Mount Saint Mary College Teaches Kids Virtually

NEWBURGH – The Mount Saint Mary College community is bringing the online classroom to life for local children through a variety of exciting storytelling and instructional videos.

Jane Gangi, professor of Education, James Phillips, associate professor of Theatre, and several Mount students have created a series of videos for the children of Bishop Dunn Memorial School (BDMS), a Pre-K to eighth grade school in the Catholic tradition located near the campus of Mount Saint Mary College.

The college enjoys a close relationship with Bishop Dunn: Mount Education students do fieldwork at the school, under the guidance of seasoned Bishop Dunn faculty. Many Mount grads go on to work at Bishop Dunn, including Principal Nancy Benfer ’04.

During this time of social distancing, Gangi has been telling a variety of engaging stories for students at Bishop Dunn to watch remotely.

“Over the years I have told many stories at BDMS,” said Gangi. “I thought it was important to provide something I know most of them enjoy. Some of them will have already heard the stories, which they often ask me to tell again.” As they are videos, she added, children can hear their favorite stories as many times as they wish.

Gangi says that storytelling is an important part of a child’s education.

“Storytelling can be very powerful in the classroom; it definitely creates community,” she explained. “When children hear stories, they must use their imaginations to create the images. I tell them it’s like making a movie in their mind… listening to stories, children visualize, make predictions, determine importance, make inferences, and ask questions.”

Gangi hopes her storytelling series isn’t just educational, but also brings a sense of normalcy and comfort to the children who watch.

“We are in this together and, even though it may take a while, we will get through it,” she explained. “During a pandemic we need to provide fun, playful, and engaging ways of being together.”

Doreen Szeli of Newburgh, N.Y., a grad student in the Childhood Education program at the Mount, also lent her skills to Gangi’s storytelling series with her recent performance of “The Lion’s Breath.”

These videos are suitable for children of all ages and can be found at
Meanwhile, the students in Phillip’s Theatre for School class have been creating videos for the BDMS kindergarten class. They started with storytelling videos, and have moved on to demo/teaching videos, including cooking, garden work, and nontraditional topics like baton twirling as demonstrated by one of Phillips’s students, a champion twirler. The class is working with BDMS kindergarten teacher Colleen Middlemiss to make sure the young students get the maximum benefit from every video.

“The class normally works on short Theatre for Young Audiences pieces that we perform for the Pre-K and kindergarteners,” explained Phillips, “so I tried to come up with something that still connected with the BDMS students while also trying to offer some help to Mrs. Middlemiss.”

The video series will also aid Phillips’s students to grow their performance skills, which can be transitioned to careers in acting, teaching, the business professions, and more – just as the original in-person course at the college has done.

“Our Mount students are getting as much out of this service project as the BDMS students. Our students want to make a difference and this allows them to help in a small way as we all try to get through this period together.”

Phillips greatly values his longstanding partnership with Bishop Dunn and is happy to help any time – especially when education around the country looks much different than it has in the past.

“My daughter went through Bishop Dunn Memorial School and I’ve been working with Mrs. Middlemiss for years, so I have a deep connection to the school and the students,” Phillips explained. “We love working with them, and we get attached quickly. In my experience they get attached to us quickly as well. Hopefully, we can let them know we haven’t forgotten them and that we’re still here to help them get through this time of crisis.”

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