Dance, Music, Story, Theater, & Visual Arts

photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

The Arts Room is definitely a work-in-progress, and I’ve been tweaking the Pages lately, trying to figure out the best way to spotlight our local visual and performing artists and let you know about the wealth of opportunities we have available here in Bristol and Warren.  If you haven’t explored our Pages lately (click the tabs along the top of our home page), I hope you’ll take a moment and take a look.  Let me know what you think!

“Our Children Spread Their Dreams Beneath Our Feet”

The education of my children is very much on my mind lately, now that the Joint Finance meetings have ended and our town leaders did not step up to declare education a top priority.  I’m wondering how my children’s school day will change in the upcoming school year.  I’m also reflecting on my impressions of the way this year has progressed.  There’s an awful lot to think about.

Frankly, I’m concerned we’re heading in the wrong direction, but what really worries me is that we may not even agree on the best way to read the map.  Recently at a school committee meeting I watched and listened to a detailed presentation of our district’s performance on this year’s NECAP tests.  Our district’s scores are fine, well above the State average in nearly every area.  But, perhaps contrary to the intentions of the presenters, I was troubled by the amount of time they’ve spent poring over this data.  In fact, that was the overwhelming message of the presentation – that Data is King, and as we move forward, the district’s energies will be applied in the service of the King. 

From my perspective as a parent this is all very troubling.  Yes, adopting a data-driven strategy to pinpoint interventions may result in higher test scores and therefore might make your system look better and better each year (“annual yearly progress”), but I’m not convinced this is what’s best for the children attending classes in this system and trying to achieve a good education.  Because a good education is about so much more than standardized test scores!  

Test scores don’t excite me, or provide me with a rush of relief.  I am more concerned with how my children spend their day.  Are they actually learning anything?  I mean really learning, deeply learning, learning so that their curiosity is ignited and their imagination unleashed.  Learning so that every new discovery leads to more questions, to the opportunity to discuss things, and attempt things, and work things out with their own minds and their own two hands.  Learning that includes time to reflect.  Learning that instills a lifelong love of learning, not just learning something long enough to be able to regurgitate it for a test.  I’m not sure which scenario is playing out right now, and I’m wondering which scenario we’ll be encouraging as we move forward.  If everything must now be “data-driven”, and since the data only describe Math and English/L.A. test scores, and with the district facing precarious financial circumstances … what does this all mean for our children’s education?

Some important meetings will be taking place this May, at which school committee members and district administrators and parents and other members of the community will discuss how to make our school system work with the money that’s been allotted.  The idealist in me thinks this is an opportunity to transform education and sculpt our district into a new model for the 21st century.  The cynic in me is looking at the way we’re reading that map and thinks we’re about to get hopelessly lost. 

What we need is some inspiration! 

A few weeks ago I shared my admiration for Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert who writes and speaks about the urgent need to transform education and cultivate a new way of thinking about human potential.  The title of this post is a quote from his second TED talk, given in February 2010, four years after his first TED talk.  Again, he’s funny and charming and an entertaining and insightful speaker, so I hope you’ll take a moment to watch:

School Committee Budget Subcommittee meetings on May 9th & May 16th; School Committee meetings on May 9th & May 23rd; check their website for details.

Summer Strings

The Community String Project Summer Ensembles are open to students entering Grade 6 through Adults.  The eight-week program will run on Thursday evenings,
beginning June 16 through August 4 at the First Congregational Church on High Street in Bristol.  The cost for the program is $80.  Students who qualify
for free/reduced lunch pay the subsidized cost of $20, which includes the cost of the instrument for the session.

The String Ensemble will rehearse from 5:30-7:30pm.  This group is comprised of musicians who have played violin, viola, cello or bass.  The String Ensemble will perform two concerts during the summer.  The Summer String Ensemble will be under the direction of Christine Harrington.

The Beginner class will be offered on Thursdays from 6:30-8:00pm.  Please check
the website www.cspri.org for a list of music stores renting string instruments. 
The CSP offers instruments rentals at a reduced rate for students in Grades 3-12
who live in Bristol and Warren.

The Yearling class which also meets on Thursdays from 6:30-8:00pm is for
musicians who need more rigorous instruction than beginners, but are not quite ready
to perform with the String Ensemble.  This class will be comprised of musicians who
have recently started to play, or who haven’t played for a long time and need a
refresher course. 

To register, download the registration form from www.cspri.org and mail it with
a check payable to CSP, Box 513, Bristol, RI 02809.  For further information,
contact Robert Arsenault at 254-5980 ext.3165 or rjta15@gmail.co.

Read more about the CSP’s new Summer String Ensemble Director, Christine Harrington, on our Music page.

April Vacation Itinerary

I’m feeling like a kid again, so much have I been looking forward to this school vacation!  We’re not even going anywhere – no Disneyworld, no timeshare, not even a trip to Cape Cod in the works.  Instead, I’m giddy at the prospect of staying in my pjs long into the morning, if I feel like it.  No alarm clocks to set, no morning commute.  No homework!!!! (thank you, teachers.)  A week of simple pleasures and easygoing fun.  But even as I daydream about the wonderful week that lies ahead, I’m not so naive to think that I won’t have to head off any quarreling between the kids.  That’s when I’ll pull out my April Vacation Itinerary, my go-to list of activities, projects, and events going on in Bristol and Warren this week, to help moms like me in our quest for a few days of family happiness!

Monday, April 18th

10am – 3pm: nature crafts at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                             10:30am – 11:30am: “Field” nature walk (weather-permitting) at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                                                                                                                     12:30pm: nature story reading at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                              1pm – 2pm: “Animal Disguise” at the Audubon EEC in Bristol ($, registration required, call 949-5454 ext.3041)                                                                                                                    1pm – 3pm: Collage Workshop at Warren Art Spot ($, space limited; registration required, call 245-0190)

Tuesday, April 19th

10am – 11:30am: Caricature Workshop at Warren Art Spot ($, space limited; registration required, call 245-0190)                                                                                       10am – noon: “Ants-on-your-Plants” nature walk (weather-permitting) at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                                                                                                                     10am – 3pm: nature crafts at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                                  11am: Animal Experiences with Dave Marchetti at the George Hail Free Library in Warren (registration required, call 245-7686)                                                                 12:30pm: nature story reading at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                              1pm – 2pm: “Down the Drain” at the Audubon EEC in Bristol ($, registration required, call 949-5454 ext.3041)

Wednesday, April 20th

10am – 3pm: nature crafts at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                            10:30am: Sparkey’s Puppets at the Rogers Free Library in Bristol                               10:30am – 11:30am: “Forest and Treetops” nature walk (weather-permitting) at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                                                                                      12:30pm: nature story reading at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                             1pm – 2pm: “Nesting for the Birds” at the Audubon EEC in Bristol ($, registration required, call 949-5454 ext.3041)                                                                                                1pm – 3pm: Collage Workshop at Warren Art Spot ($, space limited; registration required, call 245-0190)                                                                                                     6:30pm: Pumpernickle Puppets at the George Hail Free Library in Warren (registration required, call 245-7686)

Thursday, April 21st

10am – noon: Fairy House & Garden in a Basket at Blithewold in Bristol ($, call 253-2707 for more information)                                                                                                       10am – noon: Minibooks at Warren Art Spot ($, space limited; registration required, call 245-0190)                                                                                                                                     10am – 3pm: nature crafts at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                             10:30am – 11:30am: “Saltmarsh” nature walk (weather-permitting) at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                                                                                                     12:30pm: nature story reading at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                              1pm – 2pm: “Marsh Madness” at the Audubon EEC in Bristol ($, registration required, call 949-5454 ext.3041)                                                                                                                1pm – 3pm: Soda Bottle Re-Creations at Warren Art Spot ($, space limited; registration required, call 245-0190)                                                                                                                  2pm: Storyteller Mark Binder at the George Hail Free Library (registration required, call 245-7686)

Friday, April 22nd

10am – 3pm: nature crafts at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                               10:30am – 11:30am: “Shore and Bay” nature walk (weather-permitting) at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                                                                                                                            11am – 1pm: Earth Day Family Fun Friday at Blithewold in Bristol                                   12:30pm: nature story reading at the Audubon EEC in Bristol                                              1pm – 2pm: “Life in the Tidepool” at the Audubon EEC in Bristol ($, registration required, call 949-5454 ext.3041)                                                                                               3pm – 5pm: Legos at the Library at the Rogers Free Library in Bristol