Carnival of Venice Comes to Chatham MED Elementary School

On Thursday, November 9, the Chatham MED gymnasium was transformed into a setting for a Carnival of Venice. The event culminated six weeks of study by third graders on the culture, history, art, and music of Venice. For the second year in a row, the Spencertown Academy Arts Center worked with third grade teachers and their classes in hands-on projects and activities on Venetian life.

Attended by more than a hundred parents, the Carnival showcased two costumed dancers, Caroline Copeland and Tim Wilson, from the New York Baroque Dance Company followed by dances by the third graders themselves. Musicians from the Four Nations Ensemble playing harpsichord, violin, and cello provided musical accompaniment.

The event was inspired by the tradition of Carnival, a magical time when people donned masks, wore fanciful costumes, and attended plays and puppet shows throughout the city of Venice. Begun in the twelfth century, the event saw its heyday in the eighteenth century and is popular again today.

This creative, interdisciplinary program resulted from a partnership between the Chatham Central School District and the Spencertown Academy, a vital community organization that presents programs in the arts, film, and theater. Andrew Appel, artistic and educational director, heads up a team of artists who provide workshops with the teachers and also work directly with the students. Additional programs are under way at the elementary school for this academic year.

“The program teaches how the arts can help us understand one another across the centuries and across the continents,” said Mr. Appel. “The arts stimulate the imagination and help make life richer.” Christine DeRoller, a parent who attended the Carnival, agreed: “This is a wonderful blend of activities that build on one another.” Her daughter, Erin, was very excited to learn about Venice.

Carnival day for each third grade class included a story told in Italian (with a little help in English) by storyteller Tom Lee, a discussion of the role of masks in Venice by art teacher Susan Grybas, and a session on making cannolis by CSD food manager Paul Franchini.

“The second graders tell us they can’t wait to be in third grade,” said Sandra Meyers, third grade teacher. Kachie Ladd, another third grade teacher, said that last year the unit on Venice was “the students’ favorite.”

This is the goal of the program: to encourage a love of learning. Inspiring the imagination while fulfilling the requirements of the curriculum, the program provides opportunities for learning for students, teachers, and the community.

With support from the Chatham Central School District, the program is funded by the Arts and Humanities Fund of the Chatham Education Foundation, the T. Backer Fund, the Rheinstrom Hill Foundation, the NYS Council on the Arts, and Chamber Music America.

The Chatham Courier, November 16, 2006

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