Glenwood Elementary Arts Residencies Continue Virtually
One of the oldest continuously operating schools in the district, Glenwood Elementary, is in the process of transitioning to become Glenwood STEAM2 Magnet Elementary School (GSMES). That transition has not been celebrated with fanfare and festivities yet, because the events originally planned in March were cancelled after the pandemic hit last spring. But the embrace of deeper and more diverse arts experiences has continued, even as this year’s instruction has been held as remote learning.
Since the fall of 2019, GSMES has hosted a series of grade-level arts residencies in music, visual art and other performing arts, and the series has continued as virtual experiences with well-known bluegrass musician and teacher, Charles Pettee, leading sessions with second and fourth grade students this fall. The residencies have been funded primarily by the Public School Foundation (PSF), with additional support from the school’s PTA.
“Our overarching goal over the past year was to increase both staff and student experiences with arts integration as we transition to a STEAM2 Magnet,” said Courtney Clapp, instructional coach. “Each residency provided teachers with new ideas for ways to integrate the arts within everyday classroom instruction, and gave students an enriching arts experience that was integrated with other grade level content they were already learning.”
Pettee has led music workshops for K-12 students across North Carolina and the Southeast for decades. As a veteran arts educator, he didn’t seem fazed by the need to perform and teach students about bluegrass music on Google Meets. Both the second and fourth grade residencies focused on the science of sound and North Carolina culture and history, as well as general concepts in music.
Over a period of four days, Pettee introduced the guitar, mandolin, banjo and harmonica. With each instrument, he integrated the science concepts of vibration, pitch, tempo and volume. But also pervasive in his lessons was the weaving of details from the evolution of N.C. music -- the incorporation of styles from Western Africa that became the Southern blues, as well as songs and musical patterns from the British Isles that created a foundation for bluegrass.
Shane Chinni, fourth grade teacher, said, “Learning music history has always been a passion of mine, upon being presented with the opportunity to have Charles in our fourth grade classrooms, I jumped at it. Telling the story of North Carolina from its early days via bluegrass music was joyful for my students. To see them dancing around and clapping along from their rooms to music many had never heard before, made me incredibly happy.”
Most of the songs Pettee sang were likely new to the students: “Ain’t No Bugs on Me,” “Old Joe Clark,” “Lollipop Tree,” and the great Libba Cotten blues song, “Freight Train.” Students learned to wave their hands, which Pettee taught as American Sign Language applause, but he also called “spirit fingers.” He encouraged them to bring their own instruments to the sessions, with all the children’s microphones muted, so the silent strumming of homemade guitars, non-clanging of tiny cymbals and plucking of violins provided a visual accompaniment.
“All of the teaching artists connected their lessons with social studies, science, or language arts standards, so that teachers could see new ways to help students access content,” Clapp said. “For example, during a science unit on sound and vibration, musicians made these concepts come to life with drumming and dance in our second grade classes. In fourth grade, Charles connected his music lessons to the NC history standards in order to bring our state's rich musical history to life as students sang along. In kindergarten and first grade, students learned to perform to enhance their ability to retell the beginning, middle, and end of stories and to understand more about characters. After watching these lessons, teachers came away with new ideas for making learning hands-on, arts-integrated, and engaging for students.”
The residencies that began a year ago have included:
K: Puppetry with Jeghetto
First: Improvisation and Movement with Virginia Queen Danford
Second: Afro-Peruvian Music and Dance with Marcos Napa (and a few sessions with Pettee in connection with his fourth grade residency)
Third: Clay Mosaic with Jason Abide
Fourth: The Roots of NC Bluegrass Music with Charles Pettee
Fifth: Murals with Jeghetto
Now that Pettee’s residency has finished, the only remaining one to reschedule is with potter and sculptor, Jason Abide. But the inspiration from the artists who have shared their work and wisdom with students has already made an impact on both students and staff.