Pikas, Porcupines And Bears, Oh My!
This December our children have been busy preparing for the Winter Celebration performance of The Mitten, adapted for Journeys School from a children’s picture book by Jan Brett. This beloved children’s story begins with a child who loses his snow white mitten outside one winter’s day. The mitten is found by a myriad of animals, whom all snuggle inside to stay warm, until the bear sneezes and scatters them throughout the snowfield. The mitten flies up into the air and is caught by the boy, who returns home to his “Baba” with his snow white mitten.
Jeff Bratz, Performing Arts Faculty, introduced the script to the children, and talked about what it meant to be an “actor” or “actress.” We adapted the story to include local animals, and children began preparing by choosing which animal they wanted to play. Boys and girls entered a studio without tables on December 6th, the floor cleared to create our set. Working together, children painted the silhouette of our mitten, a front curtain behind which shadows of animals will appear. Once our set was complete, children worked to construct masks, focusing on specific animals each day.
“What do you notice about this snowshoe hare?” asked Erin on December 7th, to which she received a number of responses. “The ears are like an oval,” noticed Ava while Coco responded that she saw “white and soft and fuzzy,” fur. And what about this porcupine? “It has spikes, and the eyes are black and hard to see,” said Avery. The fox had “triangles on top of their head,” according to Isabella and Miles thought the pika has “eyes and ears that are kinda shaped like a knife and the eyes are like circles.” Stewart noticed the great horned owl had “yellow eyes” and added that he knew the owl could turn his whole head around to see behind him. Ellie saw “a pointy nose and I see brown on the back and on the ears and a little bit of white” on the coyote. Augustine noticed the Bison ears were “shaped like a moon,” to which Joseph added that there was a “beard on the chin and no fur around his mouth and nose.” Children observed colors, textures, shapes and more in order to pick from a variety of materials including fabric, ribbon, feathers, felt, markers, sequins, and Paper Mache to create beautiful animal masks. “My mother isn’t even going to recognize me with my mask!” Taya exclaimed.
Once the set and costumes were complete, we worked with children to “block” the performance. We went on an animal parade, with each character crawling, flying, bounding or tottering like their character. We practiced each animal as a group, swooping like owls and snuffling like porcupines. In order to facilitate real-world connections between our performance and the outside world, Andy Angstrom integrated the animals’ movements with tracking and camouflage lessons during Outdoor Exploration. “What do you know about coyotes?” asked Jess on December 13th. “They sneak up on things and they hop on things,” replied Ellie, to which Joseph added that “they have shiny, sharp teeth almost like vampires. Also they have grey, orange and white.” Jess gathered knowledge of what children knew and enhanced their learning. She discussed the noises that coyotes make – yelps and howls – and what they eat – mice, fruit, and rabbits through reading books and singing songs. Our preparation for The Mitten led to conversations which permeated our classroom throughout the day and discussions that expounded upon children’s knowledge.
We welcomed parents to our Winter Celebration on December 15th at Walk Festival Hall, along with the rest of the Journeys School community. We excitedly shared our performance, wearing our costumes and acting out our script. Children’s experience preparing for and performing The Mitten was both meaningful and rich. Thank you to all of our actors and actresses!
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