With the aid of this grant, we recruited Marguerite McKenna, a professional eurythmist from Boulder, Colorado to teach the children at the North Fork School of Integrated Studies.
Eurythmy is an art of movement that teaches balance, large and small motor skills through music and language. There is a gesture for every sound, tone and color. Eurythmy is a typical component of a traditional Waldorf education. This grant enabled us to provide this in a public school setting.
Our experience was magical. Marguerite immediately bonded with our students. Marguerite learned their names by giving each child a gesture based on the dominant sound in his or her name. Every name was repeated in movement by all the students until all the names were carved in gesture. The smiles began immediately and stayed throughout the lesson.
During the lessons the children practiced walking, running and skipping imaginary forms that metamorphosed into separate circles and figure eights. The tenor of the lessons began slowly, sped up gradually as it became more challenging and then ended with reverence and gratitude. This class has in it a group of rowdy boys that are lovely jokesters, Marguerite was able to engage them and build skill in working together over their nine lesson span.
At the end the Paonia Community and Paonia Elementary School came to see performances- the children did a performance for each. About 50 PES students were in attendance and about 20 community members. NFSIS is a school within the public elementary school and this performance helped bridge the gap with Paonia Elementary School who attended the final in-school performance.
In addition to offering classes to our children, Marguerite enthusiastically offered classes to the community. The classes were well attended with an average of 11 students per class. Many people enjoyed the different teaching style from the previous years Eurythmist and felt that Marguerite was very knowledgeable.
One challenge we tackled was the loss of the pianist, who was to provide accompaniment during the program. Marguerite was able to compensate for this by playing the hand drum. In addition, local musicians stepped up and performed on violin during the final performances. Scheduling was another obstacle, Eurythmy is typically a year round program so teachers had to adjust daily schedules to accommodate a 3 week intensive residential program for the children. Arrangements with the school administration also had to be made to arrange for appropriate space and time.
Our goal with Eurythmy is to help the students grasp academic subjects through Somatic or body based components. The children learned to expand and contract as a group, taking their neighbors with them and then moving backwards into the space behind them with confidence and ease. Clearly this was a consciousness raising exercise that called for courage in stepping into the unknown, as well as a heightened spatial awareness. The 2nd/3rd grade class practiced walking the form of the five pointed star together and separately. This was the practice of working in space and time.
The teachers said that the children returned to class with a calm and fulfilled demeanor.
Thanks to the stewards of Think360Arts for Education and the Colorado Arts Program grant for opening a door to this valuable experiences for the children at North Fork School of Integrated Studies and Paonia Elementary School who attended the final in-school performance.