Author Archives: bankstreetsara

Until Next Time…

At this point last year I was eagerly anticipating the start of my program at Bank Street. Now, here I am in the middle, wondering where the time went and already using my education out in the world!

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While at times my whirlwind schedule may have left me exasperated, I am grateful for the immense variety in my life. It affords a richness to my experiences which I do not think I would be able to attain outside of Bank Street.

I have had professors here that, while gently pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, continually show me that I am on the right path and inspire me with the way they continue on their paths. At Bank Street, I am continually impressed with the professors I work with who humbly admit to not knowing everything, and embrace that uncertainty while using knowledge that they have discovered is effective through experimentation.

Not only have professors been limitless sources of inspiration, but so have the children I have worked with in classrooms, school groups, and after-school groups with the Abrons Arts Center where I have been interning (and where I now work, woohoo!). I have had the pleasure of working with students who surprise me with what they are capable of. Every child I have worked with has added to my motivation to continue to be an educator. Teachers who consider whole students as they develop as complex individuals are needed now more than ever in every type of school, and I am confident that with what I am learning at Bank Street, that I can change lives.

I am the type of person who could easily stay in school forever – I love learning – and I think that is a testament to my learning experiences, including now in graduate school. I truly believe that when you have a successful and meaningful learning experience, it radiates throughout your life and encourages further exploration. After taking Child Development and Early Elementary Curriculum, I am now very interested in learning as much as I can about their development.

Before I put the cart before the horse, I do still have several classes to take this summer and in the fall. If you recognize me from this blog and see me around Bank Street, please say hi! Stay tuned for future student bloggers, as well as more from this intrepid trailblazer – I may still be contributing to this space as a Student Ambassador in the future.

What’s for Lunch?

In my Early Elementary Curriculum course, I am writing a curriculum for second graders focused on where the food in their school neighborhood comes from. I think studies like this are crucial to introduce children to the food system that they are born into as consumers. It is vital to build understanding in children that they are members of this system and that they have choices.

An initial step in creating this awareness is taking children on a neighborhood walk to analyze what is available and how food establishments differ. Actually stepping into stores and restaurants to look at the food they sell, how they sell it, and who sells it is the next step. Workers in stores and restaurants can be surprisingly keen on talking to children about their work.

When children begin to experience how many people are involved in the delivery chain from where food originates until it gets to their plate, they can realize the importance of every person in the system, including themselves. In addition to visiting shops in the school neighborhood, my curriculum will also include a trip to a farm sanctuary, where city children will have a chance to interact with rescued farm animals, in an attempt to bridge any disconnect between their meat choices and where they come from.

In addition to awareness of food sources, another main goal of this curriculum is building confidence in students so that they are empowered to question elements of the food system. Having the confidence to ask questions and to use research skills in the quest of information is crucial in developing a thinking, active consumer. When children have the knowledge to research food, food labels and food systems, they are then equipped to make healthier choices. With the internet today it is easier than ever to research ingredients and terms on packaging. The children will also take part in activities such as gardening, to understand how things grow, and cooking, to culminate their growing confidence in working with food.

There is also great opportunity in any curriculum involving food for science lessons. I will be including one on digestion and nutrition. There is also loads of math in cooking from measuring and temperature, as well as in shopping when working with a budget or understanding value.

As if that weren’t enough, there is also great potential in a food curriculum for building connections between cultures. In my curriculum, students’ families will be invited in to share recipes, food traditions and even health tips related to food.

If we want to empower children to become active citizens who question, what better place is there to start than their plate?

Spring

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Thumbsucker

Recently, I watched Thumbsucker, a brilliant film by Mike Mills. This story focuses on a teenage boy who is struggling to stop sucking his thumb in times of stress. Based on a novel of the same name, by Walter Kirn, the tale isn’t neatly wrapped up in a conclusion. On the contrary, the message I derived from the film and the novel is that in order to cope with much of life’s stress, we have to learn to let go and live without conclusions.

As the various characters in this film show, this can be a struggle for people of every age. As much as adults, including teachers, may want to help children and teens find ways to cope with their problems, we have to accept that we may not have the answer. Sometimes it seems, just sending the message that you want to help and are willing to accept a person, problems and all, can be more important than offering a neat solution.

A Day in the Life…

On a recent jam-packed class day, my Seminar in Museum Education class was held at MoMA! The theme of the day was learning about accessibility – opening learning to all – a topic crucial for every area of education.

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My friend and I opted to walk from Columbus Circle to MoMA, to take in some of the bustling 9AM city life….

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and get some delicious Swedish coffee at Fika! They make a mean soy latte.

After a thorough synopsis of MoMA’s extended efforts to reach all types of patrons, we headed to the galleries. First, with a partner, we took turns closing our eyes and explaining one painting to each other. This is a practice often used to assist blind visitors in experiencing art. I chose to describe Magritte’s “Empire of Light II”.

Then came the once in a lifetime opportunity to actually touch art! Supervised by staff and armed with plastic gloves, my classmates and I were able to touch a Boccioni sculpture called “Development of a Bottle in Space,” and a Picasso called “Woman’s Head,” or “Fernande” (as pictured).

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Everyone scurried back to Bank Street afterwards, to meet a guest speaker Ellen Rubin, an accessibility consultant (and Bank Street alum!). Listening to her perspective of accessibility was invaluable, for Ellen herself is blind. Her personal experiences combined with her museum and education background (she in fact has degrees both in Museum Education and Special Education from Bank Street), gave us, I felt, a realistic overview of what needs to be done to make a museum truly accessible. And I loved her sense of humor!

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Ellen brought along a number of books in braille, mostly what she felt were great examples of extending certain topics to the blind, including astronomy. She also brought a book that she said was a poor example – an alphabet book  that used small objects to demonstrate a word per letter, but often in a convoluted way (a rubber band for elastic? Would a child get that connection?).

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Just another day in the life of Bank Street Sara!

All the World is a Stage

Recently I attended a performance of Don Cristobal, the Spanish version of Punch and Judy, at the Abrons Arts Center. I went in with no expectations and little information about the show other than that it involved puppets. In the small experimental theater, that perhaps sat 100 people, I soon fell under the spell of the charming cast and the universal story of unrequited love.

As I watched, my mind volleyed from incredulity at how adept the puppeteers were in making the Cristobal puppet seem like a real person, to marvelling at the actors’ ability to employ their imaginations and activate those of the audience.

This naturally made me think of dramatic play with young children. Recently in Curriculum for Early Childhood Education, a course I am taking with Sal Vascellaro, we discussed the value in dramatic play for children. Giving children time, space, and materials to explore experiences that are new to them, allows them to make sense of their world. The opportunity to recreate scenes and roles provides children with a medium for problem solving skills, socializing, and building their confidence. When I worked with five-year-olds, I would regularly observe them pretending to be superheroes, monsters, and zombies at recess time, which likely demonstrated their desire to be powerful beings, able to do things that children cannot or are not allowed to do.

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As I have pondered the importance of dramatic play, I have found myself questioning why it seems that as children grow, such play diminishes. In fact, unless an older child, teenager or adult takes an active interest in acting, they often do not participate in dramatic play again. Could dramatic play benefit people of all ages?

In my opinion, it could, and not just particularly for educators trying to capture the attention of their students. Imagining, or playing with concepts of reality can be a very powerful excursion for the mind, creating new perspectives, and even fostering compassion (you can’t know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes). As standardized testing and curriculum cause ever-increasing pressures in the classroom, it seems that the battle to dedicate time to dramatic play is tougher than ever, though not impossible to win. And the benefits are worth fighting for.  As the Association for Childhood Education International states “No adult instruction can take the place of children’s own activities and experiences through continual play.”

Storytime for All Ages

Last week I had the privilege of attending a storytelling workshop and performance right here at Bank Street. Educators and performers from the Lincoln Center Institute worked with Bank Street graduate students and faculty to discuss and analyze the myriad ways in which a basic story can be altered and conveyed. The mission of the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) is to develop skills of imagination, creativity, and innovation through education and the arts. They work not only with students in Pre-k through 12th grade, but also educators. This workshop coincided with the weekly conference group meeting time, providing a nice alternative to our weekly two-hour chat around a table.

Many conference groups gathered with our advisors as well as a performer from LCI, Jean Taylor. She initially gave us a prompt with a simple story on it, and then asked us how it could be altered. People called out suggestions such as changing characters and setting, and I suggested changing the point of view of the storyteller.

With partners, we wrote our own brief versions of the tale, and prepared how we would incorporate movement and sound. This was definitely a challenge for those of us who are not naturally performers. Thankfully, we did not have to perform in front of the whole room, rather just with one or two other pairs. It was truly fascinating how one story could lead to so many variations. The workshop was a great example of how a meeting of minds can produce a plethora of ideas. Not only that but the LCI instructor was inspiring for her zestful approach and palpable joy in storytelling, which I think all educators endeavor to project in working with children.

After the workshop, we were treated to a masterful performance by Charlotte Blake Alston, who not only deflty manuevered through a handful of stories and songs, but also played an African stringed instrument made from a hollowed goard, called a kora.

I was very impressed with her timing – how she would ease right from one story into the next, or seamlessly enter a story from her introduction. And her memory! How on earth this woman remembers the stories is beyond me.


As the Bank Street graduate audience sat spellbound, it was clear to me that the storytelling skills demonstrated could be employed in engaging students, young and old, by any educator. Storytelling skills can bring life to any subject and encourage imaginations to soar, while fostering social relationships in all classrooms – even on a graduate level!