SparQ 2018 puppets on display in the historic Blankenburg auditorium.
Hello and happy New Year! In 2020 we are proud to be partnering
again with the fourth graders at Blankenburg Elementary School in the
Mill Creek neighborhood of Philadelphia. These students have
participated in the parade in previous years as drummers, chanters, and flag wavers, but it is finally their
time to take the lead. In May we will be taking to the streets around
the neighborhood with giant puppets and messages of leadership, community, and
are continuing to work with two of our favorite all-star teachers, Ms.
Betancourt and Ms. Prosper. Our first day of the project introduced
students to Spiral Q, our teaching artists (Darrell, Rob, and Alexis)
the Harlem Renaissance, and the “free-create process.” We also talked
about leadership, respect, teamwork, and conflict resolution. It’s a lot
to pack in to a 90 minute session but the students are enthusiastic and
rising to the challenge.
The daily agenda with “Time-Keepers” (students responsible for alerting the class when the activity’s time is coming to an end.)
sessions are always exciting and this year the students took it to a
whole other level. They were given the open ended challenge of building a
3-D sculpture by exploring “recycled materials” and “found objects”
without asking for adult help. This gives them a chance to get familiar
with the materials and processes used to make the puppets and practice
working as a group. It also gives the teachers the opportunity to
observe art making skills, leadership qualities, and conflict
Free-create materials include egg cartons, cereal boxes, paper towel tubes and general arts and crafts supplies.
is key as students work in group tables and share supplies. This year
the teachers were happy to see most students working on one big
sculpture or using a theme to create multiple objects to tell a unified
story. (Last year most students worked on individual creations and a few
worked in pairs.) Students can not ask for adult help so these
decisions came naturally from the groups. One of our goals is to help
students recognize their leadership style and so far we are seeing
examples of Directive: (takes charge and gets things done) and
Collaborative (tries to bring together the ideas of everyone involved.)
We will also be looking for and encouraging Visionary, Nurturing, and
A collaborative puppet created by five students working as a team
A group of boats created individually around a shared theme
not all of the creations survived to be photographed. One memorable
group project involved an egg carton, and an excess of glue. The
students were deeply enjoying the process, (their hands were covered and
dripping glue) but the materials just couldn’t hold up to their vision.
In true Spiral Q fashion, where some would see a big mess, we saw an
opportunity. The group of students were asked to say a few parting words
for the departed life of their sculpture and then improvise a chant as
it was laid to rest in the trash can. Instead of chastisement and shame,
there was a moment of ritual and joy.
Next session we will be learning more about the messages and collaborative spirit behind the Harlem Rennaisance and creating a mini-puppet!