Exploring Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Fourth and Fifth Graders Share a Seedfolks Project
November 29, 2017

In drama class and in collaboration with the fourth and fifth-grade teachers, Ms. Sandler, Mr. Grajnert and Ms. Phillips and Ms. Rampey, students are preparing a piece based on Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks, a novel written in the form of short monologues. Seedfolks tells the story of the transformation of a trash-strewn vacant lot in Cleveland into a thriving community garden. Fleishman raises issues and questions about cultural and racial stereotyping, socio-economic status and other pertinent issues based on class, religion, and culture. The multiple stories of individual characters unfold at a level that is accessible yet challenging for our fourth and fifth graders.

Students spent the first month of drama class learning new tools for their drama toolbox such as the “story mountain” of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. We then explored various ways to share ideas through theatre such as improvised scenes, tableaux, monologues, and poetry and refreshed our knowledge of theatre etiquette and vocabulary.

After reading and discussing the book in class in great detail, each classroom of students became responsible for three voices from the novel. In the progressive model, students have real power in a project such as this one. So, after introducing the tools, the classroom teachers and I asked the students to select the key moments from each character’s monologue. Working in small writing ensembles of 4 or 5, students had to decide how they might bring each group’s assigned character to life onstage.

The letting go when we hand over the creation of the piece to our students is always a bit daunting because the teachers and I are not the architects of the final project. We have discovered over time if we trust our students to do the work and to lead the project forward, they take their responsibilities seriously. The students wrote the scenes for each character, created props and seed puppets in the art studio classes and worked together to come to an agreement as to what would remain on the page for their section of the project. The students are now deep in rehearsal for their November 29th share for families. We did some editing, made suggestions and coached the actors, but it is the children’s work that will be shared next Wednesday.

Please come and join us for the fourth and fifth-grade piece based on Seedfolks on Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 6pm in Carlson Auditorium.