Since the beginning of this school year, students at Marsh Elementary School in Absecon have been busily preparing for their 2013 Related Arts showcase, crafting projects about and learning songs and dances from the medieval period.

As March 21 - the evening of the performance - drew near, the students could hardly contain their excitement at finally being able to show off what they had learned. Nicole Rynkiewicz, whose 5-year-old daughter, Ava, and 7-year-old son, John, performed at the event, said Ava, in particular, had anxiously anticipated the evening.

"Ava has been singing all of her songs every day after school," Rynkiewicz said.

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A small group of preschoolers opened the show, parading around the packed gymnasium to a medieval tune. Ava and her classmates took to the risers next, performing their renditions of medieval standards such as "Ring Around the Rosie" and "London Bridge." After a dance performance by the first-graders and a set of songs by the second-graders, there was a brief intermission.

The program resumed with a performance of the Maypole dance and two theater presentations, all by the third-grade classes. The fourth grade joined together to close the show, performing a dance called "The King's Noise" as one group.

In addition to learning the songs and dances, students have done medieval-themed projects in class, most of which carry across subjects.

The school's Related Arts curriculum is designed so that students can begin to understand the underlying links among the various subjects, said Rose Hagar, a member of the team that planned the program.

"In library, we'll read a story that has to do with something on the topic or the theme, and then we'll do maybe a little art project that goes with it for the younger grades," Hagar said. "For the third and fourth grades, we'll do a research project."

Other teachers on the Related Arts team are computer teacher Jacqueline Akeret, music teacher Lauren House, art teacher Jessica Stackhouse, Attales Middle School art teacher Carly Broomhead and phys ed teacher Doug Scholder. The program was funded through a grant from the Absecon Education Foundation.

Student projects from throughout the year were on display in the hall outside the gym. Among them were mechanical marshmallow catapults, painted stained-glass windows, and scenes of knights and dragons locked in battle made with construction paper.

Jody Hersh walked the hall with his 10-year-old son, fourth-grader Brian, before his performance. Hersh has been to the Related Arts night each of its seven years, having watched his three older children come up through the school. He said he enjoys seeing the students' work get more and more sophisticated over the years.

"It's fun seeing what the kids do," he said. "The projects they do and how they progressed from kindergarten up until fourth grade, you really do see it."

The program has been a hit since it made its debut in 2007, drawing hundreds of family members to the schools complex to see the students' work. In fact, the show is so popular that at the start the crowds overflowed into the hall.

Absecon Schools Superintendent Jim Giaquinto said he was proud to say the Related Arts Night is the district's largest draw of the year.

"Look here, this evening, and see how many parents and community members are here," Giacquinto said. "It really has become the preeminent event for the Marsh Elementary School during the course of the year."

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