When a kick off event is launched, organizers hope for things: Did the content get through? Are students inspired and changed? Is something special happening at Otselic Valley? And more specifically, can Arts in Education programming support social-emotional learning in meaningful ways? After last week's swirl of ideas, art, and heart, the answer is yes, yes, yes, and yes.
The Arts in Education team carefully crafted a schedule that gave Vikings a variety of experiences during the kick-off for Arts in Education and Character Education at O V. Recording artist Jared Campbell was in concert and conversation with students of all ages. Book champion and school librarian John Schu turned time with Pre-K - 8th grade students into a high-energy festival of book surprise and appreciation. Poet and novelist Rachel Guido DeVries empowered older students to become thoughtful poets themselves. Painting with partners, painting with unexpected materials (shave cream!), dancing, and puppetry were all on schedule. And everywhere in the building, creativity was rising.
Each of these activities reflected a larger theme that will be explored throughout the school year: Empathy, especially as it’s expressed in a book that everyone at OV will know by the end of the school year: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Ivan was a real-life gorilla with an unusual history who needed empathy like snow needs cold. He was also a painter--really!
In the weeks and months to come, older students will read this book out loud to younger Vikings, and the whole community will be invited to a group read-a-thon where participants take turn reading the story from start to finish. Watch for it in the spring.
While empathy is the overarching theme of character education this year, related themes will be explored monthly in classrooms, Morning Program, and even through more specific OV Star Awards.
Why is this important? Because empathy is the ability to see events from the perspective of someone else, and that “someone else” could be an historical figure, book character, classmate, teacher, or anyone. It’s like walking in another’s shoes, or at least understanding what the road is like while wearing shoes unlike those we’re used to.
Empathy is not endorsement of another point of view, of course -- you can understand without agreeing with others’ opinions -- but this greater awareness helps everyone live peacefully in communities and families.
Another way to approach empathy is through the phrase “Hearts Open Mindful Expression.” This is an acrostic (the first letter of each word spells a different word) that Vikings will get to know, and that students worked with in sessions led by Ms. DeVries. Not coincidentally, the acrostic spells “HOME.”