Tuesday was Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and it has been on my mind. Fat Tuesday marks the culmination of weeks of parades featuring festive krewes, flambeau carriers, toe-tapping drum and brass bands, parties and balls, and generally lots of revelry for the city and its visitors. For seven years, I lived, studied, and taught in New Orleans, an experience I cherish. I loved learning about the city’s unique and tumultuous history and the French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences that shape the culture, food, music, architecture, and traditions that we see today.
As Mardi Gras coincides closely with the wrap of our second trimester, I have been making connections. Mardi Gras builds community and contributes to the identity of New Orleans (and it’s a fun time for participants and observers). Similarly, in our Middle School classrooms, on the fields, and on the stage, students participate in and enjoy experiences that bring them together and build team, club, grade -level, Middle School, and CA identities.
As evident in the creative production of unforgetting, our student performers and tech crew delivered poignant and uplifting stories of life’s moments. They worked together for weeks and developed closely as an ensemble – an experience and connection that will stay with them for years.
Another example is the unique cross-grade level language arts project that developed from work with longtime CA partner, Burning Coal Theater Company. Sixth graders wrote poems expressing their ideas about the theme of Ubuntu. Seventh graders worked together in small groups and combined the 6th-grade poems with movement, shadow work, and props to create a new work of art. Eighth graders then took these poetic vignettes and added a layer of digital projection. Integral to the process was the thoughtful and constructive student feedback given to peers and teachers who worked alongside in the design of the project. Final pieces of this comprehensive and connected student-inspired project will be performed for the entire middle school as a part of the larger Ubuntu Celebration on Friday.
These two curricular and co-curricular collaborative projects are illustrative of many amazing community-building activities our middle schoolers experienced over the past twelve weeks and will continue to enjoy during their time at Cary Academy. Facilitated and inspired by creative and supportive faculty in an environment that cultivates collaboration, out-of-the-box thinking, and relevant real-life connections, our students are challenged to think, work, and play hard all trimester. Our students and faculty are ready for a break.
Now that Mardi Gras has passed, the city is noticeably quiet in contrast to the busy, activity-filled weeks leading up it. I am hopeful that our trimester break provides students and faculty a change in pace and time to relax, reflect, and refresh!