,” began the upbeat tune.

After quick deliberation, the second group added: “With our march of recyclables, we can be sustainable!” The day would conclude with one full song – written by all of Class 1. 

In the Lower School Art room, students discussed the questions: “What is public art?” and “What messages would we like to send to the community through public art?” 

Students observed examples of this medium, including artist Faith Ringgold’s subway mosaics. Next, they gathered in teams to design their very own mosaic murals. “We can use art to inspire people,” commented one student.

With crayons, colored paper and creativity at their fingertips, impressive designs began to emerge. They worked diligently, opting to add vibrant colors and moving words such as “together,” “change,” and “fair,” to enhance their artwork. 

In the dance workshop, Lower School dance teacher Susan Strong began by asking students what the word empathy meant. “It’s feeling how someone else is feeling,” said one student. 

Ms. Strong nodded, following up by underscoring the importance of making caring choices for our Earth. She then began to pass out special ‘empathy investigator’ stickers and blank booklets. “What’s special about the word investigator?” she asked, placing emphasis on the end of the word. “Gator! Like Chapin!” exclaimed a cheerful student. 

The students gathered their pencils and booklets and spread out into different areas in the dance studio. Ms. Strong played three different, natural sounds over the speakers and the students listened quietly, eyes wide with curiosity. They wrote down how the noises made them feel and what they were reminded of.

Once they finished, Ms. Strong played the same sounds again. This time, however, instead of writing, students danced to reveal their emotions. With the sounds of children frolicking, subway trains and traffic playing overhead as their inspiration, students ran in circles, stomped their feet and wiggled their bodies.

Following the sound activity, students were given photos reflecting global issues, such as pollution and overcrowding. “Are those photos real?” gasped one student. “Yes, they’re real photos. We need your help with real issues,” explained Ms. Strong. Again using movement, they acted out possible solutions to these ever-pressing issues. 

If this “creative community” was any indication, Chapin’s Class 1 students are full of bright ideas to help make this world a better place.