EXYO Illuminates Hannah School’s Curriculum

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Every Thursday morning, students and teachers from the Hannah Elementary School fifth grade move the classroom to Express Yourself’s studio where they are immersed in art, music and science.

Throughout the course of the year, three Hannah School classes attend five to six sessions at Express Yourself, a project funded through the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The project, in accordance with the Massachusetts STEM core curriculum, supplements what is learned in the classroom through the arts.

Hannah School music teacher, Betsy Retallack, and art teacher, Laraine Cicchetti, spearheaded this collaboration. Both the teachers and Express Yourself recognized the exciting opportunity to bring together Hannah’s multidisciplinary approach to learning and Express Yourself’s strengths in teaching music, movement and visual arts to a range of students.

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Set piece created by Hannah School students

In an effort to bring together the arts and science, Express Yourself staff created a curriculum exploring the characteristics of bioluminescence through the creative arts. Youth created multiple art pieces throughout the sessions that culminated the bioluminescent cave, a large scale set piece to be in Express Yourself’s annual performance, Illuminate.

Hannah School STEM Specialist, Seton Wood, explained how the new Science and Technology Standards method of investigative learning relates to the hands on learning at Express Yourself. In school, Hannah students are exploring light and how it travels. They bring their excitement for color and sound and how it relates to light to Express Yourself.  “We give the kids the materials and they cook it, said Seton. ” They’re the chefs.” 

Students begin each class with a group movement or music exercise that ties into the daily class theme. While most classes are focused on the visual arts, Hannah School students also participate in drumming sessions led by Master Drummer Joh Camara. Visits to the the Peabody Essex Museum led by Express Yourself and Peabody Essex Museum staff also supplement the student’s experiences.


Hannah School gym teacher, Roberta Brown, also accompanies the students. “It’s nice to hear the kids bring the excitement back to the building,” said Brown, “they love the music, the movement, the rhythm.”

Hannah students will process in the Bioluminescent Cave piece in Illuminate which includes guest artists Jared Mason, STOMP and TEN31 Productions at the Wang Theatre on Thursday, May 26th. The show is free and open to the public.

Hannah School will also host a presentation showcasing the art and writing pieces resulting from this collaboration on June 2nd.