At Margaret Brent, Home Is Where the Art Is

What could be more fun than building with marshmallows and raw spaghetti?

Apparently very little, as students and family members alike discovered at “Home Is Where the Art Is,” a November 29 community arts celebration at Baltimore’s Margaret Brent Elementary Middle School.

Event attendees had the opportunity to engage in arts-integrated activities organized into stations in a gallery-style setup, all run by students. In addition to a marshmallow-spaghetti construction site—where visitors collaborated in creating (and sometimes eating) complex geometric objects—other stations highlighted homemade pinball mazes, henna tattooing, bookbinding, origami, and woodworking.

Margaret Brent is one of a handful of schools that integrates the arts—visual, musical, theatrical, movement-based, and more—throughout its curriculum. The arts focus is an outgrowth of research studies by Johns Hopkins University’s Neuro-Education Initiative, which found that arts-infused teaching helps students retain information better than traditional teaching.

“Our goal was to bring the community into the school for a creative, hands-on night highlighting the many art forms and cultural traditions of our school families,” said Pamela Negrin, arts integration partnership coordinator at Margaret Brent. “We were also excited to collaborate on a joint event with our friends at the Village Learning Place.”

Sponsored by Margaret Brent and the Johns Hopkins School of Education in collaboration with Strong City Baltimore and the Village Learning Place, the event empowered students and their families to take the lead in fostering arts integrative activities.

“The event was a beautiful way to share what makes Margaret Brent special,” said Pamela Smith, the school’s principal. “We are a diverse school in so many ways, and so many people had the opportunity tonight to share their culture in a climate of respect and appreciation.” 

Attendees also enjoyed performances by students and parents, with families showcasing the diverse arts traditions of their different cultures. Among the highlights of the evening, these performances emerged directly from student interest and motivation. 

For example, a recent assignment to write a poem about something that brings happiness gave one eighth grader a chance to share her passion for Bhangra, a traditional dance from the Indian subcontinent. Her inspiration was a natural fit for “Home Is Where the Art Is,” and dressed in traditional Bhangra attire, she enlightened the audience with a demonstration of her cultural dance.

“Tonight was so beautiful,” said one parent of a fourth-grade student. “All the creativity and celebration of differences. I feel proud to be part of the Margaret Brent community.”