Once again, Chocachatti Elementary School second graders were inspired and entertained with a patriotic show in honor of Veterans’ Day. It’s been a tradition at the school for several years for this particular show to be performed by this class. Most have had no prior experience on stage, and it’s exciting for them to have an opportunity to shine.
There were two performances on Thursday, November 9th. The morning performance was more or less a dress rehearsal. The students, teachers, administrators and some parents were there to cheer them on. The children performed the evening show in front of parents and local veterans, who were the guests of honor. I attended the morning performance, and it was almost flawless−evidence of the weeks of hard work put in by the children and the teachers.
The students worked under the direction of dance teacher Rhonda Bowers; drama instructor Irmarie Kraft; music teacher Nancy Kraus; art teacher Marianne Poholek; and PE teacher Jennifer Flaherty, who helped with the sound board during rehearsals. The second-grade classroom teachers also played a big part in keeping the children motivated and on task. And, of course, the parents helped their children learn their lines and encouraged them.
Ms. Bowers, speaking on behalf of the other specials teachers, stated, “We are grateful for the support of Principal Lara Silva, Assistant Principal Nicholas Pagano and the staff at Chocachatti who help to make this show a tradition for the community and the students.”
The performance opened with the singing of the National Anthem by the students and audience members. I was amazed at the crystal-clear voice of Marceline Ferrara, who led the singing. She knew all the words, sang with perfect pitch and even managed to hit the high note on the phrase “And the rockets’ red glare.”
The show covered many of the important events in American History−from its discovery in 1492 through the wars in the Middle East. The students recited information about our iconic symbols, such as the flag, the Statue of Liberty and the Bald Eagle. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national symbol, but he was overruled?
Some of the songs the children sang are familiar to many of us, such as ”Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B,” a tune popular during World War II, and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Others are not so well known. These included “Fifty Nifty United States.” They sang the names of all the states in alphabetical order several times, each time at a faster tempo. I challenge anyone to do that without stumbling. Another was a poignant song entitled “Welcome Home,” a tribute to our veterans returning from overseas.
The recitation of the lines, the choreography, and the acting were on point. The children dramatized several iconic moments in our history, such as the famous scene in Times Square of the sailor and the nurse when it was announced that World War II was over. Another moving scene showed a G.I. writing a letter home to his parents while they read it and the moment they were reunited.
Most of these students were novices, but some had had experience doing other performances.
Eliana Rabasca-Skinner remarked, “This wasn’t my first time on stage. I was in a show at my old school. I wasn’t nervous at all today. I practiced a lot and I knew my part!”
Besides learning their lines, the choreography and the music, the second graders learned quite a bit of history, especially regarding veterans. Some even have close relatives who are veterans or on active duty. River Cox commented, “A veteran is somebody who has been in the military. They have served and protected our country.”
Madison Sonnenblick added, “My brother is an active member of the Army. He’s a soldier in Germany. My mom and my grandpa are veterans.”
The children also learned the meaning of America and its representation of freedom. Lexi Philhower commented, “America means freedom of speech for everyone. I am so proud to live in such a wonderful place.”
Some of the students have had first-hand experience seeing other parts of the country, which has broadened their outlook. “I went on a road trip last summer,” remarked Finn Russell. “We went hiking in Georgia, to the beach in North Carolina, to the caverns in Virginia, to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, and to visit family in New York.”
Zephyr Forrest added, “I saw the Statue of Liberty this summer. We went on vacation to New York City. It was really big!
Overall, the students exuded enthusiasm and confidence, as well as pride in accomplishing something that many adults have never accomplished.
Although not everyone had a speaking part, each student knew that they were an important part of the whole. They also learn skills that will serve them well later in their school lives and into adulthood. As Gabrielle Cordova put it, “I had a speaking part, a dancing part and a singing part. I liked singing the best because one day I want to be a singer.”
The shows that Chocachatti students put on throughout the year demonstrate that school is not just about learning reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s learning a love for the arts, being part of a team, and spreading your wings to achieve amazing things.