WELLSBURG - Little Red Riding Hood arrived at Colliers Primary School this fall, but instead of bringing a basket of goodies, she brought an opportunity to learn about music and art through a new program that involved children performing a rap at a West Virginia Symphony Orchestra concert and other activities.
The fairytale was used by the school's staff in a variety of ways, from teaching pupils about other cultures to promoting good behavior, as part of a pilot program introduced by the orchestra and West Virginia Department of Education and supported by a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
The idea is to incorporate writing, music, art and dance into other school subjects, as studies have found students retain more information when creative activities are involved because they have a personal connection with it, said Dolly Kidd, a reading specialist for Brooke County Schools coordinating the program at Colliers.
REHEARSAL — Fourth-graders at Colliers Primary School practice a rap inspired by “Little Red Riding Hood” they performed for a concert by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra centered around the fairy tale in Morgantown recently. The rap and concert were among activities introduced through the Student-Centered Arts Learning Environment Project, a pilot program introduced by the symphony and West Virginia Department of Education to involve the arts in other school subjects.
Kidd was selected to serve on the Student-Centered Arts Learning Environment Protect committee because of her experience writing poetry and choreographing the dance numbers for Brooke High School's spring musicals.
Each of the 15 West Virginia schools participating in the program were invited to submit eight lines for a rap by the Big Bad Wolf begun by Grant Cooper, conductor of the West Virginia Symphony. The lines had to describe what the Wolf found at Grandmother's house and conform to the maestro's rhyme and meter pattern.
Kidd penned the rap and choreographed the dance moves practiced by the children during their physical education classes.
As a winner of the contest, Colliers Primary School pupils performed their rap for those attending the Young People's Concert on Nov. 16 at West Virginia University's Creative Arts Center. A string ensemble from the orchestra also performed for the school on Friday.
Another school was named winner for the orchestra's Charleston concert.
During many rehearsals, fourth-grader Sidney Felouzis was unofficial leader for her class, bringing her experience as a dancer, gymnast and cheerleader to the task.
Felouzis said in addition to practicing the dance routine, she enjoyed several classroom activities that were inspired by the fairytale. She recalled planning a nutritional lunch for Red to bring her grandmother to that included a chicken sandwich with whole-grain bread, lettuce and tomatoes, with grapes on the side and juice.
Jennie Arnold, nutrition outreach instructor for the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service, helped the pupils to plan the meal, gathering votes from then on which healthy foods should be packed in Red's basket.
Fourth-grader Ethan Robey enjoyed reading a version of the story told from the Wolf's perspective.
Entitled "The Wolf's Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood," the book was among several alternate versions of the well-known fairytale the children have read. Several others are from other cultures and include "Lon Po Po" (China), "PrettySalma" (Africa) and "Petite Rouge" (Cajun).
Older pupils were assigned to present a PowerPoint presentation summarizing one of the alternate versions and comparing it with the better known version.
Diana Cornett, third-grade teacher, said the children have a computer template from which to create the presentations and could incorporate clip art of their choice.
Pupils also were invited to add characters to a mural of a forest painted in the school's corridor by art teacher Susan Cullinan, and fourth-graders learned to weave baskets.
Children were assigned to measure the Wolf's height and width, said first-grade teacher Arah Barker, who added the story also was used to discuss safety issues arising from encountering strangers.
Jo-Ellen Goodall, school principal, said the story also was used to encourage good behavior.
She explained two paths for Little Red Riding Hood were displayed on the cafeteria wall - one for children in kindergarten through second grade and the other for third and fourth grades. A figure of Red was moved forward if no child was sent to the school's Reminder Room for misbehavior, Goodall said.
The group whose Little Red Riding Hood completed the trip first received additional recess time. The incentive spurred a rivalry between the two groups, with children in each checking the wall for Red's progress each time they entered the cafeteria, Goodall said.
After many weeks of competition, the third- and fourth-graders emerged the winners.
Goodall said the overall program was a hit with the school.
"The kids were very excited about it," she said.