The weather on day 2 of Year End Studies was really beautiful. So where were we?
But I had been able to make contact last year with two amazing people who were really excited about helping my students learn about the area.
In the morning, we met at Burlington City Arts’ Firehouse Gallery to see the exhibit Ready. Fire! Aim. Melinda Johns, who last year took our group in with very little notice, met us this year for a gallery tour and artwork session.
It was so beautiful to see the students learning about art. I asked whether anyone had ever been to a museum, and I was told no. There aren’t many museums in refugee camps and war-torn regions. So it was a new experience. We looked at photography and sculpture, paintings, drawings and realia. We saw an exhibition of a hiding space that used a map and jugs of water, cans of food and beds.
Melinda had taken some time during spring break to walk through the exhibit with me and my younger daughter, so we could talk about what issues we might have bringing students with lower levels of English proficiency.
One of our students arrived at school late. And that can be catastrophic for one’s future free time. If you miss more than one day, you get up to 40 hours community service time added to the 40 hours high school students already must complete as a high school graduation requirement. And it can’t be banked time. It’s new time. So even if you have 140 hours of community service already reported, you would have more time added to your requirements.
So Lal Pradhan, one of our Multilingual Liaisons who works for the district, brought the students to the gallery and then stayed, which was kind of helpful. If you are able to work in your first language, it allows for deeper conversations. Linguistic barriers melt away so that questions can come to the surface.
Against our original plans to mix the group, we put all the Nepali speakers in one group with Lal and all of the others in another group, which consisted of two sets of siblings and the student who has been in the United States the longest. So it kind of worked out.
We had arrived late, hoping we’d pick up the last student and also dealing with room change confusions. Totally our fault. But Melinda took it in stride and we did what we still had time to do. The Nepali-speaking group sped through and got to see the whole museum; my group of mixed-language speakers have a few things to come back to see.
When we were finished looking, we went upstairs to the classroom and made our own art with pieces that were reminiscent of the artwork we had just seen. We had paper and paint, shells and string, magazine photographs and maps, markers and pencils. It was a chance to be creative and to just have some down time. Even though most of them (sadly) left their artwork at the gallery, I thought they made some amazing things. I also found out that a couple of my students know a lot about origami. One made a box and the other was making flowers akin to those cut radishes you find on your plate at really fancy restaurants.
So hats off to BTC’s Firehouse Gallery staff! We had an extraordinary time and most students said they would be back, maybe with a parent in tow.
From Melinda: What a wonderful visit we had yesterday with you, Sara, and your ELL students! Thank you for including BCA’s gallery education program with your YES program! We were all so impressed with the students and their language skills exceeded our expectations. Your work with them is invaluable and your heart is so evident in the work. What an inspiration they all are. I look forward to doing more work with you in the future and hope that the students come back in other ways to visit BCA for exhibitions, camps, classes, etc.
We had a great time, too!
In the afternoon, we went to Fletcher Free Library to meet with Lisa Buckton. None of my students had been there before, and we got a chance to see the youth center and
learn about some pretty cool programs that are happening this summer, including teens riding bikes with bookshelves on the back to deliver them to areas of town where fewer residents make their way to the Fletcher Free.
We got a tour of the library to see where students could find different kinds of books and resources. And then students all got new library cards.
I feel as though we only got a taste of what Lisa and the library have to offer. I think this needs to be a different opportunity where students actually experience a community service effort in order to see that this is a place where they can find a home outside of home and a place to work on completing their community service hours.
There are so many opportunities for students to work on community service hours there. I hope students make it back over there, especially this summer when it’s hot and there’s nothing better to do. I just remember so many summers I spent at my local library and how that became my one escape…
Next year, I’m sure our time at the library will be better after Lisa and I have a chance to touch base and create something that really speaks to these students. We need something that brings a smile to their faces every time they think about going there.
Thank you Lisa and Fletcher Free Library! You make our community ROCK!