Category Archives: Bank Street Sara

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?

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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!

Are You Linked In?

I have been a member of LinkedIn since July of 2011. I have to admit, when I first started an account I was skeptical, as I tend to be whenever there is hype over a social media tool (I was an early convert to Facebook, but that’s only because my trusted tech guru friend was raving about it).

Since then, I have been happy to see more people in my realm creating professional profiles on the site, and a lot more buzz about the usefulness of this site in the media. I have found that it is a great tool for keeping in touch with former employers, colleagues, and professors. Not only that, but it is a great way to keep your resume organized and simultaneously available to employers.

One of my favorite features is how people you have worked with can recommend you on the site and leave comments about your skills. You can also follow specific groups and organizations relevant to your field. I follow the American Alliance of Museums, Emerging Museum Professionals, and New York City Museum Educators Roundtable. Though I also subscribe to their emails, the additional connection through LinkedIn helps in building relationships with individuals, and it gives prospective employers a chance to peruse your resume at their leisure.

While I still highly value actual physical interaction when networking, I do think that tools such as LinkedIn are very practical today. I know that with my schedule it is impossible to attend every networking event I wish to, or spend time catching up with former colleagues in person. However, I still like to keep informed about all events – even those I have to miss, and LinkedIn helps with that.

As I forge closer to my graduation from Bank Street I anticipate that I will be spending more time using LinkedIn as I search for a job. There is a specific alumni group that I plan on joining to maintain connections. For now, of course, there is a Bank Street page that anyone can follow, where there are discussion boards for jobs and other topics.

DECENTER

As part of my fieldwork, I began a placement at the Abrons Art Center on the Lower East Side in January. Thus far, I have visited one classroom in a partnering school where a visiting artist from our StudioLab program works with high school students, and I have assisted in the progress of several in-house projects. This weekend will offer another different and very exciting time to be involved with this center, as a new exhibit, DECENTER, is opening on Sunday.

This is a very special exhibit coinciding with the 100thanniversary of the pivotal 1913 Armory Show that introduced Cubism to the American landscape. Particularly special for Abrons is that this will also mark the 50th anniversary of the relationship between Henry Street Settlement and the Art Center. In 1963 the Armory Show served as the occasion for the announcement of the Settlement’s plan to build the Abrons Art Center.

The focus of DECENTER is contemporary artwork and it’s relationship to digital media, which offers a close parallel to many themes in Cubism, including spontaneity, fragmentation, and of course, decenteredness.

I am super excited to see the work of all of the 27 artists who are attending, but particularly the artist and writer Douglas Coupland, whose work I have read since I was in high school. A few years ago, I even scoured the bookshops of France for one of his French language books!

The opening day will feature two panel discussions about the legacy of the 1913 Armory show and about the perception of art in the digital age, with working artists, curators and other academics. Attending such events not only informs my practice as a burgeoning educator and museum professional, but also allows me to recharge. Any chance I have to absorb the output of other creative minds is a chance I relish.