Co”meme”dy – We Love to Laugh

What do you want your parents to know about you that they might not already know?  What is something you really care about but never shared with anyone?  How could we share these messages with our audience?  These were the questions that propelled students at Hubbard Woods School to create their annual Spring Sing performance, Co”meme”dy – We Love to Laugh.

THE PROJECT:  Multi-arts performance.

Using a Chalk Talk thinking routine we answered these questions, then noticed similarities in our responses.  “I want my parents to know that it’s OK to have fun,”  “We love to laugh,” etc.  We noticed that these were common themes among our 1st-4th graders.  The words “comedy” and “memes” came up a lot in our thinking, so one of our 4th graders offered “Co-Meme-dy.”  Students then began to create their own puns and jokes in their arts classes.  Each grade narrowed their comedies into categories:

1st Grade:  Art/Color, Weather, Food, Storybook characters

2nd Grade: Friends, 80s, Party, Magic

3rd Grade: Animals, Family, Camping/Outdoors, Superheroes

4th Grade: Olympics/Sports, Star Wars/Movies, Beach/Summer, Music


From here they used multiple media to visually create their memes, researched songs to sing and recruited students to participate in a comedy troupe to write a script, host and connect the show as well as started a DJ troupe to play transition music on our new DJ table.  The first grade homeroom classes took their thoughts about comedy with storybook characters and, using the book Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky, created a Scranimal Symphony on xylophones to accompany a slide show of their mixed-up animal characters.

Program & Playlist here

Memes, Scranimals & Show Projection here




Creating a Music Studio Mindset

How do we make up our own music (improvise)?  Using the book “The Jazz Fly” as inspiration, Kindergarteners worked in small groups to create an improvisation with a beginning, middle and end.

THE PROJECT: Musical improvisation with a given title to shed light on what we hear inside the music.

In the play-based, Reggio-inspired environments of the Kindergarten classrooms at Hubbard Woods School, students are encouraged to spend time in the “music studio.”  This introductory-level experience helps kids understand a studio mindset by starting with exploration.  The music studio also informs adults about where these new students are coming from, what each individual brings to the studio table and how we can help access their incredible wisdom.  We have 2 simple rules in the Kindergarten Music Studio:

Make music, not noise.

Put everything back where it belongs.

Each music studio session has a different question that helps us understand how to make music and not noise.  “How can your music include silences?”  “How will you end your piece?”  “Will you all play at the same time, take turns or a combination?”  “Will your work be original, or are you performing something that someone else wrote?”  Check out these recordings where kids were asked to have a beginning, middle and end, then were asked to name their work after listening to their recordings:  Sound Cloud


Journey to Kindness – Creating an Original Opera

How do strangers become friends?  How does conflict get resolved?  What are the actions that show kindness?  How do you change “we got you” moments to “we’re listening in order to understand you” moments?  These were the questions we explored as we created our own original opera.


THE PROJECT:  Creating and producing an original opera.


Students at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, IL used their general understandings of mid nineteenth-century European immigration to create a historical fiction story set as an opera.  Using a model & curriculum from the Metropolitan Opera Guild (Creating Original Opera), they formed a production company:  Production Managers, Stage Managers, Electricians, Set Designers, Costume Designers, Public Relations Team, Historians, Composers and Performers.  What began with practical and small questions led the students to ask deeper questions along the way, to “apply for” jobs they were interested in, and come together as a production team for a week-long intensive Opera Week, with our performance on a Friday afternoon.  While each job in the opera company could have its own blog entry, we will focus on 2 jobs in particular:

The writers began a process of developing five characters with a 3+2 model of adjectives.  3 positive attributes and 2 negative.  From there we fleshed out the general relationships people with these characteristics would have.  As they unpacked the relationships of their original main characters, they realized that what was at the heart of their story wasn’t immigration, but something deeper – the connections strangers have to each other.  Journey to Kindness is a story of 5 immigrant children from Europe in the 1800s who begin as strangers, but end up as friends.

The composers started out being the entire 4th grade.  Everyone explored ways to compose melodic motifs for each of the 5 characters, using information from the writers “hot off the press.”  Our small group of composers selected one motif for each character from all ideas submitted, composed 2 songs and a lot of incidental music.  They accompanied everything on classroom and stringed instruments.  The distinction of opera vs. musical for this project is that the songs advance the story and cannot be removed if the story is to make sense.  Our examples:

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Student Production Managers saw that everyone was focused and meeting deadlines.  Stage Managers supported stage direction and called out lighting and scenery cues.  Electricians created a lighting plan.  Set Designers made simple, moveable set pieces. Costume Designers designed and sewed original fashion accessories for the entire company.  The Public Relations Team wrote press releases, designed a logo and printed programs. Historians photographed and videoed the entire process.  The performers performed and the composers accompanied on various percussion and stringed instruments.  A little more can be found here.



Musical Composition Through Play – the “Sing Space”


Kindergarteners are asked how they can share highlights of their first year in school with a song.

THE PROJECT:  Original music composition through improvisation.

Kindergarten students at Crow Island School in Winnetka, IL had a rare opportunity – their music teacher was able to spend time in their Reggio-influenced, play-based homeroom environment to create music activities as part of their choice/activity time/centers every week. The year began with simple activities of musical perception (creating shakers with different materials and using them in accompaniments and improvs, xylophone games), progressed to instrumental improv on keyboards and concluded with a “Sing Space.” The Sing Space was a magical place created in the room where only singing voices were allowed. Stocked with puppets, action figures and sometimes nothing at all, teachers noted how the space was used over time. Conversations and stories emerged with kids singing mostly approximate pitches. Some kids were regulars of the space, some kids entered when it was the popular place to go, and some steered clear. Teachers would sing questions to kids periodically to elicit deeper thoughts and interactions. In the final month of school, groups of Kindergarteners sat down to share highlights of their year they wanted to include in a song. The result was small groups of kids rotating through a composition center.

Lyrics came from kids’ interests: What were the highlights of our year together? How will we organize these thoughts? Are there rhymes for some of these words?

Melodies came from vocal improvisations:  What would that sound like if you sang it? Kids used mostly approximate pitches and teachers transcribed into definite pitches with thumbs up or down from the kids.

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Composing a School Anthem

How do we share what makes our school unique and special to us?  What do we want to say about our school?  What is important to us here at school?

THE PROJECT:  Original music composition.

4th Graders from Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka wanted to compose a song about their school. The current school song was (and is) a local favorite, having been part of the neighborhood culture for decades.  But how to compose a song with input from 60 fourth graders?  Using a process called “song-bombing,” fashioned after “photo-bombing,” they handed ideas off from one class to the other in order to mull and cull, expand and clump, edit and refine. Each student had to sign their name next to their edits of/additions to other students’ ideas.

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They wanted a song to contrast and compliment the current song, which is in the style of a college fight song, with something more like an anthem:

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This Is the Future – Using the Arts to Look Ahead

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What does the world need? What would make the world better? What do you hope for in the future? What do you want the future to look like? Feel like? Sound like?

THE PROJECT:  Multi-arts performance.

K-2 students at Lyon School in Glenview, IL answered these questions, which created a framework for learning in all of their arts classes for the fall, culminating in the school’s annual winter show – a performance of Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Art.  

The Fine Arts Team used a Design Thinking model to navigate the process of unravelling students’ collective vision for the future. After asking these questions, students discovered how other artists had approached the same line of inquiry.  

As a group of 450 students we used our own interpretations of the future to help us Ideate for what the winter show set should look like.  From all of our ideas we created a Plan to create an abstract landscape.  Lyon artists experimented with different types paper to discover textures that might work for the different sections of our “futurescape.” They Created the paper relief over a one-week period, each class adding on to what the previous class had completed.

Students had to narrow their thoughts down to 3 aspects of their vision:  

Kindergarten – The future has the things we need.  

First grade – The future has good feelings.

Second grade – The future is anything we can imagine.  

Students brainstormed songs which shared their message and created movement and dramas to further illustrate their message.  The winter show, “A Magical Place in Space: this is the future,” was held together by 3 poems compiled completely by students’ answers to the original questions.  They presented their vision of their future using all of the fine arts.

Poems are located under the Messages Awaiting Art tab.

Give a Little Bit – A Guide to the Good Life

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Kindergarten-2nd graders ask about how you know you are doing the right thing?  What does a good life look like? What makes people happy? What is a kind compliment?

THE PROJECT:  Multi-arts performance.

At Lyon School in Glenview, IL students ask their audience for the annual winter show to ‘Give A Little Bit’!  Empathy was the driving force this year.  After a first round of questions revolving around “choosing kind” the Fine Arts Team stepped in to dig a little deeper into some of their responses.

After sifting through student responses they found that their answers fell into 4 categories: Give Help, Give Hugs/Love, Give Laughter and Give Cheer/Encouragement.  In addition was found a fantastic winter show theme in one of the student quotes – “Give a little bit: A Guide to the Good Life.”

In visual art, all of the grade levels investigated Mandalas as an art form to help communicate the message. With the help of some inspiration from Keith Haring, 2nd graders planned 4 symbols for the Mandala gateways to communicate their 4 show messages. First grade broke those symbols down into suggestions like helping someone up after they fall down. Kindergarten focused the center of their mandalas to give compliments.  Their work was installed hanging from the hallway ceilings as well as behind the stage. Their song choices, dramas and dances for the show all communicated one of the 4 central messages.  After the show the audience was invited to respond to a question on the chalkboard outside the performance space: How will you give a little bit?

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Honey Maid Ad Campaign Inspires Students To Choose Kind

Choose Kind

Four hundred fifty K-2nd graders ask what it means to choose kind? Why should you choose kind? How can you be kind to someone else?

THE PROJECT:  Cardboard Tube Temporary Installation

Kindergarten, first and second grade students at Lyon School in Glenview, IL were asked to consider these questions as the school year began.  They brainstormed together and wrote their individual answers on cardboard tubes.  The tubes were connected to spell the phrase “Choose Kind” as part of an ongoing interactive art installation in their hallway. The Honey Maid company commissioned artists to use the onslaught of negative emails regarding their “This is wholesome” ad campaign and turn it around to create something with a powerful positive message. The ‘Choose Kind’ wall at Lyon School was formed much like the ‘Love’ installations created by Honey Maid’s artists.  Lyon School teachers are on the watch for students who are choosing kind. Those students are given a colorful strip of paper that reads “I chose kind” to fill a tube in the wall.  The students are working hard to fill every tube with multiple colors before they year’s end.  Their message is powerful.

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