This year, classroom teachers at Talcott requested that we approach our artistic projects by exploring big ideas through novels that the students will read! This class is reading “The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson” by Bette Bao Lord; about Shirley Temple Wong, a young Chinese immigrant who finds acceptance in her new country through baseball. The students will internalize the big ideas for this year, namely: What is Migration? Why do people Migrate? What do they find when they get “There”? by writing their own songs about migration.
Students will also listen to Chinese music and create masks based on Peking Opera and other Chinese visual elements and incorporate elements of Chinese culture, including the pentatonic scale, in their final performance of an original song based on the themes of migration and immigration they discover in the novel and through our studies.
Students studied the color symbolism in Peking Opera mask tradition (for instance, white is used in villains’ masks). We asked them to create designs that represented character traits of both Shirley, the book character, and themselves and to cite in writing evidence of these traits from both the book and their own lives.
We want the students to self-assess both their progress and why their learning in school is applicable for them in other subjects and in life and general. Getting a complete answer regarding “pivotal” gets to the heart of that transferable learning. One of our pivotal moments this year as a class was when the kids realized that laughing at Chinese music was the kind of hurtful behavior Shirley experienced in her new classroom in the US.
A student explains the color choices for their mask in terms of their own character, and Shirley’s.