Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island Project at Dianne Feinstein ES

ISLANDS & WALLS

THE ANGEL ISLAND IMMIGRATION STATION was a global crossroads for immigrants from 80 countries around the world. (An estimated 300,000 people were detained at Angel Island, including 100,000 Chinese, 85,000 Japanese, 8,000 South East Asians, 8,000 Russians and Jews, 1,000 Koreans, and 1,000 Filipinos.) When the doors of the Angel Island Immigration Station shut in 1940, the hundreds of poems carved on the barracks walls by Chinese immigrants were locked inside and forgotten. The poems were rediscovered in 1970 by park ranger Alexander Weiss.

The Angel Island poetry carved into the barrack walls imitates a well-known classical style called “jueju poetry,” developed in the T’ang Dynasty (618-907), when the arts flourished and there were many advancements in the areas of engineering and technology. Perhaps the most important of these, especially in regards to the lives of children today, was the invention of woodblock printing. Woodblock printing allowed books to be printed in mass production. Books helped to increase literacy and to pass on knowledge. It was during this time that poetry became an integral part of the Chinese culture.

In 1976, California appropriated $250,000 for the preservation of the poetry and the building. Today more than 200 poems from the Angel Island barracks have been recorded. Using the latest computer graphics technology, research teams have discovered 172 Chinese poems, 33 graphic images, and 200 inscriptions in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian, German and English.

I look forward to the day when the descendants of the one million immigrants who came through Angel Island, including approximately 175,000 Chinese-Americans, can revisit the spot where their ancestors made such great sacrifices for them.

There are few more intimate and personal reminders of our history as immigrants than the poems carved on the walls of the Detention Barracks by those who awaited word on whether they would be admitted into this country.

Statement of Senator Dianne Feinstein on Angel Island Bill, April 28, 2005

NAMES & NATURE

The Dianne Feinstein ES fourth grade classrooms opened the door to The Angel Island Project on January 16, when the fourth graders were introduced to Angel Island history in a poetry workshop led by teaching artist Andi Wong.

The classroom poetry workshop began with an artifact found in her grandfather’s suitcase, which was used during his travels between China to the United States. As the object was passed from hand to hand around the room, the students were invited to guess what the mysterious object might be, and why would someone might pack this item for an ocean crossing? The student’s keen sense of smell offered an important clue, and the students agreed that this object smelled a lot like cinnamon!

Cinnamon (from far away Toishan)

Ancestors (uprooted)

Scent (wafts from the battered brown)

Suitcase. (Whispers from the)

Island (of Immortals to)

Angels (here on Earth)

Collaborative acrostic poem by Ms. McCullough’s 4th Graders, (with grace notes by Andi)

The fourth graders began by creating acrostic poems inspired by their names and nature, using words to capture and express their impressions of self and nature. The student poems will inspire the creation of a book and a musical composition that will be shared with audiences at the world premiere of Your Wall is Our Canvas.

THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE

Ms. Harrington, Ms. McCullough, and Ms. Rondone’s classes were working on the poetry project, as news began reporting of a COVID-19 pandemic, which required citizens all over the world to shelter in place. In this time, the classroom poetry inspired the grade level auction project, a mirror of words, framed with art created by the fourth graders working with art teacher Sharon Collins. Words and phrases were set in “stone”— stamped into earthen clay, using solar dyes to paint with sunlight in a time of great uncertainty. The visual art piece was created to inspire self-reflection and hopes for a future where Nature and Humanity are in harmony, joined together as One. The community was invited to come to school for an Art Walk on Friday, April 13, the final day on site for the 2020 school year. The work was auctioned to raise much needed funds for school programs.

VOICES OF RESILIENCE

Fifty years ago, Alexander Weiss found long-lost poems carved into the detention barracks walls. This discovery led to the Angel Island Immigration Station’s rebirth as a National Historic Landmark

The poetry written by fourth graders in the January 16 workshop at the start of 2020, took on a whole new meaning by March 13th, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed Bay Area schools, ultimately for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

Nine collaborative poems from the 4th grade were submitted and selected for the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation’s first virtual exhibition. Voices of Resilience celebrates the 50th anniversary of the re-discovery of over 200 Chinese poems carved into the walls of the detention barracks at the U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island. The rediscovery triggered a set of efforts to preserve the building, ultimately resulting in the designation of the site as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1997.

The exhibition features a total of 55 poems including 22 historical poems and 33 contemporary poems selected from online submissions from the general public. In addition to the fourth grade DFES student work, the contemporary poems included contributions from former Angel Island detainees, their descendants, including The Last Hoisan PoetsIsland author Genny Lim, Nellie Wong and Flo Oy Wong – and an anthology by the Sato/Bukowski/ Haechler Family. The online exhibition ran from May 1 through through June 30, 2020, where the poems remain on the walls of the AIISF’s website archives — Voices of Resilience to be discovered by future visitors.

“At a time when there are significantly increased reports of anti-Asian harassment and assaults related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt important to AIISF’s Board and Staff to continue to ensure that the histories and stories related to the immigrant detention at Angel Island are not forgotten. Our hope is that Voices of Resilience serves a reminder of the empathy, connection, and resiliency that is important especially in times like this.” stated AIISF Executive Director Edward Tepporn.

BREAKING BARRIERS

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from The Drum Major Instinct, (1968)

In the future, it is hoped that the Del Sol String Quartet & Huang Ruo’s “Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island Project” will premiere on the island. The new Angel Island Immigration Museum, the former Public Health Service hospital, will open in the future, allowing visitors to apply history’s lessons to nurture civil society and protect civil rights. The AIISF Virtual Gala, “Celebrating Our Dreams, Imagining Our Future,” takes place online on August 19, 2020. The event is free to attend, so please spread the word among your friends and family members. We can all help to ensure that the important histories and stories related to the former U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island are not forgotten, especially at a time when we are seeing increasing discrimination and attacks against Asians and other immigrant groups.

The 2020 Spirit of Angel Island award will acknowledge the dedication and service of California State Park Interpreter, Casey Dexter-Lee. For the past 20 years, Casey has worked on Angel Island, teaching the Immigration Station’s history to thousands of visitors, while also supporting the various programs and restoration efforts at the site.

In the same spirit, the young artists at DFES are using sound and images to communicate their ideas and emotions and inspire action and movement towards a more just society. The Breaking Barriers” assembly on Monday, January 13 with composer/bassist Marcus Shelby marked the 25th anniversary Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by kicking off the fifth annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive led by the DFES student council to benefit homeless children in San Francisco. Students gathered at lunch time to process books donations by writing special notes of encouragement for future readers. The 2020 Blake Mini Library Breaking Barrier’s collection was created based on community donations and student reading recommendations.

Lunchtime origami workshops were also held to teach children how to fold tsuru, paper cranes symbolizing peace, compassion, hope and healing. In the traditional Japanese folk art of paper folding (origami), the crane is a popular, easy-to-learn figure that children and adults of all abilities can create. At lunchtime, working together until our last day of gathering on the schoolyard, the children folded hundreds of cranes of all sizes and colors, in response to a call to action by Tsuru for Solidarity. All can contribute to the project which aims to fold 525,000 cranes, equalling the number of immigrants incarcerated annually. A community gesture to show that immigrant children, youths, families and other detainees seeking safety in our country will not be forgotten.


The Angel Island Project at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School was made possible by an Artist and Communities in Partnership – Creative Youth (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

“My Story, Your Book” – DFES Family Art Night 2

On Monday, January 27, 2020 at Family Art Night #2 with the Del Sol String Quartet, the families at Dianne Feinstein Elementary went on an “Imaginary Journey” with storytelling and bookmaking.

The quartet wove a musical thread though the evening, opening and closing the evening with composer Huang Ruo’s string quartet No. 3, “Calligraffitti.”

From “The Chinese Knew” by Tillie S. Pine and Joseph Levine, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, published in 1958. https://archive.org/details/chineseknew00pine

We also introduced author/illustrator Ezra Jack Keats and the annual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking project at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, encouraging students to try make their own books. We shared news about the ongoing Blake Mini Library Book Drive benefitting the Hamilton Families shelter program in the Tenderloin, and shared news of the upcoming Author’s Day at DFES. The families learned how to do traditional Chinese bookbinding Cheryl Ball and Cheryl Itamura of Book Arts Roadshow.

Thank you to Mara, Patrick, Angela, Cynthia and Chae for the helping hands and set up with the #meatlessmonday spread. Lion love to Dr. Zaki, the DFES PTA Board and all of the DFES families who supported this community evening of creativity.

This event was made possible by an Artist and Communities in Partnership – Creative Youth (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

2020 MLK Day & Blake Mini Library

Today, January 20, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service. Observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off,” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities.

Each year, the Blake Mini Library book drive kicks off on the MLK Day of Service, collecting through Valentine’s Day. The project encourages and supports the caring acts of children who work with their communities to collect books for the Hamilton Families shelter program here in San Francisco. This youth philanthropy effort supports the reading, writing and science literacy of children ages birth to 21 living in homes for runaways, homeless shelters and foster care. The project began in 2013, when a 6-year old boy named Blake Ansari began a book drive in New York City with the support of his family and friends.

In 2020, we invite friends and families to share acts of compassion and creativity, in celebration of the 5th annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive in San Francisco.

Students can participate by:

Adults can support students by:

  • Donating your new and recently new books (no cloth books please) to children from birth to age 21.
  • Sponsor a book title inspired by our 2020 theme: “Breaking Barriers”
  • When donating a book, write a Note of Encouragement, a special surprise message that is hidden inside the book to be discovered by a future reader.
  • Record an audio read-aloud version of a book that can be enjoyed by beginning readers.
  • Learn more about the issue of homelessness and the impacts on children and finding ways to help. Baharav, H., Leos-Urbel, J., Obradovic, J., & Bardack, S. (2017). The Educational Success of Homeless and Highly Mobile Students in San Francisco Unified School District. Stanford, CA. John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, Stanford Graduate School of Education.
  • Inspire children by showing that you support their efforts.

“When you listen to the community, learn from the community, and help the community, you connect to your best self”

– Blake Ansari, founder of Blake Mini Library

#blakeminilibrary #‎youthphilanthropy #‎literacy #nomorehomelesschildren

“BREAKING BARRIERS” with Marcus Shelby & Friends

On Monday, January 13, 2020, Dianne Feinstein Elementary School will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service (1/20/2020) with a special assembly, “Breaking Barriers” with Marcus Shelby & Friends.

Artists have long used music and images to communicate ideas and emotions, to inspire action and movement towards a more just society. Music is a unifying force that has been used across generations to pass on stories of determination and courage.

Composer/bassist Marcus Shelby says, “I use music to reveal how we got to where we are; to reflect history in the most positive and truthful way.” “Breaking Barriers” will illustrate how unique voices have collectively used “The Blues,” an art form with deep roots in African-American history. Students will hear stories and songs associated with notable historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jackie Robinson, and hear how the strength and bravery of everyday people has helped to shape America’s history.

MARCUS SHELBY is a composer, arranger, band leader, bassist, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco, California. His work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and music education. Currently, Shelby is an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and a new resident artist director for the San Francisco Jazz Festival 2019-2020. Shelby leads the SF Community Music Center’s Teen Jazz Orchestra program and is also an artist in residence at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival where he is the music director of the 100 member Freedom Jazz Choir, youth choir, and youth music ensemble. Shelby has composed several oratorios and suites including Harriet Tubman, Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio, Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues, Green and Blues, and a children’s opera Harriet’s Spirit produced by Opera Parallèle in 2018. Shelby also composed the score and performed in Anna Deveare’s off Broadway Play and HBO feature film Notes from the Field and many other productions over the past 21 years. Shelby has served on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 2013. https://marcusshelby.com/

Learn more about Marcus Shelby on Google Arts & Culture.

RESOURCES for BREAKING BARRIERS

WE SHALL OVERCOME

It was the most powerful song of the 20th century. It started out in church pews and picket lines, inspired one of the greatest freedom movements in U.S. history, and went on to topple governments and bring about reform all over the world. Word for word, the short, simple lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” might be some of the most influential words in the English language.

The song’s first publication gives credit of authorship to, among others, Silphia Horton of the Highlander Folk School, who learned the song from the tobacco workers, and Pete Seeger, who helped to popularize the song and gentrified its title from “We Will Overcome.”

With a 2017 court settlement, the melody and lyrics for We Shall Overcome officially entered into the public domain.

Artist Kadir Nelson illustrates Kwame Alexander’s poem “The Undefeated”

The Library of Congress: Activity Ideas for Song and Poetry http://www.loc.gov/teachers/lyrical/songs/overcome.html

BREAKING BARRIERS: In Life and In Sports

CHILD OF THE DREAM: A MEMOIR OF 1963 by Sharon Robinson

“Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” is a baseball-themed character education program developed by Major League Baseball and Scholastic Inc. Using America’s sport, baseball, as the metaphor for life, the curriculum is based on the values demonstrated by barrier breaker Jackie Robinson: citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence and teamwork.

Learning About Barriers http://www.scholastic.com/breakingbarriers/interactive/interactive1.html

THE UNDEFEATED by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This poem, originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes.

Kwame Alexander reads his poem for ESPN. https://theundefeated.com/videos/this-one-is-for-us/

Kadir Nelson (b. 1974) is an American artist who currently exhibits his artwork in galleries and museums nationwide and abroad. His paintings are in the private and public permanent collections of several notable institutions including The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the International Olympic Committee, and the US House of Representatives. https://www.kadirnelson.com/

Interview with Kadir Nelson on All Things Considered This Is For ‘The Undefeated’

Artist Kadir Nelson illustrates Kwame Alexander’s poem “The Undefeated”

CORETTA SCOTT KING BOOK AWARDS

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Seal was designed by artist Lev Mills in 1974.  Learn more about the history of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and the symbolism in the seal on the American Library Association website.

Designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards annually recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience.  Further, the Award encourages the artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts in biographical, social, and historical treatments by African American authors and illustrators.

Fifty years of CSK Book Award titles: http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/awards/24/all_years

YOUTH PHILANTHROPY & SERVICE – BLAKE MINI LIBRARY

DFES students are also invited to assist with the fifth annual BLAKE MINI LIBRARY BOOK DRIVE to benefit homeless children in San Francisco.

Each year from MLK Day through Valentine’s Day, students are invited to help to collect book donations. Students are invited to help create posters and Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for the book drive or contribute reviews recommending their favorite books. Students can also support the processing of books by writing special notes of encouragement for future readers.

The 2020 Blake Mini Library Book Drive kicks off on January 20th. This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday marks the 25th anniversary of the day of service celebrating the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy.

#MLKDAY  https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service

This year’s book drive donations, which will include a specially curated selection of titles on the theme of “Breaking Barriers,” will be delivered to the Hamilton Families on Read Across America Day (3/2/2020).

Dianne Feinstein ES Family Art Night #2 with The Del Sol String Quartet

DFES Family Art Night #2 — “MY STORY – YOUR BOOK”

Monday, January 27, 2020; 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Dianne Feinstein ES Multipurpose Room

The second of four DFES Family Art Nights with the Del Sol String Quartet’s Angel Island Project will explore the importance of storytelling and the written word through the art of bookmaking. Cheryl Ball and C.K. Itamura of Book Arts Roadshow will teach us how to make our own books, and The Del Sol String Quartet will play!

In celebration of the 8th annual Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Project, we’ll also consider the role that children’s books play in sharing the important stories and historical contributions of all Americans.

A light dinner is provided with the PTA meeting from 5:30pm – 6:00pm. 

Pictured from left to right: Traditional Chinese bookbinding, art from The Chinese Knew by Ezra Jack Keats (1958); art by Chris Sasaki from Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong: Immigrant and Artist (2019)

Thanks to an Artists and Communities in Partnership – Creative Youth Arts (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the support of the Dianne Feinstein ES PTA, these family evenings with The Del Sol String Quartet and teaching artist Andi Wong will explore the history of Angel Island, capture positive cross-cultural stories and create opportunities for the school to collaborate and contribute a new work of art that will be shared at the Angel Island premiere.

“Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island Project” will bring the poems of Angel Island to life in the very space they were created. Composed by Huang Ruo, the 45-minute oratorio for string quartet and chamber choir will weave a story of immigration and discrimination of then and now. The premiere performances will occur at the Angel Island Immigration Station in October 2020.

This project is supported in part by the Hewlett Foundation 50 Arts Commissions. Additional funding has been provided by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

“Honoring Our Ancestors” – DFES Family Art Night 1

The first DFES Family Art Night with the Del Sol String Quartet introduced the Angel Island Project, teaching artist Andi Wong and the members of the Del Sol String Quartet to the Dianne Feinstein ES community. The Del Sol String QuartetCharlton Lee (viola), Kathryn Bates (cello), Ben Kreith and Sam Weiser (violin) – got the evening off to a great start with a musical introduction. Everyone, adults and children, were invited to get up on their feet for an easy stroll around the room. Listening to the music, participants were invited to making contact, with smiles, head nods, touching feet, and secret handshakes in a traveling warm up to “G Song” by Terry Riley.

Andi offered a brief introduction to the history of Angel Island. Angel Island offers an important lesson on how stories and art have helped to carry historical information forward to the future. In 1970, Ranger Alexander Weiss re-discovered the poetry carved by immigrants into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station barracks. The poems were translated and preserved in the 1980 book, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 by Mark Him Lai, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, and the Chinese-American community worked together to preserve and protect this important historical site for future generations of Americans.

Families conducted a four question oral history interview. Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies. Based on the responses, parents worked with their children to write a simple poem on the theme of family.

Resolute in her faith, 
watching the wine dark sea. Her face
to the wind. Loving God.
Black as Night, bright as Light, she stands.

The J-H Family remembers a powerful strong woman who baked a great sweet potato pie.

We sing the family song.
We speak out Spanish language.
We visit our family in El Salvador and call.

The P-B Family remembers their family's arrival in the USA

As Del Sol performed Tenebrae by Osvaldo Golijov, the children were invited to collaborate on work of art, an evening sky mural. Golijov’s composition finds hope and wonder in a world upended by war, when he visits the New York City planetarium with his five-year-old son, who sees the earth for the very first time — a “pale blue dot” in the vast cosmos.

In closing, we shared a wonderful opportunity to conduct an oral history interview. StoryCorps “The Great Thanksgiving Listen” is a national movement that empowers young people—and people of all ages—to create an oral history of the contemporary United States by recording an interview with an elder, mentor, friend, or someone they admire using the free StoryCorps App. Interviews become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Thanks to Megan Wong and Patrick Wu for helping to set up our workshop materials (heavy-lifting those giant pumpkins donated by family farmer Todd Fong of Elk Grove) and serving our Thanksgiving-themed #meatlessmonday dinner. Lion love to Dr. Salwa Zaki, Rory McMahon for the tech support and DFES PTA Board support from Angela Rosoff, Cynthia Inaba and Chae Reed. Most of all, thanks to the DFES families who helped to make this first community evening of creativity a big success.

When the event was done, those who wanted a pumpkin were welcomed to take one home to enjoy. We brought the biggest of the giant pumpkins down to Pescadero to share with Dan Sudran, founder of Mission Science Workshop and the Community Science Workshop Network. Dan introduced us to his friend Gabriel, a valued team member of Puente, who knows a lot about bees and seeds.

The best way to keep going and growing is to share the learning with others!

This event was made possible by an Artist and Communities in Partnership – Creative Youth (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Dianne Feinstein ES Family Art Night #1 with The Del Sol String Quartet

“HONORING OUR STORIES – OUR ANCESTORS”

Monday, November 18, 2019; 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Dianne Feinstein ES Multipurpose Room

The Del Sol String Quartet: Ben Kreith, Charlton Lee, Kathryn Bates, Sam Weiser. photo: by Lenny Gonzalez

Thanks to an Artists and Communities in Partnership – Creative Youth Arts (ACIP-CY) grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission and the support of the Dianne Feinstein ES PTA, a series of four Family Art Nights have been planned with The Del Sol String Quartet and teaching artist Andi Wong. These family evenings will introduce the Del Sol String Quartet as musical neighbors who are ready to play well with others. Together, we will explore the history of Angel Island, capture positive cross-cultural stories and create opportunities for the school to collaborate and contribute a new work of art that will be shared at the Angel Island premiere.

Our first DFES Family Art Night will introduce THE ANGEL ISLAND PROJECT and the members of THE DEL SOL STRING QUARTET, who will play especially for us. Participants will learn how to conduct an oral history interview, and use the Story Corps app. Families will also collaborate on a work of art that honors our ancestors.

A suitcase filled with stories on Angel Island.

“Your Wall is Our Canvas: The Angel Island Project” will bring the poems of Angel Island to life in the very space they were created. Composed by Huang Ruo, the 45-minute oratorio for string quartet and chamber choir will weave a story of immigration and discrimination of then and now. The premiere performances will occur at the Angel Island Immigration Station in October 2020.

This project is supported in part by the Hewlett Foundation 50 Arts Commissions. Additional funding has been provided by the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

San Francisco Symphony Adventures in Music (AIM) 2019-20

AIM concert at Davies Symphony Hall. Photo by Kim Huynh

Established in 1988, San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music (AIM) is an interdisciplinary program that integrates live music performances and related music education experiences with everyday classroom lessons in language arts, social studies and other subjects. Designed in partnership with the SFUSD, Adventures in Music (AIM) ensures that every child in grades 1–5 in every San Francisco public elementary school receives equitable access to music education for five consecutive years. Presented free of charge to schools, AIM incorporates in-school ensemble performances, tailored classroom materials and resources, professional development for teachers, and a private concert by the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall. AIM is the most comprehensive music education program of its kind of any American symphony orchestra.

AIM 2019-2020 Theme: “Sounds of Music”

This year’s AIM theme, “Sounds of Music,” explores music and the science of sound in a cross-disciplinary manner. A teacher workshop on Thursday, October 10, 2019, introduced attendees to the basics of the AIM program and gave participants a chance to try some hands-on sound science with educators from the Exploratorium.

Exploratorium-designed classroom activities will invite students make their own instruments, from a Straw Oboe to a Water Xylophone. Playful science activities presented by the Exploratorium team included making a Head Harp with a piece of string, and exploring resonance with pasta & marshmallows and making sounds with a Siren Disk. Students who enjoy experimenting with sound have so many more Exploratorium Science Snacks to choose from!

Third, fourth and fifth grade students can keep school humming with their very own SF Symphony harmonica, while a SFS kazoo will be given to the first and second graders.

In-School Concerts & Classroom Resources

Music Makers and Shakers visits Dianne Feinstein Elementary School.

AIM I Program (3rd, 4th, and 5th grade)

AIM school visits: Four ensembles will play for AIM I students

  • Supersonic Sounds – Woodwind and Brass Quartet
  • Keys and Clefs – String and Keyboard Quartet
  • Music Makers and Shakers – Latin Percussion Ensemble
  • Percussion Party – Percussion Band

Along with a specially prepared AIM study guide for each student, classroom teachers will receive two books that are specially selected to support their students’s exploration of music. Special editions of the resource books, created especially for the SF Symphony’s AIM program, will be freely available online, without the need for a password. Students will be able to read and play music selections from classroom computers, and they can continue their exploration of music at home.

Those Amazing Musical Instruments by Genevieve Helsby

From the cello to the clarinet to the trumpet to the drums, Those Amazing Musical Instruments! takes readers on a musical tour, with notes on the history, construction and sounds of the instruments from each of the major instrument “families.” They can see the parts of the violin working together, read about the flute in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” or hear the different sounds of the tuba. Interactive content includes individual musical samples giving readers an audible taste of each instrument, as well as full orchestra pieces showing how they play together.

Sound (Boom Science by Georgia Amson-Bradshaw

Sounds that surround us can be vastly different. Still, the earsplitting blast of a car horn and the melodious chirp of a songbird travel to our ears in the exact same way. This eye-opening book explains how sound travels as well as the connection between sound and energy. Readers will delight in the vibrant panels and enlightening facts, which are conveyed in an accessible and compelling comic-book design. Quiz questions, puzzles, and humor abound in this must-have addition to any elementary science library or class.

AIM II PROGRAM (1st, 2nd GRADe)

AIM school visits: Four ensembles will play for AIM II students

  • Building Brass Trio – Brass Trio 
  • Cascada de Flores – Traditional Mexican Ensemble
  • Friction Quartet –String Quartet
  • SoundScapes Trio – Woodwind and Harp Trio 

My First Orchestra Book by Genevieve Helsby, Illustrated by Karin Eklund

An original, colorful, and lively approach to learning about music. With classical music tracks featuring every instrument in the orchestra, with clear audio examples. Includes 60 beautifully illustrated pages that children will love.

All About Sound (All About Science) by Angela Royston

This series introduces simple science topics using everyday objects and situations that readers can recognize in the world around them. This title looks at sound: how sounds are made, how they travel, how we hear them, what makes a sound high or low, loud or soft.

Adventures in Music Visual Arts Project

The San Francisco Symphony’s Visual Arts Project encourages further engagement with the concert experience by inviting all students who attend the SFS performances to submit artwork based on any aspect of their visit to Davies Symphony Hall. Art can be based on any aspect of their trip to Davies Symphony Hall, from the building to the audience to the musicians to the music itself. Deadline for receipt of entries is April 24, 2020. Send to San Francisco Symphony, Visual Arts Project, Education Dept., 201 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Adventures In Music

Now in its 33rd year of partnership with the SFUSD during the 2019–20 season, AIM serves every child in grades one through five in every San Francisco public elementary school, as well as a number of the City’s parochial and independent schools. AIM reaches 24,500 children and their teachers annually, and is presented to schools absolutely free of charge. Since its inception in 1988, more than 150,000 children have gone through the AIM program.

“…Children must receive musical instruction as naturally as food, and with as much pleasure as they derive from a baseball game. And this must happen from the beginning of their school lives.”

— Leonard Bernstein, New York City, 1977
Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Select Education regarding a bill calling for a White House Conference on the Arts

In 2020, San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who has served as music director since 1995, is scheduled to retire at the end of his 25th season, to be succeeded by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Valentine’s Day 2019 Blake Mini Library Book Drive

2019 marked the fourth annual Blake Mini Library book drive for the Hamilton Families Shelter Program, San Francisco’s leading service provider to families experiencing homelessness. It was wonderful to receive the invaluable support of the two student councils at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School and Rooftop Alternative Pre-K-8 School.

This year’s special curated book selection explored the theme, “From darkness, into the light.” Special editions donated to this year’s book drive included the 75th anniversary edition of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (Fighting for Justice) by Laura Atkins and San Yogi, She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton, Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford, The Wall of Birds: One Planet, 243 Families, 375 Million Years by Jane Kim and Thayer Walker and Where’s Rodney? by Carmen Bogan.

On February 1, World Read Aloud Day 2019, with the support of the staff at the Internet Archive, we invited people to read aloud from The Dream Keeper and other poem by Langston Hughes, a book of poetry on Open Library. The ultimate goal of the Open Library is to make all the published works of humankind available to everyone in the world. How wonderful to hear and record all of the different voices reading the poems out loud!

The Dream Keepers — the wonderful volunteer readers at the Internet Archive!

On Thursday, February 7, from 5:30pm-8pm, we hosted a special screening of Won’t You Be My Neighbor for the DFES community. The film is a very thoughtful and moving look at Fred Roger’s groundbreaking work in education, childhood and media, and the screening gave parents a wonderful opportunity to consider the impact of acts of kindness towards children. Blake Ansari, the young founder of Blake Mini Library, was six years old when he hosted his first book drive for homeless children and children in foster care in New York. Blake loves to read and wants other kids to have the opportunity to enjoy reading too.

Dianne Feinstein students help to process the books for donation.

We were especially grateful that children’s book author/illustrator Ashley Wolff was able to stop by Dianne Feinstein to lead “Kindness, Kids & Kritters,” a special art workshop that taught students how to draw the two DFES school mascots. Leona the Lion and Edwin the Panda couldn’t be more different, but, like Ashley, these two friends share a special love of books and reading. Ashley kindly created a special poster for the 2019 book drive.

After her visit, Ashley asked Blake if he had a favorite animal. What a wonderful surprise to receive Ashley’s special act of kindness a few days later… a brand new logo created especially for Blake Mini Library featuring the fastest land animal on Earth — the amazing cheetah!

A new logo for Blake Mini LIbrary — a special gift from Ashley Wolff

Thank you to all our friends and neighbors who helped to make the 2019 Blake Mini Library book drive such a special and speedy delivery!

Valentine’s Day 2018 Blake Mini Library Book Drive

In 2018, we kicked off our 3rd annual Blake Mini Library Book Drive on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and invited readers of all ages to help by writing notes of encouragement and donating a new or newly read children’s book to the children at Hamilton Families. On Read Across America Day (March 2, 2018) we donated 529 books, filled with handwritten notes of encouragement, including some special author autographs. Ms. Woo’s fourth graders accepted the Blake Mini Library Mannequin Challenge, and constructed and donated the LEGO “VR Library of the Future.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Rooftop Spirit for Harriet’s Spirit: #monumentalwomen

20180206BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_5379This year, our book drive coincided with a world premiere opera — Opera Parallele’s production of Harriet’s Spirit, featuring a cast of eighth grade students from Rooftop School. The opera was set in both present day middle school and on the Combahee River during the Civil War, when Harriet Tubman become the first woman to plan and conduct a military raid.

In conjunction with Harriet’s Spirit, we honored Harriet Tubman and some of our other favorite “Monumental Women” with a curated collection of children’s books:

  • Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
    by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed The World by Rachel Ignotofsky
  • Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey
  • The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
  • Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot
  • Coral Reefs by Sylvia Earle
  • Rickie and Henry by Jane Goodall
  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
  • Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers
  • Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers & Shawn Harris
  • Rickshaw Girl and You Bring The Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
  • Can Art Change the World? by JR

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Connect to Your Best Self

Rooftop students were thrilled to be the very first recipients of a Blake Mini Library mini-grant from the Connect to Your Best Self Foundation. The grant enabled us to host a cookie and blue marble gratitude party for the children at Hamilton Families. As Ms. Kennedy’s 4th graders prepared for the cookie party, they made origami boxes for the blue marbles and wrapped copies of the Blue Marble coloring book, Rolling Along on A Blue Marble Dream. They also worked together to write a new story.

20180302BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_6375

“If you give a mouse a cookie and a blue marble…”

If you give a mouse a cookie, the mouse might enjoy a tiny blue marble too. If she eats the cookie (and another and another and another), she might turn blue like the marble. You could give her a glass of milk, but she might drink and turn the milk blue too. She also might throw up, but then at least she won’t be blue anymore. But she might get hyper and need to run around outside. You could take her outside and let her run around the grass field five times, but she might get a side stitch after eating so many cookies. If she lays down and passes out, you could run to get a glass of cold water and chuck it at her to wake her up. When she wakes up, she might see a blue-eyed wolf. If the wolf comes closer and closer and closer, the mouse might run faster and faster and faster. If the mouse runs really fast back to you, be sure to open the door to let her in. She will be happy to be safe with her cookie, her blue marble… and you!
— A “rolling” cookie party story by Ms. Kennedy’s 4th grade class of 2018

20180302BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_E643520180131BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_5166

I 💙 U So Much!

Thank you to Blake Mini Library founder Blake Ansari, The Connect To Your Best Self Fund, and many our generous donors and youth philanthropists who made this year’s book drive a special celebration for all involved.

20180302BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_640620180302BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_641120180302BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_641920180302BlakeMiniLIbraryIMG_6426