Postcards from the Grand Canal
From the “banks” of the Grand Canal of Venice, Mary E. Dardess Elementary students wrote home about the sights and sounds around them: the facades of buildings lining the famous waterway, its bridges and gondolas, the sounds of waves lapping on the shore. The third graders were, in fact, not actually in Italy but on a class trip to the Spencertown Academy, where a large-scale model of the Grand Canal was laid out for them to explore, draw and write about. The model was constructed under the direction of M.E.D. art teacher Susan Grybas using drawings students had made of real buildings along the canal. This was the first time the students had seen it all put together, their structures placed along the canal where each would be found in real life.
In another room, the Academy was transformed into a Venetian café, where students tasted cannoli, sipped chocolate drinks and enjoyed the music of Vivaldi, brought to life by classical guitarist David Temple. Students also had the chance to model carnivale masks and have their portraits taken.
The January 20th field trip was the culmination of a months-long study of Venice and its culture. Throughout December and January, Chatham’s third grade teaching staff and guest educator Tom Lee from the Spencertown Academy led students through lessons exploring the Italian city using maps, architecture, art and music.
The 2011-2012 school year marks the eighth year of educational partnership between Chatham public schools and the Spencertown Academy. ArtsVoyage, as the collaborative program is called, has allowed Chatham students to experience world culture and social history in a rich, interdisciplinary and multifaceted way.
As the third graders enjoyed their time in “Venice”, a small clue hidden among the details of the Grand Canal model hinted at the next leg of their journey - each tiny gondolier plied the canal’s waters using a chopstick oar, a nod to the upcoming section on China. You can take a video trip along the Grand Canal Model shot by Mr. Lee here...