An important part of these school residencies is to have a public performance of our material. I had decided to keep the assemblies “local” and do them only for the two grades (2nd and 3rd) that supplied the few kids that participated in the eight week afterschool sessions I did. It turned out well.
I set up in the all-purpose room, sitting on the edge of the stage with the seven kids who were part of the program. That way, they could feel like they were important cogs in the process, hopefully to have them be “leaders” in the process, and get some of the perks of being “on stage” with me. This also fed into another purpose to excite the kids to join up for future summer school and afterschool programs. (I heard from Mr. Cordova that he got some immediate responses!) The seven kids got to be featured in both sessions.
I started out with I Like Peanut Butter and Tutti Tah as an icebreakers. Having the core kids on stage helped spread the focus from me to the group at large. We then did Down By the Bay and got each of the core group to come up with animals to rhyme with, and got potential rhymes from the larger group. They were really into it, and now we were working as a whole community.
I followed with I Love Horses, a rather short and uninspired song, but I prefaced it with asking the core group what each one wanted to be when they grew up: art teacher, nurse, vet, ballet dancer, all part of the recent recognition that these kids should be exposed to these ideas early on. (The more affluent communities do this more naturally, it seems.)
We did The Bear Hunt, using the core group’s additions (haunted house, corn maze, waterfall, volcano) and I got everyone up to physically move to the verses. Great energy, and the core group really enjoyed moving on stage. Again, taking leadership in front of their peers.
I introduce the second (and stronger) song We’re Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo, a small ripoff of a Woody Guthrie song and it was a hoot. A good chorus that repeats with humorous verses.
I finished off with All Around the Kitchen to get every one up and dancing. Again, I featured the core group on stage to provide their dances and then invited audience kids to come up on stage to share their dances. The gym was rocking and the kids in the audience got some stage time, as well.
At the end, I did my regular reflection time to ask the group as to what songs we sang. They responded immediately, picking up all of the tunes. This means they absorbed all of the material and that’s what I was looking for. (I should have asked the teachers what they liked. That’s some rich feedback, as well.)
I wasn’t sure how this format would work out, but it seems my instincts were correct. The actual songwriting sessions were not what I wished for (lack of teacher presence and afterschool energy). But the core group got recognition in front of their peers, and everyone had a chance to be intellectually and physically involved.
A successful residency.