Vinalhaven’s kindergarten through fifth grades put forth their best effort March 15 and 29 in two spring performances of song, dance, art and French language. Kindergarten through second graders presented “A Taste of Impressionism” and the third through fifth graders presented “Through the Decades.” The shows were the result of a collaboration among the art, music, drama and French teachers.

The teachers of these disciplines make up what is known at Vinalhaven School as the Arts Team. (Other teams exist based on different disciplines, such as the Math Team and the Health Team. French fits in well with the Arts Team because the class is a study of French culture as well as language.)

Last year the Arts Team collaborated on the plays “101 Dalmatians” and “Jungle Book.” However, according to French teacher Susan Philbrook, “French had a hard time integrating” for these shows. The team thought they could improve the spring show, so one of their goals at the beginning of the school year was to create a multi-age integrated unit.

Together the teachers “went through topics until we found one that fit what we wanted to teach,” said Philbrook. A key factor was making sure all four subjects fit without forcing it. Art was already a component in the K-2 curriculum, so the Arts Team chose French Impressionism as a topic for the K-2 unit. “The project was really naturally integrated,” said visual art teacher Erica Hansen, “because we worked together to design it and were able to fit in the pieces we thought were most important to our individual curriculums.”

The K-2 performance emphasized art and French in a show called “A Taste of Impressionism.” Students studied artists Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt and Vincent van Gogh and themes such as tints and shades and emotion in art. Each grade performed one art-related song with choreography and then presented one skit in French. In addition, costumes were tie-dyed t-shirts students made in art class. “The kids were so satisfied with [their performance],” said Hansen. “That was the best part. They were beaming. I think it went off really well because it was created by us teachers.”

Music and drama were emphasized in the third through fifth grade show, “Through the Decades,” which featured music, art, fashion and American musical theater from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Students sang songs from “South Pacific,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Grease” and “Hair” with lyrics changed in some cases to make the songs more age-appropriate. Student visual art was projected on a screen behind the performers while they sang and danced. Students studied artists Paul Gauguin and Jean Dubuffet as well as outsider art, protest art and architectural structures.

Highlights of the performance were the fourth grade’s 3-D assemblage sculpture of the car Greased Lightning that was used as a prop during their performances of the songs “Greased Lightning” and “Summer Lovin” and the fifth grade’s French narrated fashion show. “The 5th grade does a fashion show every year,” said Philbrook. “We tried to put a 60s/70s spin on it this year to make it fit into this program. I thought they did really well and I was so happy to see all the students, even the shy ones, get up in front of that huge audience and not only present, but present in French. I think that took a lot of effort.”

Hansen was also pleased with the show. “I think the students were rewarded by the presentation because they got to perform and also talk about what they had learned. It was a great time!” she said. “We will definitely do something similar next year,” she continued. “This is the second collaboration between visual art, music, drama, and French. We just plan to keep inventing new ways to do it.”