Friday, July 3, 2015

The Wonder of Learning at BNS

Many spoke of how tranquil and beautiful the Natural Materials Atelier was. Williamsburg Northside's new Lower School building at N.7th and BQE/Meeker provided a wonderful view of the city, and Robin Koo of Teaching Beyond the Square was an amazing atelier designer.
What a treat: "The Wonder of Learning," the Reggio Emilia exhibition that travels the world, came to NYC this year, for the first time in 20 years. And not just NYC, but our own borough of Brooklyn! Rachel Schwartzman, BNS teacher, and BNS moms Kristin Eno and Mollie McQuarrie (who is the atelierista at Blue School) were part of a volunteer network of educators who contributed time and effort to make the show happen from January through May of 2015. 12,000 visitors from around the world came to see the official panels and videos documenting groundbreaking work with 0-5 year olds in the preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, on view at the Williamsburg Northside Elementary School building on N. 7th St.

What wowed so many parents and educators were the interactive ateliers created by Robin Koo of Beginnings Nursery/Teaching Beyond the Square, and a team of volunteer artists and teachers. The Natural Materials Atelier on the 7th floor of the show, and the Light and Shadow Atelier on the 6th floor, were rooms that many NYC children enjoyed with their parents.

Some BNS teachers were even able to take groups experience the ateliers: Jacqueline and Amy took their PreKs, facilitated by PreK art teacher Rachel Schwartzman.

Some BNS parents enjoyed the space on a field trip one day in February. Here are some images and thoughts from that day:
Anna Catherine, mom of K student 
"This exhibit has reinforced the incredible art of exploration and investigation for kids. I want to go home and paint all my walls white and install mirrors everywhere. I want to bring the kids to new and old places and look at them in new ways. The more I can explore and investigate, the more I can inspire them to continue to do the same." - Anna Catherine

AnnMarie, mom of BNS K and 3rd grade children, with young sister of another K student 
"I was truly inspired by the idea of giving young children so many creative ways to discover their world and expand the way they learn. At the same time, it felt like it should be common sense that kids should be in a creative environment where they are given every opportunity possible to learn and that they should have an important role in their community." -AnnMarie

Various teams of BNS teachers went to the Wonder of Learning, and all PreK through 2nd grade teachers experienced the show.

Greta and Amy became entranced with smooth stones and their possibilities. 
Bill and Doug enjoyed the Light and Shadow atelier. 
One teacher, Mary Ann (K), who has been to Reggio Emilia itself, as well as recently visited Sweden to research the Reggio-inspired preschools there, brought her images of the Light Atelier back to her kindergarten students.

"I showed them the pictures of the space and asked them what they thought. We discussed the white walls and the gauzy draped fabrics in the cozy corner. We had a conversation about our class bears. The children decided that they would like to recreate our closet as a Bear Den. So we got out the white paint and got to work!"

Post by Kristin B. Eno of Find & Seek, mom of Magnolia, K.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Maker Fest 2015

Maker Fest took the BNS cafeteria by storm on the evening of Friday January 30. What amazing projects our students, parents, teachers and friends made!  This wonderful event was made possible by a hardworking team of parents, led by AnnMarie Matava, BNS PTA president. Many thanks to the planning team that included Ed Kelley of BNS/BCS, who hosted a robot station. Fatima Cook, JC Martinez-Sifre, Jeremy Chernick, who led a "make your own rocket and launch it" activity, Justin Weiner, who took great photos, Rose Pearlman and Satya Patel of Object Art Kit, who led painting and weaving activities, and Tish Doggett who helped with planning, and led printmaking with BNS parent and art educator Mollie McQuarrie.
Great crowd came out for Maker Fest!
AnnMarie Matava, president of BNS PTA, put so much work into making this event happen! Here's what she had to say: 
I think what makes Maker Fest truly special is seeing parents and teachers and kids so inspired by making so many different types of things together.  It was wonderful to see so many people so engaged in projects that it didn't feel chaotic - its a testament to all of the parents and teachers who took the time to share their talents with kids (and their families!)
BNS PTA President AnnMarie Matava

My entry point was a table of materials I supplied as an extension of my work with Find & Seek. Plastic bottle tops, corks, chop sticks, colorful tape, cut up maps, a range of found materials ready for children to re-create into something beautiful. I also brought along a huge cardboard box, which first grader Bernadette very purposefully transformed into a house which later caught the fancy of quite a few kids of all ages.
A 5th grader is making a "computer" at the Find & Seek table.
Box --> House transformation at Find & Seek area brought a wide range of participants.
Kai (4th grader) made a little guy out of a cork and some yellow and black tape. 
A group effort at weaving drew interest from several children, but this piece remains a work-in-progress. Coming to a classroom near you? The BNS PTA owns a wondrous selection of beautiful, weave-able RIBBONS of every color! 
A BNS student adds a yellow ribbon to the communal weaving project.
Noie (K student) make a shaker out of plastic caps, tape and a cork inside.
I love how Super Mom (K & 4th grade) Cammie Kim Lin gets kids excited to eat fresh, healthy food! I had seen her work her magic at Apple Fest in the Fall, helping kids make salad dressing. My daughter (kindergarten student and friend of Cammie's daughter) had gotten more excited about healthy food than I had ever thought possible! I was thrilled to see that Cammie and her family had a presence at Maker Fest as well! She really has a talent for making food look appealing to children.
Noie and Kai's mom Cammie's guacamole and salsa-making station churned out amazingness. 
Clearly Cammie's cooking table was making children happy.

Here is Cammie's description of her table:
Our family's table was: "Make Food: DIY Salsa and Guacamole." We had an array of items for kids to select from as they created their own fresh salsas: tomatoes, pineapple, mango, black beans, onions, cilantro, garlic, lemon, lime, jalapeƱo, and several different spices and hot sauces.  I was incredibly impressed with the creativity and adventurousness of all of our makers!  They really mastered the concept of tasting and adjusting, tasting and adjusting, until their tongues told them they had it just right.  It really illustrated the fact that kids are natural cooks--eager to experiment and taste and share.  My favorite moments were when groups of 4-5 kids came together, made their guacamole and salsas, and then shared and compared.  Such fun.  

After making some salsa and guac with Cammie, Magnolia had fun at the snowflake table.
BNS Kindergarten student Magnolia Eno (my kid!) said this:
I went to Cammie's table because my mom said I couldn't have ice cream. I saw Noie's mom making salsa. I went with Noie. I made salsa first. I put tomatoes in the salsa! And I put lemon juice in the salsa. I put pineapple in.  I tasted it on a chip. It tasted like salsa, of course! When I made guacamole, I used these ingredients: avocado, tomatoes, lemon juice, salt. First I smashed it up with a fork, then I put tomatoes and stirred it. I tasted it on a chip. I wanted to go onto the next thing. I took it to my mom. She said 'This tastes so good! Thank you!'
Barbara and her goggled cohorts made a whole lotta Flubber!
Magnolia (6) says this about Barbara's Flubber table:
It was really fun. It was just fun mixing. We wore goggles cause the chemicals weren't safe for your eyes. The flubber was green because we put green food coloring in it. It was so slippery that it was hard to take out of the cup.

Mia Barker assists a student at the Wooden Heart station.
JC Martinez-Sifre facilitated children making miniature _____
Mia Barker, mom of Pearl, 3rd grade, helped out at the woodworking table with materials sourced by dad Louis Bonini. Mia had this to say:
Maker Fest is such an incredible event because you feel the room buzzing with the joy and excitement of just making things, not just the kids, but the adults too. Working with wood and tools is not something kids get to do much of. They were so excited that once we started, we didn't stop until all supplies were gone!  Louis had created a simple but still challenging project and the kids persevered sawing and hammering away. They were very proud of the final product. We had a blast.                                                                                     
Art Educator and BNS Mom Mollie McQuarrie with children at the printing table.
Monique's heat embossing table drew lots of intrigued and engaged participants.
Leather bracelet making was a hit.
Magnolia's take on the leather bracelet station: 
Making leather bracelets was fun because you got to punch the jewels into the bracelet. I picked the squares and the circles. When you pressed down, it felt hard. 
This picture says it all: Maker Fest rules! As do Justin's photos.
Mystery/musical pipe contraption...? Ah, the wonders of PVC pipe!

Rose Pearlman, BNS mom and owner of Object Art Kits, hosted a Geometrical Tote Bag station, next to a Weaving Table run by Satya Patel. Rose commented:
The Maker Fest event is like no other, the parents, students, teachers, BCS volunteers and staff all contribute to one amazing evening. Students were able to wow us all with their beautiful creations, often taking the initiative when my hands were tied, to help each other. The results were amazing and I came away from the evening inspired.

Serious thinking at the geometric tote bag table, made possible by BNS mom Rose Pearlman.
Look at these amazing bags, each a masterpiece and glorious together as a group!
BNS teachers Bonnie and Jacqueline having fun with knitting.
Bird's eye view: knitting tutorial! (Nice shot, Justin!)

The hopping Project Kid table!
Amanda Kingloff of Project Kid provided a beautiful table complete with felt, yarn, craft gems and straws, for use in a range of fun projects which are also featured in her super fun new book Project Kid. Amanda said this:

Your FABULOUS Maker Fest was beyond impressive...both my kids (and my husband) came away with wide eyes and a whole lot of creative inspiration! I have never seen such an enthusiastic bunch of young makers—it gives me great hope for the future.
Robin Koo of Teaching Beyond the Square joined us at the Find & Seek station.
I was thrilled to welcome to Maker Fest Robin Koo of Teaching Beyond the Square, the educational organization that made it possible for the Reggio Emilia Wonder of Learning exhibition to come to NYC.
Arranging natural and recycled objects is a wonderful ephemeral activity.
A sister (K) and brother (3rd grade) and friend enjoy the arranging area.
To further understand the implications of Maker Fest, I asked Janine Sopp, former BNS mom, who was active on the Arts Committee, and worked with AnnMarie Matava to get the first Maker Fest going in 2014.
Janine and her daughter, who graduated from BNS last year.
Says Janine:
I myself am a maker, a ceramicist, and have personally experienced the value of working with my hands on a daily basis. I've watched my daughter as a natural-born maker, her ability to free form and express. It's sort of our birthright as creatures to create. It's such a part of who we are. We are created and then we create. It's a circle, it has to keep on going. Knowing the value of that, in addition to the academics of life, the child's creative life, is so important.   
We are blessed at BNS to have as much art as we have. Children are being pulled away from working with their hands, and those technologies are great, but technology on its own leaves people unable to labor with their hands, to simply put up a shelf, sew on a button, or mend a pair of socks. We've become such a society of disposal, we've forgotten how to create. The ability to fix or reuse or reclaim constantly gives new life to the things we discard on a daily basis. We are incredibly blessed in this country, but kids in other countries are making their own toys, their own dolls. The process of making, and the use of materials from nature, are where the connections are made in the brain, the body, the spirit. Creativity doesn't end in childhood--I believe it's meant to sustain humankind, forever. If you nurture that in children early on, then they grow up to be adults who value that and carry that on for a long time. Then we give that to the next generation and we don't lose the thread. 
This couldn't have been said better, and am so grateful for kindred spirits like Janine who have thought through these issues and invested hours making Maker Fest a reality, so that BNS students could have an exciting opportunity to work with their hands, in community.
Anna and Anna!
Post written by Kristin Eno. Photos courtesy of Justin Weiner and Kristin Eno.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sweet BNS Voices Singing Holiday Songs at Brown Harris Stevens Open House

During the holiday season at the Park Slope office of Brown Harris Stevens, Jonathan Hardy and an enthusiastic group of second and third graders, performed an uplifting concert of seasonal favorites to brighten a rainy afternoon and usher in some holiday spirit. 

The singers performed to Jonathan's keyboard accompaniment for two sets, singing well-loved songs such as Frosty the SnowmanMy Favorite Things, and my personal favorite in the BNS repertoire, One Candle in the Night.

During their break, the hard-working kids replenished themselves with cookies and candy canes. Anna Allanbrook came to listen and accept the generous and well-earned $500 donation from Brown Harris Stevens for the BNS Music Department.

Thanks to Jonathan and the singers for a fabulous show--a perfect addition to the holiday season! I am glad to have been able to organize this event and secure the donation for BNS. We hope it will become an annual holiday tradition.

By Karen Shen (Andrew, 5th grade and William, 1st grade)