CA Curious

There’s a Crackle in the Air

October 13, 2022

What does one do in the lobby?

Sixteen 6th graders and I found ourselves pondering this question recently. We were about to embark upon a tour of “The Playground”—the theater facility within Berger Hall—as part of a five-class rotation of the Arts Minors program. Seated on the lobby floor, my new friends rattled off responses:

Wait. Gather with friends. Study. Purchase a ticket. Read the program. Collaborate. Rehearse. Have refreshments. Enjoy intermission. View art. Celebrate.

They were right. On any given day, the lobby of Berger Hall serves these and many other functions.

I shared with the students one of my favorite things about this special space: the windows. Now, this may have something to do with the fact that I spend a large portion of my day at CA in an intentionally windowless world. Storytelling in the theater is dependent upon our ability to control light and, ultimately, what an audience sees and doesn’t see. But that’s not the real reason. I love looking through the glass of the lobby and seeing the upper school on one side and the Middle School on the other. I’m reminded that Berger Hall is a bridge between the two schools, and the Arts at CA provide each of us with the opportunity to connect.

As a faculty member entering his 25th year of teaching at CA and as the new chair of the Arts department, I can attest to the effectiveness of this beautiful bridge and its impact on students. One need only peek into the studios, practice rooms, and brave spaces around campus to witness its power—devoted faculty and curious young people engaging, questioning, risking all, shedding inhibitions, and revealing their authentic selves.

The energy is palpable, and this year, you can feel it crackle even more than usual. Why?

New Faculty

  • We’ve welcomed four passionate artist-educators into our vibrant Arts family: Alexa Velez (MS Dance), Dee Elmore (MS Digital Arts), Kirsten Thompson (Tech Assistant), and Ty Van de Zande (MS Digital Arts).

New Program Offerings

  • After a brief pause, dance has returned to the Middle School, and we’re excited to see the discipline eventually grow to include upper school opportunities.
  • Additionally, we’ve introduced Digital Arts as an Arts Major option for 7th and 8th grades, while also creating a 7th grade section of Video Production.
  • In the Upper School, imaginative electives and independent studies continue to grow out of student interest and conversations with faculty. In fact, the Design Lab on the lower level of Berger Hall—currently home for the Teamship portion of our 9th grade Art & Design experience—is being reconfigured to house new technology for the 3D Game Design class!

Live Performances Return

  • While we were able to offer limited live performance opportunities for our students and the community last spring, we’re thrilled to return to a full concert/performance season this year. It all kicks off with Something Wicked, an immersive and interactive haunted theater experience featuring students in grades 6 through 12.
  • Performances will be offered Thursday, 10/27 through Saturday, 10/29 just in time for Halloween. Look for ticket information in next week’s CA Weekly!

Gradeless Framework Pilot

Under the thoughtful guidance of CA’s Dean of Faculty Martina Greene, the Arts department has made a
commitment to pilot a new gradeless framework for all Arts classes, emphasizing the importance of the following departmental beliefs:

  • Art making is essential to student learning and growth.
  • Our studios and classrooms are brave spaces where students discover techniques and skills to create original, exciting, and impactful works.
  • It’s in these spaces that the process of creating encourages play, curiosity, experimentation and risk-taking.

Moving forward, students will receive either a Pass or Fail at the end of marking periods. In addition to the P/F, teachers will provide students with feedback specific to their skill development and progress toward curricular goals.

Assignments will continue to be recorded in Blackbaud, and teacher feedback will address two areas: submission status and student progress.

  • Submission Status. Students submitting work on time receive a “1.” When work is not turned in, the student receives a “0.” Students will be encouraged to work with their teachers to resolve any missing assignments. As a department guideline, students will need to resolve all “0’s” by the end of the marking period to receive a Pass.
  • Student Progress. A rubric will be attached to the assignment. Students and parents will be able to access the rubric in the gradebook for individual feedback on assignment objectives, skills, etc.

As you access the gradebook in Blackbaud throughout the year, please remember that any numerical points and percentages seen (e.g., 1/1 100% or 0/1 0%) indicate submission status only. Notations of M or L for missing or late work may also appear. Teachers will communicate discipline-specific information as necessary, and students and parents are encouraged to reach out with questions or concerns.

No wonder there’s a crackle in the air! I hope you feel it the next time you enter Berger Hall, and I invite you to find your own way to contribute to its intensification. When you do visit, look for me in the lobby. I’ll be there looking for an opportunity to connect and dreaming of the next big adventure.

Written by Glen Matthews, Theater Teacher and Art Department Chair


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