Night Skies, Stories and Cultural Art: Mount Madonna School’s Lower School Spring Performance

The Mount Madonna School (MMS) lower school is reaching for the stars as students prepare for their Grandparents and Special Friends Day spring show with songs, skits, poetry and other celebrations of the night sky. 

As the March 29 “Celestial Stories” performance approaches, preschool through fifth grade classrooms are excitedly immersed in the world of astronomy, celestial mythology, planets, moons, galaxies and stars. 

In preschool, students have learned about the waxing and waning of moon cycles. They will perform songs and poems, including a revised version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and “The Moon Phases Poem” by Betty Sanchez. They are creating an array of silvery stars to hang near the stage, which students can take home to hang from their own ceilings. 

Kindergarten students are focusing on indigenous stories about the cosmos. 

“We are taking this opportunity to delve into Native American star stories,” said teacher Hema Walker. Students are exploring the Wasco tribe story “Coyote Places the Stars,” through readings and puppetry. In music, kindergarten students have been learning “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” on hand bells which they will perform at the event in American Sign Language.

As part of their classroom preparations, kindergarten students  were joined by their fifth grade big buddies for a constellation project involving making their own Native American clapper sticks and creating starry crowns to wear for the performance.

First grade students have been reading chapter books with themes of astronomy, such as “Magic Treehouse: Lost in the Solar System” and “Magic Tree House: Sees Stars,” as well as learning their lines for the play they will present at Celestial Stories.  

“Our play is an adaptation of a book by Alma Flor Ada, award-winning Cuban author and poet of more than 200 children’s books,” said teacher Cassia Laffin. “The story is called ‘The Lizard and the Sun.’ It is about a lizard who will not give up looking for the sun until he has found it. We are using it to explore the importance of perseverance and tenacity.

“We will also be making renditions of Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and learning the song ‘Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)’ by Don McLean,” Laffin added. 

In second grade, students are learning about traditional folk tales about the night sky from indigenous cultures including the Cheyenne and Iroquois tribes and others. The class is focusing on stories by Paul Goble, and in particular, the story “Star Boy” which describes how the tradition of the sundance came to be. 

“Second graders will also pick their own favorite Goble story to write a report on and present to the class,” said teacher Prema Gammons. 

Third grade enjoyed a field trip to the Tech Museum in San Jose, where they watched an IMAX movie about the James Webb Space Telescope. The class wrote their own script for a play about a young girl astronomer who has a backyard telescope. 

“The play weaves in science, MMS values, and ancient philosophy – there is even a Confucius quote woven into the story,” shared teacher Madeline Hayes. 

In fourth grade, students are learning about our solar system and its eight planets. Each student has been assigned a planet to research and create a five-paragraph essay about. 

“Students are studying the movements of the stars and learning about how explorers used the start to navigate the oceans long ago,” said teacher Nick Cabassa. During a class  trip to the Tech Museum, students observed some of the first images sent back from the James Webb Space Telescope. 

The fourth grade will perform an adaptation of the ancient Greek story about the constellation Aries, a prequel for the fifth grade’s performance. For the art component, fourth grade has joined fifth grade and their kindergarten little buddies to create a watercolor constellation piece. 

Fifth grade students are busy preparing their own constellation projects. Each student is researching a constellation of their choice and writing a report on its mythology and cultural significance that they will present to the class. They will also create an art piece that pays tribute to their constellation. Art pieces can be a song, dance, poem or a visual art piece. 

Lower school music teacher June Bonacich has been working with students all semester on the musical portion of the performance.

“We are incorporating recorders, hand bells and mallet instruments to accompany our songs,” Bonacich said. “Going with the theme of Celestial Stories, the students will be singing and playing songs about stars, the sun, the moon and wondering how we all fit into this universe.”



Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications, 

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The program, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.