Launching the Moffet Arab Arts After-School Program*

Three weeks into our after-school program, so much wonderful stuff has already happened that I have to get some of it off my chest. The kids’ personalities are just starting to emerge, their skills are sharpening, and consequently the days are increasingly fun. Concurrent with the play that goes on there is also a fairly rigorous–for elementary-school-age children–structure to the program. We open with a fifteen minute snack in the cafeteria where all the children gather. This gives them a second to unwind before the bulk of the teaching begins and they are divided into two groups: the visual artists and the musicians.

Mixing oil and water colors – learning about resists

Visual Art
The visual artists go withTremain Smith who immerses them in making art.  Teaching assistants Ms. Rachel and Ms. Stevie, both Temple affiliates, help out in the classroom, and on some days when Ms. Tremain can’t make it, Ms. Lisa, a teaching artist who worked with Al-Bustan last year, fills in. It is relatively early in the program, so we are building a foundation for future art projects by reviewing and learning foundational art concepts and skills such as texture, line, color, shadow, scale. So far, the students have enjoyed art so much that they do not even mind when art has gotten them in trouble with their parents. For example, Yaseen (Little Yusef, for those of you in the know) got a few stains on his shirt after the first day. I response, Yaseen justified this to his mother with a bold, and profound, statement claiming these splotches on his shirt were infact art (“but mama, this is art!”).  What the kids are doing looks like so much fun; I often find myself wishing that I was allowed to just sit and paint with the group.  For the last hour of the program, the teaching assistants and myself jump in to help the kid with their homework so that when they go home after 6pm they can actually relax and unwind a bit.


Music
In the music track, the students take the first thirty minutes after snack to do homework, to lighten their work-load when they get home. Then, they come all together to sing in choir with Hanna Khoury and Hafez Kotain, and on Wednesdays with Serge El Helou. If this sounds mundane to you, take into account that these children sing songs in English, French, and Arabic. While they probably do not understand the Arabic words without the translation (provided on the papers), they are starting to get some of the more difficult Arabic sounds, such as the various guttural, glottal, and emphatic consonants. One of my hopes is that this program is planting the seeds (garden metaphor!) for their future linguistic flourishing.

Serge El Helou leads students in music skills session

Following choir they split into two groups that are distinguished by those who previously drummed with Mr. Hafez, and those who are new to the program. One group does percussion with Mr. Hafez (who is a very popular teacher at Moffet) and another group goes with Mr. Hanna or Mr. Serge to practice music drills and exercises in Western and Arab music. Everytime I hear them drum or sing I’m amazed by how quickly these kids learn new concepts and skills. They are already pretty good at matching pitches, and have learned so many drum rhythms. I cannot wait to see what they are adept at in the next few weeks!


So, this is simply a basic introduction to the program. I love to write, and tons of remarkable things happen every day at Moffet; this is merely the first in a series of articles about the budding program and students.

Max Dugan
Al-Bustan Program Coordinator

*Al-Bustan’s program at Moffet School is made possible with the support of William Penn Foundation, Children Can Shape the Future, Stockton Rush Barton Foundation, and Lincoln Foundation.
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