The arts are of central importance to Mustard Seed School. Daily experiences are laced with artistic, poetic, creative and musical expression.
To understand the world, children must understand and express understanding artfully. In our preschool, The Nest Early Learning Center, we have highly valued and nurtured the aesthetic experiences of young children, following the ideas and philosophy of Reggio Emilia. For students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, we have developed an intergenerational, arts-center, shared program (Shared Space) that, thanks to a fellowship from the Christa McAuliffe Foundation, has been documented and shared with teachers in a growing number of schools. In order to graduate, our oldest students must complete a series of academic exhibitions, which include an individual oral presentation on an aspect of the visual arts and another exhibition relating the qualities of musical composition. Each year, field trips always include art museums throughout New York City, as well as musical performances.
Experience in the arts permits children to see the enormous value of human creativity and vision across diverse languages, histories, time, and place. As students create Islamic designs, respond artistically to Elie Wiesel’s Night, plain an Aboriginal-inspired mural, build a neighborhood of blocks, or dramatize the life of a notable American, they stretch their understanding to a depth and breadth that crosses many boundaries and endures for a lifetime. In music, a Kodály approach to instruction, immerses students in folk music from around the world in ways that not only invites students to more fully understand the nature of music, but also to understand the nature of people in every place who express enduring truth, faith, question, and emotion through the composition of these pieces.
Performance is particularly important for children’s personal and intellectual development. Students participate in a chorus beginning in Fourth Grade and perform annually in school concerts, community events, and other venues, such as Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. We have also regularly hosted a Bach Festival, participated in local celebrations, and sung in places from Boston to Washington, D.C.
Mustard Seed extends and supports the classroom environment with a Shared Space for hands-on student activities. Students are required to explore artistic media to support academic work. For example, the second grade ‘wax museum’ is a history project that integrates historical research, biographical and narrative writing, puppet sculpture, and costume design. It culminates in a live wax museum performance. Projects such as these build confidence, celebrate role models, use students’ gifts and incorporate music and fine arts into the curriculum.
Music Education at Mustard Seed School is based on the educational pedagogy of the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodály (1882-1967). The goal of Kodály philosophy is to lead children to love of great music by vigorous exposure to authentic folk music and parallel instruction in musical literacy. Since the first instrument of this instruction is the human voice, singing is often heard in the school's classrooms and halls. Older students study baroque recorder and music theory. Instrumental instruction in violin and piano is offered after school. More information on Kodály.
The Coleman Fung Chair for Music
In 2007, Long Island entrepreneur and philanthropist Coleman Fung established the Coleman Fung Chair for Music. This gift recognizes and supports the scholarly pursuits and teaching excellence of faculty members in leadership at Mustard Seed School. Money from the endowed chair is used for field trips, enrichment programming, instruments, and guest artists.