Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March is Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM)!

By BVP Music Director Piera Leone

This year, I’m very excited to announce that our very own 5th graders are showcased on the National Association for Music Education website singing “Funga Alafia,” a Nigerian song of greeting.  This is one of the songs the association provides to music educators as an opportunity to be showcased on their website-- and we are!  The video that gets the most views and likes between now and March 31st will win sound software for their school, so please watch, enjoy, and like us!

Across our nation, March is Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM).  Fortunately here at Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP) Mayoral Academy, scholars continue to enjoy music in our schools every month!   We at BVP have always believed that music can help scholars not only academically, but also in the areas of emotional awareness, reflective learning, process orientation, decision-making, grit, creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.

At all of our schools great music making is happening.  At both elementary schools our kindergarteners are learning how to properly use their singing voices, dance, and perform.  Our first graders already had their winter musicals and are continuing their practice with singing, dancing, and basic music theory!  Our second graders across campuses play the recorder.  Since each school is unique, at Elementary School 1 (ES1) all scholars start violin in the third grade, while at ES2 they start keyboard.  At ES1, 4th graders participate in string orchestra.

Going up into our Middle School, our fifth graders are involved in chorus and have just started their first rhythm orchestra that includes a percussion section along with strings.  Our 6th graders started singing and playing guitar, learned some neat body percussion, and are currently writing their own guitar songs.  Our 7th graders started the year with bucket drumming, and are now singing as a chorus.  Our 8th graders began composing digital film scores and now are learning how to play a song of their choice on guitar.  The High School Digital Music ELO has done a variety of projects creating and composing music using iPads with apps like Garage Band, Loopy HD, and ThumbJam (a special thank you goes to Bristol Savings Bank for their generous grants to help us start our strings, keyboard, and digital music classes!).

Thank you all for your continued support in sharing the importance of music education in ALL schools.  Your help brings us one step closer to achieving our vision, which is to create a world-class music program that truly supports our scholars' journey on their path to success in college and the world beyond. My dream is to have many-- if not all-- schools follow our lead!  Don’t forget to follow me on twitter to get updates on our music program.  Keep checking DonorsChoose.org for any BVP music projects that can use help being completed! Lastly, please always encourage music practice at home, no matter what the instrument.   

I look forward to celebrating MIOSM with you throughout the month of March!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Called out on Creativity

A guest blog by BVP Art Director Michelle Turner 
in celebration of Youth Art Month 
and the annual BVP Art Show this weekend

The other day, my youngest daughter came home with a piece of streaky, dirty plastic in her backpack.  Knowing that the contents of this bag are typically random, often unnecessary “items,” I promptly recycled it and chalked it up to her pack-rat tendencies, with an “Oh, that kid,” shake of my head.

Flashback to a recent school visit with my (incredible) BVP Art Team.  In January, we visited an art teacher, who, when talking about projects kids are asked to do by art teachers, posed the question of whose creativity are we looking for?”  We unanimously replied, “Well, our scholars, of course!”  Smiling, she continued to make her point in the simplest way possible, by asking if projects in which every child is focused on copying an artist’s style, or mimicking the teacher’s solution to a design challenge, were truly asking for the child’s creativity.  Whoa.  Eye-opener.  

Creativity is defined as the “tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.”  We compliment others on it, we practice it and we want our children to “have” it.  True creativity lives within all, blossoms at different times, and requires multiple avenues of exploration.  It needs to be learned and cultivated, and it needs to happen for our scholars now.  

Something important to realize is that the majority of us have had to learn to be creative to succeed in our jobs.  Our modern world thrives on innovation, and knowing how to turn ideas into realities is a crucial component to a 21st century education (Google “STEM to STEAM” for more info).  Our children need creative skills as much as they need science, technology, engineering and math training.

That wise art teacher also reminded us that the idea behind every creation also needs validation.  Not every first-attempt is going to “look good,” or be considered aesthetically worthy for wall display.  That’s where practice and perseverance are called into service.  The part most deserving of celebration is the idea.

Remembering all of this, I immediately thought of my daughter’s dirty piece of plastic. I fished it out of the trash and asked her about it.  Turns out, it was an idea.  She was trying to create a rocket structure.  She knew it was not her best work (craftsmanship), but that suddenly became beside the point.  Her idea was interesting and unique.  We discussed how she could make the idea again, how a change in materials might improve construction and what else she would add. 

Here at BVP we’ve always prided ourselves on a rigorous, yet, explorative, art program.  Our belief in high expectations for scholars has always included opportunities to experiment with media and practice skills and techniques.  These days, we have new structures in place to help transform our art rooms into “innovation studios.”  Our scholar-artists will continue to receive age-appropriate instruction in media, materials and art history to build their artistic skill set, while learning to create in an environment that celebrates and encourages independent thought.

So, at some point you, too, might notice an odd “item” in your child’s backpack.  Hold off on the recycle bin - it might be an idea!  Please give that idea a chance to be heard by asking your scholar questions like, “What is this idea about?”  “How did you make it?”  “What would you change if you made it again?”  I guarantee you’ll be impressed. And smile a bit (especially, if you picture them in a suit and tie, while they “pitch” their ideas to you).

Now, a week later, after being given prime real estate on the kitchen counter, and at my daughter’s prompting (“Mom, I don’t need that anymore.”), it was truly time to recycle that dirty piece of plastic…and get the space on the counter ready for her next idea.


March is Youth Art Month.  We hope you plan to celebrate creativity with us at “For Art’s Sake” on Saturday, March 14th (10am-3pm) featuring over 1,000 of the very best creative ideas of the year by our very own BVP scholar-artists!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Celebrating 100 days of school with 100 six-word-stories

At BVP, we like to celebrate the small wins along the way and infuse joy into our daily work. Last week FUNbruary came to a close, but the fun and joy continues. Today is the 100th day of school, so scholars created visuals of "100 things" that represent their time spent learning so far.

This year, BVP staff also wanted to get in on the action.  Below, you'll find 100 six-word-stories in honor of our 100th day.  If you're not familiar with six word stories, you can read more about them here. To summarize, they are stories distilled into short phrases-- six words to be exact (Ernest Hemingway wrote the most famous one). We asked staff to respond to any of the following questions using their six word stories:

  • In six words, describe BVP.
  • Why do you teach?
  • Why do you teach at BVP?
  • What does school choice mean to you?

Enjoy their responses, below, and happy 100 days!

Your path to success begins here.
Long hours. Hard work. Endless rewards.
School choice equals power and opportunity.
To create opportunities for our children.
Enjoy helping children learn and grow.
To inspire ALL of our learners.
To give more than I had.
Fail, succeed, revel in your greatness.
Inspiring...scholars...BVP = path to college.
Choice means quality; choice determines future.
Listen. Understand. Then, power becomes yours.
Scholars hold keys to the future!
Making a difference in students' lives.
Opportunity for my students and myself!
Critical thinkers grow our art studio.
Everyone deserves a chance at greatness.
A challenge that's worth every minute.
Seeing the "Lightbulb Effect" in scholars.
It's for the kids, always was.
Every scholar deserves a relentless champion.
Teaching to give back, to learn.
To equip all with critical consciousness.
Children defying fate of their zipcode.
Catch them early and let'em soar.
Mission: Closing achievement and opportunity gaps.
School Choice: More chances. Brighter futures.
It matters. Every moment, every day.
Reading a book, she slowly smiles.
Can't jump quietly into important change.
I teach to make a difference.
It's the place "they" becomes "us."
Setting scholars up for lifelong success.
I teach to change the future.
Scholars, not students, showing PRIDE everyday.
Helping kids achieve dreams of college.
Success grows legs within these walls.
Growth/support for scholars and staff!
Challenges keep teachers and scholars engaged!
Plethora of possibilities to passionately pursue.
Passionate teachers helping students to succeed.
Build confidence, open doors, shape futures.
Shaping scholar stories every single day.
Education determines destiny--carve yours out.
There is no work more important.
Opportunities regardless your lot in life.
Revealing opportunity and unleashing untapped potential.
For our scholars, for our future.
One goal. Many different learning styles.
Quality education can change the world.
The click, the ah-ha, the smile! :)
Intentionally diverse community committed to excellence.
Zip code is not your destiny.
Giving scholars the love they deserve.
Scholars, families, and education come first!
All in for Rhode Island's kids.
Educational opportunity catalyzes equality and understanding.
Deeper relationships; the magic of mathematics.
All choices should be absolutely amazing.
Zip codes only matter when mailing.
Parents Choose, Together We Change Futures!
Reward for work is the work.
PRIDE plus great teaching equals AWESOMENESS!
Passionate teachers, scholars, and families collaborating.
Providing all children positivity they deserve.
"Rigorous education; expecting much; benefiting all."
Giving kids the opportunites I missed.
Live it, love it...the end.
Zip code does not determine destiny.
I teach to enliven and encourage.
Kids fall in love with science.
Every child should have a path.
School choice is the only choice.
Scholars are the future of America.
Help scholars see, believe, reach potential.
To help scholars achieve their dreams.
I teach to help all succeed.
School choice in education is liberating.
Dedicated staff, enthusiastic students, true learning!
Teaching: instructing humans to be humane.
Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Enthusiasm.
I want my work to matter.
Rigor, Collaboration, Equality, Never Giving Up.
I Inspire to change the world.
Teaching kids makes my heart glad.
Proudly, they changed couldn't to could!
Children should all have equal opportunities.
Providing equal opportunity in unequal world.
Respect the profession. Teach to grow.
I teach to change childrens' lives.
Small steps creating your own path.
Every kid deserves great public schools.
Fair and equal education for all.
Scholars deserve more than status quo.
A ticket out of the circle.
One hundred percent about our scholars.
A place to make a difference.
Innovative laboratories for public school reform.
Defying the odds, year after year.
Community 100 percent focused on scholars.
Joyful Rigorous Learning for Every Scholar.