North Stonington students tackle history of the region on stage

North Stonington — Dressed in bonnets and tricorn hats, and performing from the decks of ships to the highest peaks in the region, the third-grade students of North Stonington Elementary school tackled a few historical highlights of the New London area in a series of musical plays Friday afternoon.

Aiming to portray some of the colorful characters of Connecticut history, including a villainous, Grinch-like performance of Benedict Arnold by third-grader Noelle O'Gara, the students tackled stories that distilled the history of the port of New London.

"If a whaling ship did well, everyone shared the money," the students said in unison, listing the dozens of products that were made with whale oil in the 19th-century United States. "If it didn't do well, no one made anything."

The plays also wink at some more recent history, singing "The wheels on the school go all over town" in reference to the many times Nathan Hale's schoolhouse has been moved around the city.

The plays were written by artist-in-residence Carol Glynn, who crafts musical storytelling of historical tales for schools across Connecticut, and performed by third-grade students in Kellie Edwards, Marilyn Kiddy and Karen Lungren's classes. The music was performed with music teacher Michael Noonan.

The performances are funded each year by the North Stonington parent-teacher organization.

Glynn, a Connecticut Alliance for Arts Education distinguished residency artist who has written a book on kinesthetic learning, said she's impressed with how the students are able to tackle tough performances and some of the more challenging stories in the state's history.

Those included the dramatic power struggle between New York's power-hungry Gov. Edmund Andros, played by Quincy Brewer, and Connecticut's leaders that led the state's founding document to be hidden in the Charter Oak, as well as the battle of New London.

But she credits it to the upbeat attitude that cuts through all the performances and helps the kids retain the history.

"We do acting about being big and loud and expressive," she said. "The students get up and learn...they get excited about their parts."

Editor's Note: This version corrects the names of the third-grade teachers whose classes performed Friday. They are Kellie Edwards, Marilyn Kiddy and Karen Lungren.


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