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Happy Juneteenth, MSS!

June 20, 2022 | Nathan Johnson

“For you were called to freedom”

– Paul’s letter to the Galatians

Back in February, one of the ways Second and Third Graders celebrated Black History Month was to study the poetry of Amanda Gorman in Art Class. Among many other accolades, she was the National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.

You might have seen her on Sesame Street, or TikTok, or speaking at our last presidential inauguration.

After watching and listening to her read her poetry aloud, what struck the children was the way she moved her hands and her body – it was almost like a dance!

The children took a look at her book ‘Change Sings – A Children’s Anthem’ and decided they could do some movement for this poem inspired by Amanda’s movements…

  • While they were coming up with movements and workshopping ideas with each other, they came up with the idea that we should film our movements…
  • Then the 4th and 5th Grades asked if they could compose and perform music for our production…
  • Then the Kindergarten and First Grade read the book and wanted to provide the words for the movie…
  • Then the Preschoolers heard the story in Art and made flowers in response to the theme of growing found throughout…

And so, as you can see, the project kept growing! From way back in February to March to April to May, to … 


As you will see from this interpretation of  ‘Change Sings’, along with the two other musical offerings from the students, the emerging theme for this year’s Juneteenth celebration at MSS is “change” itself.

After all, we cannot celebrate freedom without celebrating change, we cannot continue to march towards the goal of freedom without demanding change — without being the change — without becoming change-makers!

A note about the music you just enjoyed from Mrs. Mauldin …

We hope you enjoyed the music!

About the ‘Change Sings‘ composition project:
  • First, the Fourth and Fifth graders learned about Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet Laureate. Then we read the poem Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem together as a class
  • Students were given choices whether to work alone, with a partner, or in a small group.
  • Each group chose a stanza or two to work on. They interpreted the stanza, focusing on what emotions were in those words.
  • Using the classroom instruments and computer applications available in the music classroom, each group composed a short phrase of music based on the words they worked on and the emotions they wanted to express inspired by them.
  • Students presented the composition in the music. Some chose to pre-record their performance. Some chose to perform it live.  They had to share the composition process – what inspired them to choose the stanza they worked on, what was the emotions they were trying to express, and why a specific instrument(s) were chosen for the composition.

‘Change Is You’ – Sung by the Second & Third Grade Songsters

After the class read the poem Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, we discussed how Amanda Gorman used her gift of words to inspire others to change. Then we brainstormed what gift each one of us has to be the change maker the world needs. Some mentioned their gift of kindness – mathematics – athleticism. The students were introduced to the song Change is You, with texts based on an African Proverb. If there is something wrong in the world, we don’t have to go along with it. We can change the beat, and turn it into a different song. It was a challenging song with syncopations and a wide range, but students, inspired by the message, persevered, finally performing it as a two-part canon at the Spring Concert.
‘Music Changes the World’ sung by the Fourth & Fifth Grade Choristers
Continuing on the theme of being change-makers in this world after the composition project, the students learned a song by Jom Papoulis, called Music Changes the World. The students that were interested in the speaking part, the solo, and a small group ensemble, auditioned to get the part. The students who did not get the part they wanted to have, accepted other roles graciously and supported the others with abundance. They performed the piece at the Middle School Spring Concert.


Music, words, and movement working together, all as inspired by this beautiful Poem – thank you, Amanda Gorman!


More from the Second & Third Grade…

Who are our Black heroes?

Second and Third Graders also picked a Black Hero to create a portrait of in the medium (art language) of their choice.

There were two main questions that Mr. Johnson posed to the artists as they worked …

  • The first was – Does a portrait necessarily need to be of a person’s face?  (You’ll see the answer if you pay attention to the work posted below)
  • The second was – African American people in History books are often celebrated for being the first person of color to do one thing or another. Do you think that is because no other black person was able to before? If you think others were able to, then why was this person the first? What answers can you think up? And what do those answers tell you about the African American experience in this country and around the world? 

The children worked so lovingly on these. Scroll down to take a stroll through our gallery before clicking away! 

Black Hero Gallery

A note on the children’s writing: You will notice a lot of inventive spelling. In art class, children are asked to use their best try when it comes to spelling and punctuation, with a goal of communicating about their subject, materials, media, and process.

Thank you for coming to our virtual gallery.

Poetry, Music, Art – Many voices, one goal.  Juneteenth is about Freedom, which is still something we are working towards!  Mustard Seed stands in solidarity with its community members of color and commits itself to work towards the change that is necessary for all to enjoy freedom equally. 

Happy Juneteenth Everyone!

Collage flowers created by Preschool students in the Trees Class

Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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