Growing – India Residency with Master Teaching Artist Christina Farrell

Growing – India Residency with Master Teaching Artist Christina Farrell
Nov 05, 2015

Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist Christina Farrell recently led a 2-week in-class residency at a preschool in Rajkot, Gujarat in India. During this residency Christina worked with children, ages 3-5, in performing arts integrated sessions while also facilitating quality professional development for their classroom teachers. Enjoy a blog post from her series below!

There has been a lot of growth at MANJUL Playhouse and Nursery this week.

A primary goal of a Wolf Trap residency is to mentor classroom teachers so they are able to use arts strategies on their own. At the beginning of the residency, the teaching artist takes the lead. Gradually the teachers lead small parts of the lesson so that by the end the teachers are leading experiences on their own.

For the past couple of days, the MANJUL teachers have been leading arts experiences of their own design, and they’ve been fantastic! As a team, the five teachers selected the book “Up, Down, and Around” by Katherine Ayers as the focus for their lessons. But each teacher came up with unique lessons experiences based on the age and learning needs for their students.

The book uses simple text to describe which vegetables grow down into the ground, which grow up, and which vine around and around. (I learned that this is very important cultural knowledge because those who follow the Jain religion do not eat root vegetables.)

Prior to the Wolf Trap residency, the teachers would likely have taught the names of vegetables through rote memorization and reciting. “What is this? Potato.”  But the arts-integrated lesson designed by the teachers were rich with exploration and included many ways for the children to understand the concepts.

A Kindergarten teacher brought real vegetables and let the children dig in the dirt to discover the potatoes and onions. As one child was digging, the rest stayed engaged through song and movement, “We’re digging, digging, digging!” Not only did children name the vegetables they discovered, but the teacher prompted them with more open-ended and thought-provoking questions. “How does it feel?” “Which one is bigger?” “How does it taste?” The children had moved from simple memorization to true comprehension.

Another teacher guided the children to use their bodies to pretend to be vegetables growing up, down, and around. She adapted a song I had taught to structure the movement, “Chilies grow up, up, up. Potatoes grow down, down, down. Tomatoes grow around and around.” After the children practiced the dance, the teacher used a large brown scarf as the “dirt.” The children huddled under the scarf to pretend to grow down like potatoes, stood on the scarf to pretend to grow up like eggplants and walked all around the circle to grow around like tomatoes. There was a lot of giggling!

One teacher made paper cut outs of vegetables and asked the children to match vegetables that are the same. Then she used the images to create an up, down, around dance sequence. They also counted the total number of vegetables (6) and the number of each type (2 each.) A very interactive math experience!

On the first day of the residency, the teachers were shy and hesitant. They had never seen the kind of interactive teaching that the Wolf Trap residency models. But by the end, they had written songs, created dances, pretended to be animals and asked thought-provoking questions. That is very exciting growth indeed!



Read more and follow Christina’s journey here and on Facebook

For more information on the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts & our Teaching Artist program, click here.