Cultural Arts Kicks Off 2014

Post date: Feb 01, 2014 6:29:37 PM

Published in the January 2014 Newsletter.

Written by Krissy Fernandes, PTO Co-President

In the winter months, it is always difficult to keep students’ attention. With day after day of indoor recess, students can't wait to get out of their classrooms and do something different. Luckily, the January Cultural Arts line-up has offered some relief.

Tanglewood Marionettes


o start off the New Year, Kindergarteners were treated to an entertaining performance by Tanglewood Marionettes. A master puppeteer captured the students’ attention and imagination within the first few minutes with just a gloved hand. The kids were amazed how a hand could transform into a character that could express when it was happy or sad. The hand was then given a head and a nose and took on a life of its own. Students were then introduced to more advanced puppets such as the ticklish, orange, mouth puppet and a wide array of marionettes. The main show, entitled “The Fairy Circus”, involved appearances from a wide variety of merry marionettes including a juggling clown, a leaping grasshopper, and a very leggy spider. The sounds of laughter emanating from the Cafetorium spoke to the popularity of the performance with students. These feelings were echoed by teachers later on through post-event evaluation forms. As one teacher put it, "We love the Tanglewood Marionettes!" Eujin Neilan The imaginations of our Second Graders were put to the test when children’s book and illustrator, Eujin Neilan, visited their classrooms.

Eujin Neilan was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea as part of an art-loving family. When she moved to the US in 1993, she decided to take some art courses and wound up getting her M.F.A. degree in Illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Eujin now lives in Natick with her husband and two children. She says that the most rewarding aspect of being a children's book illustrator is that she has the freedom to imagine new worlds from a child's point of view. Eujin loves to face the challenges of each book and explore different approaches. It is this perspective that Eujin shared with students. She showed them the techniques that she used to get the swirling texture in some of her illustrations and explained that a single illustration can go through many sketches and drafts before it is complete. She explained the Three I’s of Illustration: Imagination, Inspiration and Information. At the end of each session, Eujin had students close their eyes and use their imagination to visualize the character as she read from the book “Imagine A Dragon.” Afterward, students got an opportunity to make their own dragon illustrations. Suzy Kline This is not the first time Suzy Kline has visited Ben-Hem and there is certainly a reason why teachers and students asked for her to come back. Suzy Kline is a storyteller who is able to share her experiences as an author in a way that captures the attention of students from Kindergarten to Fourth Grade.

Suzy Kline is the author of the Horrible Harry and Herbie Jones book series and more. She was an elementary school teacher for 25 years and has used many of her experiences teaching as inspiration for her books.

Suzy shared some of these stories with the students to show them how something ordinary that happens to you in real life can transform into something extraordinary in your writing. One example that she shared was something that she witnessed in the cafeteria while doing a school visit like ours. She was walking through the cafeteria when she saw a lot of the kids raising their hands and calling for one of the helpers to come over. She asked what was going on and was told “That’s the ketchup lady.” Suzy followed her to one of the tables and watched as the woman served up ketchup to each of the kids in the shape of a smile.

Suzy pulled from this experience to create a messy situation for Herbie Jones. One day at lunch, Herbie and a friend got into a ketchup fight using little ketchup packets. Needless to say they got in trouble, but the punishment extended to the whole class. They were not allowed to use ketchup packets for an entire week. But Herbie’s punishment didn’t end there. To replace the ketchup packets, a helper walked around the cafeteria serving ketchup to the students out of a bottle. She drew smiley faces for all of the students, but when she got to Herbie and his friend, all they got was a mound of ketchup!

This was just one of the stories shared to demonstrate that inspiration for writing can come from anywhere. Suzy encouraged students to carry a notebook with them everywhere to record those moments where inspiration strikes.

The session ended with Ben-Hem teachers being brought up to the front of the assembly to each take a part in a "play" about a haunted bathroom. Then as a parting gift, each student was given an “Inspiration Notebook” to take home.