Mary Hall Surface: Visiting Artist

We are so grateful to the Orpheum for choosing Lamplighter Montessori School as a teaching site for their workshop, “A Playful Approach to Writing”. Internationally-recognized playwright Mary Hall Surface has been a teaching artist for over 30 years, and we were excited to experience one of her lessons.

Upper Elementary and Lower Elementary classes each had their own workshop session, which started with Mrs. Surface having them cup their hands and imagine holding something from their home. They turned to a partner and described their objects in five descriptive words. This exercise gave students the foundation of how imaginative and detailed they would be getting in the session!

Mrs. Surface then broke students up into groups of three, giving them a rolled up piece of paper to use as an object – any object. Stop for a second and imagine what your object might be. This was not a guessing game – it was an act of storytelling. Students took the paper and wordlessly acted out a story – beginning, middle, and end – not just a simple action. Another friend from their group then described what had happened in the story.

Everyone came back together for instructions on the second draft of their story – adding a conflict. It’s a great start to have your roll of paper be a hockey stick as you score a winning goal for your team, but what if… Students brainstormed possible conflicts, then broke back into small groups to act out their latest draft. Group mates interpreted the actions once again and identified the conflict.

The third draft of the story involved changing who was involved. Many students were acting as themselves, but what if you were suddenly a professional hockey player during the last two minutes of the championship game? How would you feel? What if you slipped on the ice? What emotions would we think the player would feel? What might be a resolution? How would different resolutions make him feel?

Students transformed rolled-up paper into creative objects that sparked fascinating stories. They put their ideas in a graphic organizer to explore later in class and MakerSpace. The session was a great exercise in imagination, storytelling, and empathy. Thank you again to the Orpheum and Mary Hall Surface for this experience!

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Celebrating Memphis

We were excited to have the World Cargo Crate from Memphis in May at our school this week! We want to learn more about Memphis so we can help celebrate its bicentennial.

Each class learned about different aspects of Memphis, from the history of businesses like Piggly Wiggly and FedEx, to information about the riverboats and railroads.

We learned about the Memphis Belle and compared it with a model of a FedEx plane. We tried to lift a cobblestone and highlighted the contrasting textures when we touched the cotton.

We learned about Yellow Fever, got All Shook Up with Elvis, and listened to a sampling of tracks recorded at Stax. We asked each other Memphis trivia questions, and shared our favorite things about our city.

Thanks so much for choosing our school to host the World Cargo Crate, Memphis in May! We are excited to continue to learn about and celebrate our city this year.

Chuck Jones, Songwriter: Visiting Artist

Singer/songwriter Chuck Jones visited Lamplighter School to teach students how to write songs. As always, the best way to learn is by doing, so we now have three hit songs under our belts! Songwriting pulls from various creative outlets – in addition to musical talent, one can also be skilled with words and language and craft a beautiful song. Our students learned that they can write a song about anything, with some loose guidelines and space to let their imagination roam.

Mr. Jones explained to each class some background of songwriting, like deciding on a theme or idea, and then picking a style for the music (country, rock ‘n’ roll, etc), a tempo (is it upbeat or slow?), and loosely planning the structure of the song. One song had a more traditional style of a verse followed by a chorus, a second verse, and a repeat of the chorus. Another started with the chorus, then had a verse before repeating the chorus again. One song didn’t really have a chorus, but instead repeated one of the catchy verses to finish it out. There are so many different ways to write a song!

Upper Elementary students brainstormed about what they like to do, and it came up that recess is their favorite part of the day. Mr. Jones taught them how to pick a word or phrase to be the “hook” of the song, and how to structure a chorus around that. With a song like “Recess”, students decided they wanted to have the verses follow the course of the school day. Mr. Jones said it was sometimes easiest to start with rhyming words and work backwards, so they would find a good word like “grammar” and put it at the end of a line, then think of a rhyming word to end the next line. Listen to their song here!

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Lower Elementary students wanted to write about something they were excited about, which was tonight’s “Kid’s Night Out”! The theme of the night is building, so they started writing about things they like to build, works they like to do in MakerSpace, and other fun activities they love at school. Some of their word choices had great rhyming words (perfect rhymes), but some were a bit harder, until Mr. Jones explained “soft rhymes”, which are words that are similar but don’t exactly rhyme. When the song was finished, all the students sang along! Listen to them sing along!

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Kindergarten students also got to write a song! After lunch, they were wound up and couldn’t focus on just one idea, so they went with the general theme of “Silly”! You can imagine how loud the room got while students came up with silly words and sounds and couldn’t hold their laughter in! They loved Mr. Jones’ guitar playing, and kept asking him to switch from county to rock ‘n’ roll, so their song is definitely a silly mash-up of styles that will have you laughing and singing along! Listen to it here!

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We’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to Chuck Jones for giving his time to our school and inspiring our students! They absolutely came alive during these sessions, and it is inspiring for them to see working artists making a living from the creative lives they love.

The Grand Scarecrow Finale

After learning so much from our Visiting Artist, Youngblood Studio, students were more than ready to work on the school scarecrow. The studio sent back 4 composite drawings and we had students vote on what scarecrow they would most like to make.

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We voted anonymously and then predicted what scarecrow we thought would win. Though the votes were fairly evenly distributed, number 4 won!

Youngblood Studio let us upcycle leftover shop materials to create our scarecrow body. We dedicated a day to applying over 9,000 sequins to our owl form! Every student had an opportunity to help out, so our scarecrow is truly a team effort!

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We named our scarecrow owl “Dr. Hoo”, and Youngblood Studio delivered him to Lichterman Nature Center for us.

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The very next day, we were informed that Dr. Hoo had won 1st place in the Best Critter category! All of the students are so proud, and excited to go see him in the wild. The win was a great way to wrap up our scarecrow project, and we can’t wait to have him live on our campus after Lichterman’s exhibit closes in November.

A Little Bit of Everything with Upper Elementary

Upper Elementary students also had a chance to explore MakerSpace activities before lessons begin. They divided their time pretty equally between the WonderLab, the GeniusLab, and the LegoLab.

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After building a two-level structure, students guessed how many people could fit inside, and then climbed in – carefully!

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Sending commands to “play fetch” with Chip, the robot dog, who we proclaimed to be the MakerSpace mascot!

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Check out our Instagram (@lamplighterschool) to see a video of the mischief Chip got into.

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Trial and error with the Van de Graaff Generator to see what materials conduct electricity.