ABS Thursday Notes- October 29, 2020



Published for the Arts Based School Community

October 29, 2020


How We Do It and Why

By Mary Siebert


I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” - Miles Davis


While the rest of us search blearily under the bed for our missing senses of humor, Heidi McIver and Jordan Brown seem to have a corner on that market. If the laws of supply and demand apply to the cheerful, creative working attitude, their stock is bullish. Are you wishing they could package it and share with you? You’re in luck! That’s exactly what they’re doing!


Ms. Heidi and Mr. Brown are our two drama teachers. They work with techniques of theater and storytelling that stretch as far back as the ancient Greeks and griots. But this year, they are working in a theater format that has no tradition: Zoom.


Relying on their well-developed skills of improvisation plus the aptitude and energy for new technology, they keep their minds open and hack fresh, quirky trails for Zooming kids. They have, out of necessity, become our film production crew. With a working relationship built on mutual admiration, complimentary skills, and lots of laughter, they are pulling off some delightfully satisfying results.


This duo, joined by dance teacher Jan Adams, is soon to release their first ABS production. In a couple of weeks, (depending on how pesky the editing is,) each of the three 2nd grades will premiere their Zoom performances of the Japanese folktale The Stonecutter; a story Ms. Adams has choreographed with second graders for years.


Two weeks into the project, Ms. Heidi said that she needed to reconsider her directorial vision. She had worked with older students in summer projects at UNCSA, where she had developed her first Zoom shows. But these were second graders, who were at home. If they did attend the rehearsal, they might not turn on their screen or unmute. If they did turn on their screen, we might see their Dad, working in the background. Or they might just spend the whole time holding their cat up to the camera. Or their baby brother. Or a sandwich. There might be so little light that we can’t tell who they are, or there might be other people talking in the background, or we might only see their forehead. Ms. Adams, who is immensely skilled at collaboration, suggested that they reconsider the goal. The goal, she suggested, was not a flawless show for the audience. It was for the students to have a great experience.


This is what we always face with any new show: process vs. product. That pesky dichotomy pops up every time we have an artistic vision. So Ms. Heidi laughingly re-thought the thing, and they plowed forward. Ms. Adams miraculously taught all of those tiny people in their tiny Zoom windows how to create shapes and forms that told the story. Ms. Heidi persuaded them to try on various attitudes and gestures and expressions, then carried the many little Zoom bits of 7-year-olds twirling in tiny rectangles with flowy scarves, or pretending to be a storm, or chunks of stone, or rays of the sun, to Mr. Brown. The two of them tinkered and wrestled and invented, surprising one another with how united those far flung little performers could appear. I should add that this is exacting, demanding, time-gobbling work. They seem to maintain their levity by surprising one another with possibilities, and by enjoying the unexpected genius of the kids. I’ve had a preview, (it’s one of the perks of my position...) and it’s truly delightful! 


Now, the same bunch are starting an even more ambitious project with more partners: 5th Grade’s Romeo & Juliet on the Border. This involves more elaborate costumes, so Ms. Gledhill has jumped in, organizing and preparing and even building new costumes so we’ll have enough for three separate casts. Ms. Engel is coaching students through the bold act of singing solos into their computers and phones from home, in front of their brother or Grandma or dog, using two devices; one to listen to the accompaniment and the other to sing, with headphones (or just one, if that keeps them on pitch better.) You can imagine that this is quite a learning curve for the parents too. But do we want to do this or not? We do! So we’re all pitching in. 


The biggest challenge to this magic making is getting every child to the camera and the microphone at the right time. (If Romeo doesn’t show up for the Zoom, Juliet’s story changes dramatically!) For families it’s one more thing: a schedule to follow, help with costumes and setup and time. Each project requires experimentation. But there is so much humor mixed in by this team of educators, so much mutual support, such delight when those sweet students appear, sharing themselves with open hearts and bright eyes, that things just keep blossoming. It provides sustenance along this unpredictable road we are traveling together with families.

Virtual Conference Time is Coming

Soon your child’s teacher will be setting up conferences to discuss your child’s progress. Students attending the Arts Based School are assessed using a portfolio system in place of the traditional report card. The portfolio is designed to illustrate a student’s academic growth and successes as well as guide the teacher in planning appropriate instruction. Teachers at ABS do not issue letter grades until 6th grade. Teachers use observation, interviews, analysis of student work and performance tasks to assess student understanding. Examples of student work, as well as other objective standards of assessments, are incorporated into the student’s portfolio to give an enhanced portrait of the student’s progress. These portfolios will be discussed and presented to parents during the virtual Student-Teacher-Parent conferences. Please be sure you schedule and attend your conference so that you can support your child’s learning. 

The Scholastic Book Fair will be virtual this year!

You’re invited to shop our Scholastic Book Fair online from Nov. 2nd- Nov 15th. All purchases benefit our school and connect kids with new books, favorite characters, complete series, and more.


You’ll love the NEW option to shop for Book Fair exclusives directly from the interactive booklist and enjoy these special online shopping features:

  •   Over 6,000 items, including new releases, best sellers, and value packs
  •   All orders ship direct to home
  •   FREE shipping on book-only orders over $25*
  •   All purchases support our school and earn 25% in rewards
  •   Please consider adding a book (or two) to your order for your child’s classroom. Teachers love getting books for their classroom- this is a great way to thank our teachers and spread the love of reading to all students!

Visit our Book Fair Homepage:



Wish you could transport to another place or year... hop on board the Book Fair Time Machine- reading can take you anywhere!


Happy reading,

Rachel Wilson and Catie Ayers- Book Fair Chairs 


*Free standard shipping is available on book-only orders of $25 or more, after all discounts are applied. Free standard shipping (books) must be selected during checkout. Orders containing products other than books are not eligible for this shipping promotion. (Pro-tip- if you have $25+ of books in your cart and also want to order a toy/game that is not covered with free shipping, order the toy/game separately so you only have to pay shipping for that item.)

MAP Testing

 In a traditional school year, ABS uses the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test to assess each student’s academic growth. We give students in grades 3-8 MAP tests to determine each child’s instructional level and to measure academic growth throughout the school year, and from year to year in the areas of math and reading. NWEA has provided the opportunity for us to administer the MAP test in the remote setting this year. We are planning to provide an optional remote testing session for Grades 3-8 in MAP Reading and Math. (4th grade already did reading). Each grade level will be administering Remote Reading and Math MAP tests between November Monday, November 2 and Monday, November 9. Your classroom teacher will provide specific information on your schedule and log in instructions. This data will be used to inform our teaching, but not to make any changes in student placement; the data will be shared with parents.

ReOpening School Plans

The ABS Board of Directors voted to remain in Plan C-Remote Learning until at least November 30, the end of our first trimester. 


How Do I Stay Up to Date with School ReOpening Plans?

We’re doing our best to keep ABS families, staff and community updated with the latest information about our School ReOpening. We will continue to provide information in multiple places, including direct email, Thursday Notes and Virtual Parent Meetings. If you have specific topics, or questions, please send them to us at this form so we can be sure to address them. Form to submit questions


October 7 School ReOpening Parent Meeting recording

Slideshow from Oct 7 Meeting

Sept 30 School ReOpening Parent Meeting recording

Slideshow from Sept 30 Meeting

Annual Giving!

In just one week, you have doubled our family participation in Annual Giving, but we still have a long way to go to get as close to 100% participation as possible. Please consider making a gift in support of our school today. We are truly grateful to everyone who has made a gift thus far. Thank you! 


Total School Participation to Date: 20%

Total Gifts to Date: $26,425


We ask all parents for financial support just once each year. Please give as generously as you are able. To make a secure gift online, please visit: https://www.artsbasedschool.com/apps/pages/giving Thank you!



Parent Council Meeting - Friday, November 13th at 12:00 PM

Please submit any questions or topics you would like to discuss via our parent council comment box. Please indicate “PC Meeting” in your submission. We invite all parents, caregivers, and learning coaches to join us.