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Posts Tagged ‘wnyc’

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Photo: Michael Falero
Seventh graders Daelyn Brown and Elaina Grady with their teacher, Justin Parmenter, at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, NC. After a traumatizing shooting at a nearby school, Parmenter launched an activity called Undercover Agents of Kindness. The results speak for themselves.

Like you and me, the folks of WNYC radio have noticed a certain lack of emphasis on kindness in the public sphere. Recognizing that there are always people reaching out to others somewhere, they decided to track down those obscure acts of kindness and feature them on the air. The station’s series taps the knowledge of listeners, who provide leads.

From WNYC: “We expect schools to prepare students by teaching them math and science and reading and writing. But what about teaching kindness?

“Justin Parmenter, who teaches Language Arts to seventh graders at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina, decided to try. After a deadly school shooting at a nearby high school rocked the campus, he launched Undercover Agents of Kindness, an activity designed to gets his students out of their social bubbles and doing good deeds for each other.”

He writes at his blog: “I’d already been thinking a lot about the decline in positive interactions in our society and how we might more effectively teach character in our schools. … An adult simply talking about character or modelling positive behavior does not often lead to the changes we want to see in our children. There had to be a more impactful approach. …

“To increase interaction between students who did not normally talk to each other, I had students draw a random classmate’s name from a bowl.  After they drew names, I was shocked to hear some of them had no idea who the other person was –- even after being in class together for two months and in many cases attending the same school for years. Students had two weeks to perform an unexpected act of kindness for the other person and complete a written ‘mission report’ detailing what they did and how it went.

“Soon I began to see encouraging sticky notes on lockers in the hallway. Batches of homemade cupcakes and bags of leftover Halloween candy made their way onto desks in my classroom, as did origami, inspirational quotes, and hand-drawn portraits.  I heard compliments exchanged about all kinds of things. Students I’d never seen together started offering to carry each other’s books and musical instruments to the next class.  As the mission reports started trickling in, I read accounts of children studying together, inviting others to sit together at lunch, helping others put football equipment on at practice.

“However, it was my students’ reflections on the kindness activity that revealed its impact most.

Again and again they acknowledged that it was difficult and felt awkward to approach someone they didn’t know well and do something for them.  But almost every time they added that they were proud of themselves for doing it anyway and felt the power in brightening someone else’s day.”

WNYC interviewed the teacher with two of those students.

” ‘I always thought that people would just reject me if I ever started talking to them, but the truth is if you branch out, you’d be surprised at how nice people can be,’ Waddell student Daelyn Brown, 12, says of the kindness activity.

” ‘When someone does something kind for you or you do something kind for a person, it’s just like wow, I can do this so much and I can make so many friends and everybody would be so happy,’ adds fellow classmate Elaina Grady, 13.”

Listen to the radio report here. And please treat yourself to the wonderful student notes at the teacher’s blog, here.

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Today the public radio program Studio 360 featured a shortened version of a wonderful WNYC documentary about the year 1913. That was the year Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was only one of many “shocking” arts events to usher in the modern age.

From the Studio 360 website: “What a year was 1913! In an exhibition in a New York Armory, American viewers confronted Cubism and abstraction for the first time. In Vienna, the audience at a concert of atonal music by Schoenberg and others broke out into a near-riot. And in Paris, Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s new ballet The Rite of Spring burst on stage with inflammatory results.

Culture Shock 1913 tells the stories behind these and other groundbreaking events that year, and goes back to consider what led to this mad, Modernist moment.

” ‘I think in a lot of ways it was just the beginning of a century just of absolute chaos and nightmare, and as so often, the artists heard it and reflected it first,’ notes the critic Tim Page.

“WNYC’s Sara Fishko speaks with thinkers, authors, musicians, art curators, and historians about this unsettling era of sweeping change — and the not-so-subtle ways in which it mirrors our own uncertain age.

“This Studio 360 episode is an abridged version of a one-hour documentary Sara Fishko produced for WNYC.” More here.

I liked how the documentary explains that the shock was derived from artists not wanting to master and perfect what was done in the past or to replicate nature but rather to be different and to focus on structure, taking things apart and putting back again differently. Artists themselves organized the Armory Show, not curators or galleries. They went to Europe, where change was erupting like crazy, and they brought back art never seen in conservative America.

A key takeaway was that when we see something really new we often think it is ugly, as people thought the Eiffel Tower ugly. But once they look and look some more, they begin to like it.

That helps me think about some of the art Asakiyume and I saw yesterday at the Worcester Museum of Art. It sure looked ugly to me, but it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. Asakiyume sets a good example in that department.

(My mother was born in 1913. Perhaps something was in the air that year that can explain her rebellious nature.)

Photograph taken by spDuchamp/flickr
Marcel Duchamp’s NudeDescending a Staircase, No. 2, was featured in the landmark Armory Show and outraged most visitors because she wasn’t reclining like traditional nudes and she was in motion and it was hard to see her.

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