Arts Renaissance in Tuscaloosa Schools

Bringing the arts to Tuscaloosa-area schools.



Dancing Through the Decades With Fitness

Although the semester was cut short, there is still so much to be thankful for. I am disappointed that there was not an opportunity to complete the rest of the workshops our class had prepared, but I am incredibly thankful for such a supportive group of individuals to work alongside, and who were so willing to help me in creating and refining my proposed workshop.

My proposed workshop, Dancing Through the Decades, is one that combines dancing, history, and music. Through this workshop, students will learn about key events from the 1920’s all the way to 2020. Some examples of events to be covered are the stock market crash of the 1920’s, the Civil Rights Movement, and 9/11, along with many more. In addition to learning about the basic facts of each event of the particular decade, there is a song from that decade that is paired with a fitness routine. This way, the students are able to learn about our nation’s history in a fun, engaging way, while exercise and physical fitness are also being promoted.

An example of a slide to be presented about the 1960’s explaining different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. A portion of the song “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke would accompany this part of the presentation.

By watching and following along to a video, the kids will perform the fitness routine for that particular decade after learning about the event. For example, World War II was happening during the 1940’s. For this decade, the song is “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” This will allow the students to further understand what was happening during the 1940’s while also encouraging them to think about how Americans were keeping their spirits up during a worldwide war was being waged. At the end of the presentation, the students will piece each routine together to perform the dance in its entirety. They will perform this routine, with the help of the presenter and the videos, of course, to reflect on what they have learned during the workshop.

From Irvin Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to Kanye West’s “Power,” the workshop encourages students to have pride in America’s history while also being encouraged to think about how music is able to reflect the current events happening around them. Through this proposed workshop, it is my hope that the students will find that exercising can be so much fun, and that history goes far beyond a textbook, reaching into all aspects of our society.

Reflecting on the Many Faces of Matthews Elementary

This past week, we had the privilege of visiting Matthews Elementary to conduct an arts workshop for local fifth graders. Although everyone involved did have a lot of fun, each volunteer ended up learning so much more than any of us had expected. Through interacting with the kids, we realized just how much of an impact art can have on not only a child’s ability to express him or herself, but also how much of an impact it can have on a child’s overall wellbeing.

Coming in, the children were anxious to see what they would be doing. They were all excited to be out of their formal classroom setting, and eager to find out what their next activity would be. As Dr. Galbraith explained the history behind face jugs, some of the kids began to get excited while others were much more tentative and judgmental of the project, based off of the pictures that were shown. However, as soon as they were handed their own clay to make their jugs, the atmosphere and their outlooks changed immediately.

The children began as incredibly lively, but as soon as their fingers started molding the clay, the room grew to be much quieter. They were concentrating and working diligently to make their jugs. It was so intriguing to watch as a plain jug transformed into a face that had originally been trapped inside of their imagination. Slowly but surely, their ideas came to fruition. There were so many different elements between the jugs, and each element was representative of their cultural norms. The kids were able to express themselves and pieces of what made them who they are through art, specifically pottery.

While it was incredibly insightful to see them able to express themselves in a different way than they would if they were in a “normal” classroom setting, what really was striking about the workshop was how the wellbeing of so many children changed. None of the kids coming in were outright angry, however some of the children weren’t the happiest campers. But through this activity and the students being in an uplifting, positive environment without the pressure of doing well in a specified subject, the kids were able to walk out of the cafeteria in an even better mood and headspace than when they came to the workshop.

Overall, the workshop was very enjoyable for everyone involved. Getting to see firsthand how children communicate their thoughts and themselves through their art is so rewarding, and we are eager to return to Matthews Elementary School for future workshops.

Completed face jugs of fifth grade students. Photograph taken by Mackenzie Manns.

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