Ozone Park school uses music to teach students

Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like TimesLedger on Facebook.

Fourth-graders at PS 100 in Ozone Park donned traditional ethnic garb and learned about their community as they sang, danced and acted in “Immigration and the Irving Berlin Experience” last week.

The performance at the school was part of an interdisciplinary program run through Inside Broadway, the theater industry’s education group, and used the show as a way to teach the 90 students about the immigration experience, said Laureen Fromberg, the school’s assistant principal.

“The arts are not fluff,” she said. “They’re another way to reach the students.”

Students acted out the roles of immigrants from Belize, Guyana, India, Italy, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Yemen and other countries. Dressed in a range of costumes from Indian saris to colors of the native country’s flag to the costumes of the immigrants’ new jobs, the students related what they learned about immigrants and sang Irving Berlin songs, like “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better,” “Blue Skies” and “God Bless America.”

The performance program was related to the curriculum for the fourth graders, who learn about immigration as part of their social studies work, said Tammy Memeghini, a teaching artist with Inside Broadway. The students’ task during the 10-week project was to create a character based on an immigrant, she said. They were responsible for finding and interviewing an immigrant in the community, and many of the students talked with their parents, Memeghini said.

“It’s a great way to tie school in with their family,” she said. “The students get to reconnect with their family and their history.”

Students asked their immigrant partners what it was like to leave home and come to America, what they miss about their country and what they like most about their new home. The students also wrote up the information to recite on stage, Fromberg said.

Job opportunities, the transportation system and the tall buildings were some of the immigrants’ favorite things about America, but they missed the “little things in life” from their native countries, like cuisine and climate, the students reported.

Aside from learning about the immigrants they interviewed, the students learned that immigrants sometimes are looked down upon.

“I learned you should be nice to them and be kind,” said Sam Alsaidi, 10, who interviewed his father, who emigrated from Yemen.

Sunasha Maharajh, 10, interviewed her mother, who came from Trinidad, and learned that immigrants really want to fit in with their new society.

“When they get here they’re treated differently, but they just want to be treated like us,” she said.

The audience, including Boyd Gaines, who won a Tony Award for his role in “Contact” on Broadway, learned something, too.

“It was great to be reminded that in America we’re all the children of immigrants,” said Gaines, who was invited to the show by Inside Broadway. “It was very interesting and moving to hear each of the stories of your characters from the people you interviewed.”

The students also learned a lot about theater and the performing arts. Memeghini was surprised by the level of cooperation she found in the students, she said. They even convinced her to include dialogue where the characters interacted with each other.

“They were so engaged by each other,” Memeghini said. “They wanted to connect with each other up there.”

Most of all, the students were having a good time on the stage, despite their nerves.

“You get to be someone else and wear a lot of fun outfits,” said Karen Mason, who stars in “Mamma Mia,” and who was invited by Inside Broadway. “That’s the fun part of acting.”

The program was funded through a grant from the New York Times Foundation on the condition that it go to the neediest schools in New York, said Mariah Moody, program assistant for Inside Broadway. This is the group’s 20th anniversary season, and it does two shows a season at 150 schools a year, she said.

But for the parents, it’s one more excuse to see their children in the spotlight.

“It was thrilling,” said Jocelyn Quintero, from South Ozone Park, who emigrated from the Philippines and was interviewed by her daughter Desirè. “You know, the kids don’t tell you anything. She just told me she’s performing and to bring the camera.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like TimesLedger on Facebook.

Reader feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

CNG: Community Newspaper Group