Written By Lower School Performing Arts Teacher and Arts in Action Coordinator, Amanda Lower

On April 21, 2023, the sounds of Djembe drums filled the air as parents and students entered the front entrance of Lower Campus. Older faces were behind the drums, familiar to all of the teachers. Mr. Micah Caldwell, the Director of Middle School Music was at the helm calling patterns while simultaneously adding Lower School students with shakers, maracas, and hand claps.

This day is called Arts in Action Day where Grades K through 5 rotate through experiential arts stations. Students encounter new cultures, new techniques, and plain old fun. These new art forms intentionally broaden the School’s horizons, prompting us to evaluate and reevaluate our current arts offerings. It introduces and better connects the artists from all of our campuses. It fosters curiosity of what’s next for students as they move to Middle School and eventually Upper School.

Arts in Action Day is the ideation of Amanda Lower bringing arts rotations to all of our young artists beyond the confines of everyday coursework. The Visual Arts Teams and Performing Arts Teams curate varied artistic experiences for each Grade level to try new genres, or take another lap led by a new and different arts expert, and above all, have fun in the arts. From Hip Hop dance to world drumming, the day is noisy, colorful, and always memorable.

Rotations included:

  • Improv – MVXpert Ms. Lizzy Stone encouraged Grade 1 and 5 students to say “yes and” while acting out outrageous improvisational scenes.
  • Scene Painting Techniques – Director of Upper Campus Visual and Performing Arts Caroline Sandrew gave Grade 5 students an inside look into scene painting, an integral part of Middle and Upper School’s theater program.
  • Percussion – Mr. Micah Caldwell brought Grade 6 and 7 percussion students to introduce new instruments and sounds to Grade 4 students and those walking from station to station.
  • Large Scale Pixelation – Preschool Visual Arts Teacher Ms. Cheryl Bruno Introduced a fun new way to “paint by numbers” but with stickers and markers. Now Grades 1 and 2 students can try this same activity at home!
  • Puppetry – Mr. Spencer Stephens, Middle School Theater Teacher and Master Puppeteer rotated concurrently with Mount Vernon mom and fellow Master Puppeteer, Mrs. Rachel Rowe to play theater games and make puppets with Grades 3 and 4 students.
  • Community Arts – Familiar teachers such as Mrs. Megan Lentz offer newly scaled and broader stroked art projects such as Community Art where Grades 2 and 4 wove brightly colored ribbon in the fence of the Field.
  • Hip Hop Dance – Mr. Shervoski Moreland provides Grade 5 opportunities to pop, lock and drop with Hip Hop battles in the Kirk Center.
  • Tap Master Class – Preschool Performing Arts Teacher Ericka Shannon introduced tap dancing to the Kindergarten class, an art form she is extremely familiar with after choreographing the Middle School musical, Newsies Jr.
  • Music of the Organ & Violin – Pablo Zamora and Judith Cox with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra stepped back while Kindergarten and Grade 1 students played the organ, likely for the first time in their lives. They then played the violin, explaining techniques and mechanics along the way.
  • Weighted Rhythm Stick – Dance Artist KaToya Sumner introduced the art form that activates the core, crosses the midline, and spreads rhythm throughout the body.

When a group of students was asked what their favorite part of the day was, Grade 5 student Tori A spoke up, “I really liked all of them but I liked the workout [weighted rhythm sticks] in the gym, and when I got to make puppets with Mr. Stephens.” Grade 4 Charlotte E explained that she herself had never made a puppet before saying, “It was fun decorating the puppets and playing with them with my class.”

We are so grateful to the parent volunteers who acted as shepherds and tour guides for each class and the connector teachers who supported our MVXperts.

MV: What do you hope students get out of Arts in Action?

Amanda Lower: