Zimmerli Art Museum

Zimmerli Art Museum FlexSchool FlexFriday

The students came back from spring break ready for school!  Today we went to Rutgers University in New Brunswick and visited the Zimmerli Art Museum.  We received a guided tour from a lovely docent, Marcy.  Marcy showed us many American works, but the Zimmerli is world-renowned for its collection of Soviet Nonconformist art.  She told us that the Dodge Collection contains more works of Soviet Nonconformist art than Russia!  Who knew?

We looked at some giant metal sculptures, which we were all very tempted to touch, but could not because the oils on our fingers can actually ruin the artwork.  Herbert Ferber’s sculpture appealed to multiple senses: not only could we see the sculpture, but we could hear what seemed like the ocean in the background. This sculpture was a site specific installation that had to be created before the walls were put up around it! There were some sculptures we were encouraged to touch.  It’s interesting to guess what each artist’s intention was behind his or her works: should we lay down and look at the sculpture?  When we move around, does the work look different?  Are there elements of hope among those of despair?

We spent most of our tour time in the Russian Art sections, and we learned about much of the context for the paintings of the “social realism” genre.  Stalin forbade certain elements in any work done during his reign:  no abstract art, no religious depictions, no alcohol, no anti-government sentiment.  These regulations gave birth to the nonconformist art movement; there was an underground community of art flourishing and these artists were painting, so to speak, a very different picture.

After our guided tour, we had some lunch and then explored on our own.  Some of us saw iconic and exciting Andy Warhol works.  We also saw some disturbing sculptures, which made us wonder what was the inspiration for pieces such as David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Lion’s Skull and Baby Doll).  The students were excited to get out on a brisk spring day, and they were thoroughly engaged with the artwork.  At FlexSchool, we believe that learning outside of the classroom can be just as important as learning inside.

Visit https://flexschool.net.

FlexSchool Faculty get Flexible

flexSchool faculty yoga

FlexSchool faculty members flexed their physical and mental muscles

While the students were off this week for spring recess, the FlexSchool faculty and staff members were on hand. They were busy planning FlexFriday trips, FlexSchool’s first graduation, and possible FlexSchool summer offerings as well as partnerships with local colleges. They were also keeping balance with yoga (pun intended). FlexSchool’s first graduating class will walk in June, and we couldn’t be prouder! Whether continuing on to a gap year or going away to a 4-year college, our students are guided by our College Counselors along the way. We look forward to seeing all our students on Monday when they come back to school!

At FlexSchool, we focus on academics with the long-view in mind. Visit https://flexschool.net.

Flex Arts, Crafts and Sciences

fiber-arts flexSchool groupEven though FlexSchool’s spring recess began on March 25th, a few students and teachers were on hand for our newly formed Fiber Arts Club.  Several of our students have a passion for knitting and one is particularly talented in felting.  Check out the red panda she made and see the pictures from our first meeting.  One of our club’s goals is to knit, crochet, or felt one project per member to donate to charities that help children get clothes and toys.

Protein Data Bank special exhibit-FlexSchoolSince this past week, FlexSchool has been hosting and displaying the RCSB Protein Data Bank’s “Art of Science” exhibit.  Students were given calendars, fake tattoos, and reference sheets with beautiful 3-D images of molecules and viruses. During our open house, parents and students walked around FlexSchool and viewed the large posters on display in our classrooms.  In a few weeks, we will be travelling to Columbia University’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology where we will learn about some of the viruses that have been on display!  At FlexSchool, we learn about traditional subjects in non-traditional ways.

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we focus on academics with the long-view in mind. Visit https://flexschool.net.

FlexSchool Weaves a Tale

flexFriday storyteller flexEducation

Storytelling was the theme of today’s FlexFriday workshop.  Paula Davidoff, an educator, storyteller, musician, and more, came to discuss mythology, fairy tales, and folktales.  She opened the session by talking about mythology and religion and how ancient Greece and Rome likely converted localized religions into others.  She talked about how Disney princesses labelled as heroines, are often not really strong in their own right.  And then she told us a story about High John the Conqueror in African folklore who made a deal with the devil and the devil’s daughter. The strong male protagonist was actually saved by the devil’s daughter and her defiance of her father, not a typical plot line in most fairy tales. Paula’s animated storytelling brought the students into her tales.

Next Paula relayed Grimms’ Fairy Tale of “The Goose-Girl,” a “grim” story about a princess, a false princess, and the talking horse Falada.  We learned about the traditional roles of queens and kings in stories and how the elements such as wind and water can take on important characters’ roles.  In this tale, the true princess was forced to take the role of her servant and the resulting false princess tricked a kingdom into thinking she was the rightful betrothed.  We learned about the symbolic representation of hair in stories, and how there is usually a token or a charm that is meant as protection, but how that can be lost.

After the students listened to this “happily ever after” tale, we workshopped it.  We talked about how the princess and the false princess/maidservant contrasted each other, but how they were ultimately parts of the same psyche.  The students physically acted out specific characters they chose.  Some students played the headless horse Falada, while others represented the wind or water.  Students had to become these characters and then be interviewed as them.  The other students asked questions of each character and we learned about their backstories, inner workings, and motives.  We are off next week for spring recess, and when we return, we’ll be taking a trip to Rutgers University’s Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick.  Learn more about how FlexSchool incorporates experiential learning with traditional academics, and how our small school setting engages a variety of divergent thinkers through nontraditional means, such as storytelling.

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we focus on academics with the long-view in mind. Visit https://flexschool.net.

Learning from Malala

malala yousafzai flexschool education

Today we talked about the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Malala Yousafzai.  We learned about how she spoke up against the Taliban in Pakistan and, as a result, was shot in the head when she was 14.  We watched a brief clip of an interview she had with The Daily Show’s former host, Jon Stewart, and saw how she can quickly and deftly answer interview questions.  Her presence and voice are commanding and her humility is inspiring.  After we watched the clip, we watched the documentary He Named Me Malala based on her book, I am Malala.

Malala straddles two worlds: that of a normal high school teenage experience and that of a world-renowned speaker, Nobel Prize winner, and celebrity in her own right.  Malala has made appearances on many shows including Ellen and The Daily Show, and has met the Queen of England.  She gave one of her most famous talks to the United Nations, where she memorably stated, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”  We observed how she has continued championing the rights of uneducated girls and boys throughout the world.  She has met with the parents of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram.  She has talked with Syrian refugee children who have had to abandon their homes and schools and are now in camps without access to education.  She has spoken with the presidents of countries, including President Obama, and relayed her concerns about drone attacks and how they may be influencing more extremists to take arms.  She started a charity, The Malala Fund, with her father, and its goal is “to enable girls to complete 12 years of safe, quality education so that they can achieve their potential and be positive change-makers in their families and communities.”  All of this, and she is not yet 19.

We caught a glimpse of Malala’s childhood and upbringing, and the influence of her non-traditional father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who thought that girls should be educated.  We learned how he named Malala after a hero, Malalai, who was brave and used her voice for good.  After watching the film, we discussed the price Malala paid, what we might have done in her situation, and the art/cartoons used in the film.  She is an icon who has accomplished what we hope our FlexSchool students will through their Community Engagement/Service Projects:  identify and begin to address a problem in the world.

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we focus on academics with the long-view in mind. Visit https://flexschool.net.

Personality Profiles and Professions!

flexschool personality inventory

Today our college counselors, Nicole and Elana, conducted a personality inventory and career forum with our FlexSchool students.  The counselors discussed the origins of the MBTI, or Myers Briggs Type Inventory, and how the test began with the father of psychology  Dr. Carl Jung, who observed that people might fall into different archetypes.  This led to the creation of the test by a mother and her daughter; the mother (Katharine Briggs) wanted to determine how compatible her daughter (Isabel Myers) and her fiance were.

The students had completed abbreviated MBTI evaluations during the week, and Nicole revealed the students’ results during today’s session.  Students were sometimes surprised about where they fell on the different attribute spectrums:  Introvert or Extrovert, Intuitive or Sensory, Thinkers or Feelers, and Judgment or Perception.

The students were given their individualized reports and personality types as determined by the dowhatyouare.com website.  Their reports placed them on each continuum, which they illustrated by moving around the room, so some students were on one side of the room or the other while others were more in the middle.  Among our students, teachers, and staff participating, we had representatives from the following “portraits”:  The Idealist, the Protector, the Nurturer, the Caretaker, and The Inspirer.  We discussed how certain cultures or countries might fall into one personality category, but then how these could shape stereotypes since a country is formed by individuals who have varied personality types.

We talked about the notion of Nature vs. Nurture and how personalities are generally established but how behaviors can change.  Knowing your personality type, and that of those around you, can help with relationships between parents and children, coworkers, and romantic partners.  Awareness of these personality types can even help students determine which professors might mesh with their learning styles.  Elana discussed how the personality inventories relate to career choices and exploration.  The students’ individualized online reports were connected to the Department of Labor website so students can monitor careers and job availability.

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we focus on academics with the long-view in mind. Visit https://flexschool.net.

FlexSchool Prejudice and Discrimination Awareness

flexschool discrimination and prejudice awareness education

Today’s FlexFriday continued with themes of racism, discrimination and genocide.  Bob emphasized that we study history because we try not to repeat it, but that unfortunately we often do.  In discussing genocide in Armenia, we learned about the Caucus mountains and how Caucasians typically dominated.  We learned how Europe did not come to the assistance of Armenia, partially because of its geographical location and because many European countries’ resources were being depleted because of the concurrent war.  There was a conflict between the Christians (Armenians) and Muslims (Turks).  The Ottoman Empire was on the decline and the Young Turks were plotting a coup. The Turkish triumvirate (three dictators) came into power and initiated a purge in 1915, when the Armenian intelligentsia–professors and the educated in general–were rounded up by the Turks and executed.  A variety of brutal atrocities against Armenians continued, including marching families into the Syrian desert to their deaths, seizing their villages, and attacking the women.  Bob talked about how some of his ancestors, including his grandparents, had experienced the genocide but did not tend to talk about it.  In total, 1.5 million (out of 2 million) Armenians perished during the genocide.

The students continued to discuss prejudice and discrimination and how it reverberates in America today.  For the second half of today’s lecture, we watched a film on Emmett Till, a young black boy who was killed in America during the 1950s.  The two white men who were indicted in his murder were found not guilty, then set free; they eventually sold their story, in which they freely admitted to killing Emmett.  Emmett’s mother had an open casket because she could not put into words what had happened to her young son:  he had been beaten, shot in the head, and then his body thrown in a river weighted down by a 75 pound machinery part.

In addition Bob showed the students a traditional Turkish hand-made wedding gown.  He continued talking about Middle Eastern culture and gave us samples of literature from Kahlil Gibran, the early 20th century Lebanese-American poet, philosopher and author of The Prophet.  We examined such truisms, as “Generosity is not in giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is in in giving me that which you need more than I do” and “Those who give you a serpent when you ask for a fish, may have nothing but serpents to give.  It is then generosity on their part.”

Our series concluded with two of the students talking about the gay rights movement and the discrimination endured by this population in the US and in other countries.  Finally, Bob treated everyone again with some Middle Eastern cuisine for lunch:  Chicken Kabobs!  We learned that people used to use swords or knives as the skewers…don’t worry; they took the food off before eating it.  Next week the students will have a career forum with our college counselors.  At FlexSchool, we balance academics with real-world career readiness skills.

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we build our curriculum around providing all around high-quality educational experiences for our students. Visit https://flexschool.net.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

metropolitan museum of art flexschool

Despite local school closings due to a snow storm, our intrepid students took the train to NYC for a special tour at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sean Hemingway, the curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Met, lead FlexSchool and the Connecticut Experiential Learning Center (CELC) in a fascinating private tour of some of Sean’s favorite pieces. Students became increasingly excited about the art during the tour. When we got to the mythological symbolism in the paintings recovered from rooms in Pompeii, the students were hooked! A rare ceremonial Monteleone chariot was the final exhibit. The 2,600-year-old Etruscan chariot was made of bronze and wood and decorated with ivory. While it had originally been restored in 1903, the then curator had only had drawings to inform how he put the pieces together. The straight pole to be harnessed to horses had always puzzled the more recent curators, but it wasn’t until Adriana Emiliozzi, an Italian archaeologist and the world’s leading expert in Etruscan chariots, visited the Met that the chariot was restored in its correct form. (See the NY Times article here)

Sean Hemingway’s enthusiasm was contagious, so students explored the Greek and Roman collections long after he had to return to his busy schedule.

After lunch, students broke into groups and chose exhibits they wanted to see. The choices were interesting: couture fashion, architectural containers, African art, and European sculpture!

met cultural art flexschool nj

We enjoyed our trip through history so much that we bought tickets for the Vikings exhibit at Discovery Times Square for this spring. Check back later for a report on that adventure!

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we build our curriculum around providing all around high-quality educational experiences for our students. Visit https://flexschool.net.