Tag Archives: school field trips

16 ways to celebrate museum day

After drawing a picture at the Tucson Children’s Museum, this child decided to hang it on the museum’s bulletin board.

Plenty of museums are celebrating International Museum Day on May 18 with free admission and/or other special offers. Check out these ideas for exploring and supporting museums with your family and friends…

Visit children’s museums with your family. Arizona options include the Arizona Museum for Youth, Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Tucson Children’s Museum.

Plan a family vacation to a museum-rich region. Treat your kids to a weekend exploring museums in Prescott, Tucson or Phoenix. Head to museums in other parts of the country — Chicago, New York, San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Or enjoy time together in Florence, Paris or London.

Introduce your kids to museum-sponsored events. Tell your teens about this weekend’s “Teen Night Out” at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Take your children to see exhibits featuring works by youth, like “Visions” at SMoCA’s young@art gallery.

Make a donation to your favorite museum. Even small gifts are welcome because they add up to big results for museum goers as donations make new programs, events and exhibits possible.

Write letters in support of local museums. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in praise of museums, or to a local legislator who supports museums and other homes for Arizona arts and culture.

Shop for gifts, games and more at your local museum. Visit the Musical Instrument Museum for child-friendly instruments, the Heard Museum for artwork by American Indian artists or the Arizona Science Center for hands-on activities.

Sign up to get museum e-newsletters. Request e-alerts from your favorite museums so you’ll be the first to know about new programs, family-friendly events, special exhibits and more.

Take friends to see a museum film screening. Catch “Gerard Richter Painting” (May 30) at the Tucson Museum of Art or “Between the Folds” (June 2, featuring ten paper artists) at the Phoenix Art Museum.

Enroll your kids in museum classes or summer camps. Check out offerings at the Arizona Museum of Natural HistoryShemer Art Center and Museum and other museums.

See an arts-related musical or play. Take older teens or friends to see Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “Red” (a John Logan play exploring Mark Rothko’s work) at the Herberger Theater Center.

Read books about great artists and museums. Pick up a couple of art books at your local museum shop or head to the library for titles about artists exhibited in the world’s famous museums and galleries.

Explore museum galleries online. Spend some time enjoying Google Art, or visiting online exhibitions from local and international museums so your children can see works by diverse artists.

Get a culture pass from your local library. Head to participating libraries to snag passes for free admission, and watch for museums offering free/discounted admission as part of International Museum Day.

Invite friends to dine at a local museum cafe. Enjoy lunch at the Phoenix Art Museum’s Palette, the MIM Cafe, the Heard Museum North Cafe or another museum restaurant.

Sign up to volunteer with a local museum. Train to be a docent, help with kids’ art classes or greet museum visitors.

Help your child’s teacher arrange a museum field trip. Suggest a few of your favorite museums for class field trips, and offer to help with legwork or actual field trip planning.

Learn more about Arizona museums from the Central Arizona Museum Association and the Arizona Museum Association. Click here explore Blue Star Museums, a national program that provides free summer admission to participating museums for active duty military personnel and their families.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read a list of Arizona museums offering free admission compiled by the Scottsdale Public Library. Always check museum hours, admission costs and such before attending.

Coming up: Art from a recent United Nations exhibition of works by women


National Unity Flag

Detail of the National Unity Flag border noting the number of lives lost on 9/11

My daughter Lizabeth called home from NYC this morning, sharing a bit about her time at the 9/11 Memorial. She was struck by the vast expanse of names — especially those listing a mother and her unborn child — and the peaceful tree-lined walkways.

It inspired me to visit a touring exhibit of the National Unity Flag at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, where I met Randy Cooney — the Phoenix realtor who first conceived of the flag after hearing members of Congress sing together on the U.S. Capitol steps in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The National Unity Flag contains every state flag, plus a rectangular center panel with the names of those killed on 9/11. Students from Ironwood High School here in the Valley were among the first to work on the project, which also involved an Arizona quilters association and other fine folks.

The National Unity Flag is part of an exhibit featuring memorial cards for 2,996 victims — most with biographical information and a photo. The cards were created, says Cooney, before victims who were pregnant were listed along with their unborn children.

Reading these cards, and seeing all those faces, makes clear the enormous loss to individual families and our country. It also opens an inspiring window into the incredible diversity of those lost, the amazing diversity of the American people.

Cooney hopes to bring the flag back to Scottsdale for next year’s commemoration of 9/11  — getting the word out to Valley schools ahead of time so teachers can plan field trips to see the exhibit. For children not yet born on 9/11, he says, the exhibit is a tangible way of demonstrating the size and significance of what happened.

I’ll be visiting the 9/11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan next month, and am so grateful to those who create and share all the memorials, big and small, that make clear the unity, resilience and hope of our people.

— Lynn

Note: The National Unity Flag was signed in 2002 by all 100 senators, including Ted Kenndy — whose signature is marked by a yellow ribbon. Follow the flag on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NationalUnityFlag.

Coming up: Photo tour of the Hall of Flame Museum in Phoenix, From arts school to medical school, Kennedy Center Partners in Education program

Students review “Macbeth” tour

Alex Hambicki is a sophomore at Campo Verde High School

By Alex Hambicki, 10th grade

In the past I have seen Shakespearean plays; however, I would like to say that Macbeth was the best that I have seen yet. The Utah Shakespeare Festival traveling troupe consisted of extremely talented actors who captivated their audience. As well as being entertaining, they were extremely creative. I greatly respected their choice of props and backdrops because of the troupe’s desire to “get back to the basics.” Reaching into the roots of acting, the troupe used simple household props to represent so much more. In all, I thoroughly enjoyed Macbeth at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts because of its original set and unique actors. I would recommend their version of Macbeth to anyone who enjoys the art of theater.

Lauren Cardon is a sophomore at Campo Verde High School

By Lauren Cardon, 10th grade

The performance of Macbeth at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on March 7, 2011 by the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s traveling troupe was definitely praiseworthy. The acting was great, the props were creative, and the plot was well summarized. The actors of the play knew their stuff—even the cat-calling during the emotional reunion of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth didn’t throw them off. Heck, some of us couldn’t even tell whether or not that was a stage kiss! Also, the group had a lot of creativity when it came to props. They kept to the true spirit of a traveling group by using everyday objects for props. Lastly, even though parts had to be cut out of the play because of its length, it was done in a way so that the audience could still follow the plot. Overall, it was a grand performance of Macbeth.

Brooke Bullock is a sophomore at Campo Verde High School

By Brooke Bullock, 10th grade

The performance of Macbeth that I attended on March 7, 2011 at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts was an intriguing production that captured the attention of many, including myself. The actors and actresses were able to portray the Shakespearean characters with great accuracy. The props in the production were very scarce, but provided comic relief to the audience between lengthy scenes. The attention to the gory scenes was very keen because the characters bled and leaked gory pieces of fabric that closely resembled real flesh. Overall, the play was put together nicely and allowed students to get a better feel for Shakespeare’s fine plays.

Linda F. is a sophomore at Campo Verde High School

By Linda F., 10th grade

I thought that Macbeth was an excellent production. The actors conveyed the characters’ emotions well and were able to provoke responses from the audience. The most unique aspect of the performance was the use of simple props, such as ladders and sticks. After all, I’ve never seen anyone ride a ladder as a horse before. I feel like the utilization of these props allowed the audience to create their own visions of the action of Macbeth.

Note: Click here to read a companion post by Campo Verde High School English teacher Amie Brockman, who took her students to Higley Center for the Performing Arts in March for a performance of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” presented by the Utah Shakespeare Festival Shakepeare-in-the-Schools program.

Coming up: Moms in musical theater, Musings on Mamet, Conversations with “Cosette”

Shakespeare: The gift that keeps on giving

English teacher Amie Brockway recently took her students to see a touring production of Shakespeare's MACBETH

By guest blogger Amie Brockway, English teacher, Campo Verde High School in Gilbert

In education these days, we don’t receive many gifts that actually reshape the way our students see the world. However, I am able to give my students one of these gifts every year, even on a teacher’s salary. That gift is Shakespeare.

Unfortunately, upon first opening this “gift,” students’ reactions are more “Gee thanks, you really shouldn’t have” than “Oh sweet, this is better than free texting!”

The brilliance of Shakespeare is greatly misunderstood by today’s students for many reasons. The first and most obvious reason for their struggle is the archaic language–it’s simply not what they are used to reading. The words are “funky,” and the sentence structure is “whack.” (I daresay Shakespeare would be equally confused by the language of today’s kids!) 

The second reason they struggle is because reading a play is quite different than watching a play. And plays were written to be performed. Kids have a tough time grasping stage directions and complex scenes when they are reading the text. They cannot experience the clothing, sets, or inflections of characters’ voices.

Compared to the mindless, over-the-top action scenes in today’s movies, many scenes in a script seem hollow, anticlimactic, especially since the only indication that a significant event has occurred is a brief and seemingly insignificant stage direction.

Although several centuries old, Shakespeare writes about universal human experiences like love, passion, murder, honor, revenge, betrayal, and greed. These have all the makings of a first-rate cable TV show, and Shakespeare captured them 400 years ago with rhythmic precision. He didn’t need a green screen or computer-generated special effects, either.

Shakespeare’s work shows us the simple beauty that words can possess. While giving us a glimpse of the behaviors and values that existed during his era, we also realize that we aren’t so different all these years later.

Shakespeare’s work plays a substantial role in our curriculum at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert. Both freshmen and sophomores read his plays, from tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar to comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew.

Studying Shakespeare is not an easy task, but it’s certainly not impossible, either. It simply requires close examination. As we break down the language and uncover the real meaning of the story, the kids become more engaged. The formerly useless and boring gift is unearthed, dusted off, and viewed with new and exciting possibilities.

Students anxiously await the next twist, the intense drama, the clever trickery, the cutting wit. They start seeing Shakespeare in a new light, with a grudging respect. I compare him to an older and better-dressed Justin Bieber, and while they may laugh, they won’t argue because they’ve started to see that the hype is justified. 

After all, Shakespeare was no flash in the pan. He was “on fire” in his day. People anxiously awaited the release of his next play. His patron was the king of England himself. A serious “A-lister,” he partied regularly with the queen’s friends. If he were alive today, he would definitely walk the red carpet at the Oscars. 

His plays aren’t just stories; they’re poetry. When I start comparing some of his lines to rap or hip-hop, the kids perk up even more. Yes, he’s a 448-year-old white guy with a fluffy collar and a double life, but the man knew rhythm. Suddenly, a new admiration has emerged. “Maybe we should rap his plays,” they suggest hopefully. “Sure, why not” I encourage. “Lame” Shakespeare is now “hip” Shakespeare. 

As the icing on the cupcake, every year I take my students to see an on-stage performance of a Shakespeare play, preferably one we’ve read in class. During the field trip, everything we have discussed in class clicks. Like the accidental unveiling of the Great and Powerful Oz, they see the brilliance of Shakespeare’s work as it needs to be seen—on stage. 

This year, we were fortunate to see Macbeth at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on March 7, 2011. Macbeth is a part of our honors freshman English curriculum, so the 270 freshmen and sophomores we brought to the play had already read it, giving them some background to the story. 

The play was extremely well done. The traveling troupe from the Utah Shakespeare Festival performed a shortened version of “the Scottish play” using actors who played multiple parts. They incorporated simple household items as props, as well as a cello to properly set each scene’s mood. 

The students were absorbed in the play from the moment it started. 

Witches on stilts? They turned to each other with wide eyes. 

Fabric blood and entrails? “Awesome,” their expressions said.

Suddenly the words they’d read began to make sense. The stage directions, the personification of the characters, the settings, the costumes, and the props all brought the story to life in a way they hadn’t expected. On the bus back to school, the kids couldn’t stop talking about it, analyzing it, critiquing it, questioning it…all clues that their brains were engaging, neurons were firing, they were learning

As a teacher, there is no better nirvana than to watch learning occur. These light-bulb moments are what it’s all about for us. (It’s certainly not the salary!) They’re what kids remember their whole lives, and what shapes their way of thinking in the future. Experiences like these change kids forever because they help them to better understand their world and human nature. 

I once wondered what criteria people used to label a piece of work as literature. What I have found is that true literature has its own beauty, and it changes the way people see the world. They continue pondering its meaning and feeling its impact long after they have closed the book or left the theatre. Seeing Shakespeare on stage did this for my students, and it’s the best gift I could have given them.

Note: Southwest Shakespeare Company will present “Macbeth” as their 2011/2012 touring show. A public performance is scheduled for Dec 31 at 7:30pm and touring productions take place Jan 6-April 27, 2012.

Coming up: “Macbeth” reviews by four Campo Verde High School students

Schoolhouse Rock

Alert! Tickets for the Sat, May 14 show at 7pm are two-for-one so you can have twice the fun! Click here for ticketing information (use the code “family”) when ordering.

Some of us have been around the block a time or two with musical theater. We’re jaded about shows that’ve been on the scene for a while. We’re always looking for the next great thing. An “American Idiot.” A “Book of Mormon.”

But most of us who’ve caught the musical theater bug were first exposed to this uniquely American art form during youth. Someone took us to see a work of theater that made a lasting impression. That had lyrics we could relate to. That told a story both magical and familiar.

This weekend, and next, you can experience just such a show — right here in the Valley — as Greasepaint Youtheatre presents “Schoolhouse Rock.” It’s the perfect show for elementary-age children, because its themes are all familiar school topics.

Grammar. Science. Social Studies. Arithmetic. All set to song and dance — a sort of homage to one of our highest goals for eduction. The idea that learning should be fun. And who better to reinforce it than young actors a child in the audience can really relate to?

I wasn’t able to attend opening night for “Schoolhouse Rock” because Lizabeth and I had tickets for the “Childsplay Presents Its Greatest Hits Gala” taking place at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort (more on that in a future post) — but I wanted to see and then write a bit about the show.

It’s directed and choreographed by Molly Lajoie Plutnicki, a member of the Childsplay 2010-2011 acting company you might have seen performing in this season’s “A Year With Frog and Toad.” She and Greasepaint producing director Maureen Dias-Watson graciously let me sit in on Thursday night’s run-through so I could give you a a sneak peek.

When I arrived at the theater, I found two cast moms sitting at a long table set up in the lobby for last-minute costume work. Another mom sat sewing by hand on a couch in the green room, as two cast members did homework seated on another couch nearby.

I shot some photos in the lobby, in the green room, from the house seats and even one or two from the wings — and decided to share them with you below to give you a flavor for both the show and what it takes to put such a production together.

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I was delighted to see that the cast includes several talented actors whose work we’ve enjoyed in other Greasepaint shows, but also plenty of fresh, new faces. It’s no fun when youth theater gets cliquish — and I love that Greasepaint doors are always open.

When my son suggested Friday morning that we hit a Valley museum, I knew just which one to pick. We charged our camera batteries and drove down to the Arizona Capitol complex to take in the four-story Arizona Capitol Museum.

The museum features exhibits about various branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial. The legislative section includes a room dedicated to hands-on exploration of how laws are created, something that reminds me of the “Schoolhouse Rock” tune titled “I’m Just a Bill.”

A trip to see the musical “Schoolhouse Rock” at Greasepaint Youtheatre, coupled with time spent exploring the Arizona Capitol Museum (which offers free admission), is a perfectly pleasant way to help your child explore topics he or she is learning about in class.

Opportunities to witness our children’s “Aha!” moments, or to share moments when they feel empowered by what they know, pass far too quickly. Take it from a mom who has seen three children from preschool to college.

There are far worse fates than driving home in the car singing songs like “Three is a Magic Number” or “Interplanet Janet” together…

— Lynn

Note: Greasepaint Youtheatre performs “Schoolhouse Rock” in Scottsdale through May 15. Click here for show dates/times and ticketing information.

Coming up: Young Arts Arizona meets St. Joseph’s Hospital, Art adventures: Arizona Capitol Museum, Dancing Queen

Update: KAK is treating every mom at the Sunday, May 8, 2pm performance to a fabulous Mother’s Day cupcake. Click here to learn more about this K***A** bakery in Phoenix.

Arizona meets Smithsonian

I’ve always been awed by the size and scope of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. — which describes itself as “the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, 9 research centers and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world.”

But I’ve often taken for granted the fact that there are several Smithsonian Affiliates right here in Arizona, including the following:

  • Arizona Historical Society (Tucson)
  • Arizona State Museum (Tucson)
  • Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum (Bisbee)
  • Challenger Space Center (Peoria)
  • Heard Museum (Phoenix)
  • Sharlot Hall Museum (Prescott)
  • Tucson Unified School District (Tucson)

The newest Arizona museum to earn Smithsonian Affiliate status is the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, another museum that never ceases to amaze thanks to the breadth and depth of diverse offerings both musical and music-related.

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I’ve always found that trips to the MIM feel more like exhilerating jaunts around the world than stuffy strolls through museum corridors. Just as the Heard Museum in Phoenix features a comprehensive collection of American Indian arts and culture, the MIM features a comprehensive collection of music-related artifacts.

If you’ve yet to explore the Musical Instrument Museum, or other museums noted above, you’re missing the opportunity to enjoy some of the country’s finest museums right in your own backyard.

— Lynn

Coming up: Valley venues performing Broadway classics

Photos courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

Avenue G?

Fond as I am of the racy Broadway musical “Avenue Q,” I know most parents would feel more comfortable with a puppet show set on “Avenue G” — a place where the Internet is for puppies rather than porn, and puppets drink apple juice instead of Long Island iced tea.

So I went in search of puppet shows that are perfectly suitable for children, and found several options for Valley families…

Christopher Michael is a puppet who learns to recycle in a show opening soon at Theater Works/Puppet Works

Theater Works’ Puppet Works presents a new play titled “Christopher Michael Who Wouldn’t Recycle” by Jeremiah Clay Neil and Louis Farber.

The work, designed for ages 3-6, combines music, poetry and puppetry to tell the story of a boy who “learns the value of recycling from a magical time traveling Recyclerbot named Rocky.”

“Christopher Michael Who Wouldn’t Recycle” opens Sat, March 19 at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. It’s a 35 minute show that’s followed by a talk back with puppeteers about recycling, the puppets and the art of puppeteering.

The Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix performs “Rumpelstiltskin” through April 3 — then opens “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” on April 6 and “The Monkey & The Pirate” on April 27.

They’ll perform “Canyon Condor” at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts April 28-30, and open “The Three Little Pigs” back at their own puppet theater on May 11.

An online study guide for “The Three Little Pigs” is already available online. It features information about the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, the show and the puppets — and notes ways the show relates to various arts standards for Arizona schools.

The study guide suggests pre- and post-show activities that parents or teachers can share with students, but my favorite part by far is the page students (or whimsical grown-ups) can use for coloring or making their own rod puppets.

One of my best investments as a young parent was a sturdy stand-up puppet theater my children often used to create and stage their own shows. I’ve long been a believer in the power of puppetry to fuel imagination, language skills, creativity, social skills and more.

Keep an eye out for puppet shows at local children’s museums, libraries, bookstores and community centers — as well as the venues noted above. Think puppet shows for playdates and birthday parties, and keep simple craft supplies for making puppets on hand for rainy or sick days.

Who knows — maybe puppets can even make the world a more playful, and more peaceful, place.

— Lynn

Note: The Great Arizona Puppet Theater also performs adult only “puppet slams.” Theater Works also offers theater productions for adults and youth.

Coming up: Opera everywhere!