A new school year is coming to New York City. Unlike other years, this one is completely unpredictable and more stressful than usually due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the uneven response to it. Public schools offer “blended” or “hybrid” learning: in-person attendance 1-3 days a week and online classes during the rest of the week. There is also a wholly online option. Charter schools will be only online, and private schools will have various models.
But children still have to learn! This type of online or mixed education is often unsatisfactory. Of course, this crazy situation will end one day, and kids will have to return to normal schooling; there will be in-person tests and exams again, and those who have learned well despite the COVID will be the winners.
In this unprecedented situation, the Brainy KidzHOME Program offers your children stability and flexibility. They will continue studying in a stable routine yet we will try to accommodate their necessities.
Our teachers will conduct lessons for the kids who will our full-time program in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. They will also help children whose parents chose blended learning during online school classes and when the kids will do their homework assignments. The children will enjoy three meals (breakfast, hot lunch, and snack), daily playground time (weather permitting), and various extra-curricular activities. Part of these activities will take place in our center (Arts and Crafts, Russian, Spanish, Art, Drama, Chess, and Individual ELA/Math Tutoring), and some activities will be at our neighbors (Dance, Taekwondo).
Our staff will help your children not only to cover the material they missed because of the COVID-19, but also to raise their educational level and improve their skills. Besides, the children will have an opportunity to rest and have fun.
The term “blended (or hybrid) learning” is not a creation of the pandemic 2020. It actually appeared much earlier and means any combination of a traditional face-to-face (or in-person) instruction with any kind of e-learning. The Christensen Institute has been studying and providing insights into blended learning principles, design, and implementation strategies for over decade. While hybrid learning may be beneficial for the high school and college students, it is definitely not the best way of teaching young children. However, the decisions of the mayor and chancellor in light of the COVID-19 pandemic have created a new situation when all or most schools have to do blended learning, whether they are ready for it or not.
The decision has created havoc, as parents and teachers alike do not know what to do. Many school buildings are not ready for in-person education during the pandemic. Many families do not know what to do with their kids on the days they do not have in-person classes; the situation is even more difficult for parents of children in grades K-3. The calendar is not made and nobody knows when it will be made. Many teachers are scared of going to work. There are already so many problems – and very dubious consequences for education. According to DOE, “the youngest students will get 15-20 consecutive minutes of live instruction,” which obviously is not enough to understand new material. Young English language learners will struggle even more as it is not so easy to decipher what a teacher says when there may be problems with internet connection and technical equipment.
Both Brainy Academy and KidzHOME – House of Multicultural Education have been working with children during many years. Having studied the situation, we have decided to create a joint program as our response to Blended Learning 2020 to help parents and children cope with the new situation. We will describe the program in our next post.
I have already written that all children should have the time to visit their own Neverland, but I have forgotten to mention that to take this trip, you need to (and according to Zakhoder, who translated Alice in Wonderland into Russian, “absolutely must”) know a bit about the world. That is why when new kids comes to our studio, I show them some things and ask them some questions in order to find out what they know and what they are interested in. It is not a test or exam but rather a ritual of getting acquainted (sometimes very pleasant for both parties). Why am I writing this? Because today we met a boy at our studio who recognized an astrolabe at first glance, and even explained how to use it. I am sure that this boy will find his way to Neverland.
Parents usually want to get some tangible outcome from their kids’ studies. So what advantages can get a child in a drama camp?
I have already said that what theater mostly needs is imagination, but alas, it is rarely tangible. Let us see what other traits of character will develop children in our theater summer camp. First of all, courage. Yes, real courage because to step on the stage can be scary. Young actors must learn how to overcome their fear and not to get lost in front of the public. And it doesn’t matter whether they play Hamlet or a fox – the Mise en scene does not change: The murmurs ebb; onto the stage I enter.
eyes of all spectators and the spotlights are directed at them; the
microphone catches the trembling of their voices — it’s scary, but
they are strong, they can do it, they will overcome the trembling in
the knees and stuttering and will play their parts.
Everybody knows that drama classes help enhance children’s artistic abilities. In a theater studio children learn to sing, dance and recite. It is also obvious that by rehearsing for their role children learn to better control their bodies, improve their diction and memory and broaden their vocabulary. But being on stage children also improve some not so obvious skills: the ability to react rapidly to changes in the situation, interact with their partners, understand and feel other people, and foresee the reaction of the public. It means that by studying drama children develop all the features that will make them self-confident. It will make it easier for them to make presentations and go for interviews.
That is why playing on stage, children not only have fun, but also acquire tangible advantages that will be useful to them in adult life.
Every summer camp tries to present its own special activities that make it unique, different from the competitors, in order to attract children and certainly their parents. The choice seems to be extremely wide, but if we omit sports, the camps can be divided mostly into two categories: education and entertainment. As for us, we decided to follow the third path and to combine education and entertainment. We think that the most adequate form for that kind of activity is a theater or drama camp (“drama” is used here in its broadest meaning).
Theater is the most synthetic artistic genre that unites an entire gamut of arts: painting (scenery, props), music, dance and of course acting. For a live stage performance we need one more special component: a little bit of imagination. In our theater summer camp we teach children that the theater begins not with actors or directors, and even not with a cloakroom, but with the clean sheet of paper. There we will write Cinderella (stage play in three acts) or Little Prince (based on the book by Antoine de Saint Exupery). Then we’ll have to make a list of all the characters and decide, which of them we can remove and which of them are indispensable for our play. And sometimes we’ll have to add some new characters that are missing in traditional story.
What We Do
Of course, we first need to reread and revisit the play we are going to put on the stage (perhaps for some children it will be the first acquaintance with Kipling, Milne, Andersen, Schwartz…). And then we enter upon the most difficult but also the most interesting part of the work: we figure out the characters of the roles that we are going to play. Why the characters behave the way they do and how they relate to each other? And so we step on stage, try on somebody else’s clothes (or hide, or fur) and somebody else’s fate, and eventually the show begins to take shape.
Sometimes people ask us whether it’s possible to create a show during two weeks. It is true that in our studio we usually work on a show during several months. But you shouldn’t forget that children in the studio rehearse only once a week while in the camp we can have a totally different rhythm of rehearsals.
I already said
that we deal with drama in the widest meaning of this word. In my
next blog I’ll try to explain what I mean.
Do you know that HOME in our name is an abbreviation of House of Multicultural Education? And now, besides our many Russian and English programs, we are opening a Spanish Department.
Its programs include children’s drama studio in Spanish and language classes for various ages and levels. So we admit students from 5 year-olds to middle and high school students to adults, and from beginners to heritage speakers to AP Spanish students.
To learn more and register for the classes please come to the Open House on Saturday, June 15 at 12 PM.