Older students and faculty expose lower school students to a future in fine arts

Abby Baughman

After being introduced this year, Brown Bag Lunch has become a tradition for lower school students. During the event, where lower school students sit on the rocks of the south playground and hear a presentation about the arts, students eat SAGE-prepared brown-bagged lunches.

“Brown Bag Lunch exposes lower school students to the fine arts in a setting that is comfortable to them,” Kathryn Pothier, parent leader of Brown Bag Lunch, said. “Brown Bag Lunch also helps to ignite more curiosity among the youngest students about what possibilities there are for them to explore and engage with the arts. I think there’s a ton of support for the arts and a ton of appreciation for it. We tried to be more thoughtful about how to ignite that, bring it to the forefront.”

 The goal of the lunches is for lower schoolers to interact with older students, teachers and faculty in the ESD arts community.

 “We hope to generate a lot of student interest in future performers, middle schoolers, other schoolers, staff members, ideally all within the community again,” Pothier said. “We want the students to be really watching folks that they otherwise interact with regularly anyway. But they’re seeing them in this environment of appreciating the arts and just helping spark their curiosity about it.”

Amy Cuccia, assistant head of lower school, was inspired to make Brown Bag Lunch by The San Francisco Friends School’s similar program. The school provides food and an informal presentation focused on art. Cuccia proposed the idea to the Fine Arts Network, and they were fully on board

“We thought it would be really cool to do something similar [to the California school], but with an ESD twist,” Cuccia said. “Lower school students are typically curious about everything and are willing to ‘try’ new things, especially when they see someone they know doing it.”

The first presenter of the Brown Bag Lunch was the lower school organist, Julian Petrallia. He presented from March 7 to March 11 with a slideshow. He talked about his background and played a few pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and Robert Schumann. Afterward, the students had the opportunity to ask him questions.

“I was surprised to see/hear how many kids didn’t know that it’s possible to be a musician full-time,” Petrallia said. “I was also surprised at the kids’ reaction when I told them about how young I was when I started music. Hopefully the kids’ perspectives changed with regard to now seeing that being a musician as a full-time career is possible as well the fact that it’s possible to begin studying music at any age; including very young!”

On Friday, April 29, Lindsey Cullins’ fifth-grade English class performed a puppet show for the beginner and kindergarten students. The show centered around a character who eats all of their friends’ food. Cullins’ class presented becuase it is at the same time as the lower school lunch period.

“We’ve been studying plot, theme and fictional elements, so it was a perfect project for us to tackle,” Lindsey Cullins said. “For our Pre-K and beginners puppet show, our class worked cooperatively to plan, draft and revise our script.”

Cullins told her class that they would be performing for 3 to 5-year-olds and that the virtue of the month was Understanding. Then, the class brainstormed possible themes.

“[They] came to a consensus around one [theme]: People sometimes misunderstand one another, but with a little help

and some careful listening, they can overcome their problems,” Cullins said.

The beginner and kindergarten students sat outside in front of a puppet stage. Each student was given a pudding cup, and the fifth grade class performed the show. 

“This was a great opportunity for our class to explore the purpose of dialogue, appreciate the difference between written fiction and performed drama, to solidify their understanding of fictional elements and language and their relationships to theme,” Cullins said. “It was also a beautiful way to give students a sense of purpose, beyond themselves and beyond a grade in the grade book, for engaging in their learning.”

Brown Bag Lunch only happened twice this year because it started in March. However, next year, the lower school hopes to have three each semester or one each month. The lower school also hopes to incorporate more of the community.

“It gives our little people the chance to see the pathways that are open to them at ESD and imagine themselves on that same stage,” Cullins said. “We hope that they realize that they too can sing and dance and perform for an audience one day.”

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