A lively introduction to African studies Entertainers, curators enhance school lessons

March 26, 1996|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF

From listening to folk tales and studying transportation to watching African dances and learning about tribes, fourth-graders at Crofton Woods Elementary school are getting a lesson about Kenya that can't be found in any textbook.

As part of their geography, history, and government lessons on the African country, the students are learning about Kenyan arts and culture this week from a visiting storyteller, dancer, drummer and museum curators.

The African Experience began yesterday when Alice McGil delighted a crowd of about 120 children with "jump tales," or folk tales, so called because of the crowd's reaction to the story.

"It kept me jumping," said Chris Robinson, 9, referring to Ms. McGil's style of lowering her voice to a whisper, then booming into the microphone with her next thought. "Every time she did that I just shook."

Mrs. McGil will be followed by musician Tim Gregory, who will perform on African drums, and Liberian-born dancer Dr. Dawn Barnes, who will perform twice tomorrow and four times on Thursday. Carol and Doris Ligon from the Maryland Museum of African Art, who bring a hands-on presentation of masks, textiles, jewelry and musical instruments.

The two-week study of Kenya is part of every county fourth-grader's studies.

In their regular classes, students spend time studying Kenyan government, transportation, tribes and geography. But Crofton Woods teachers decided two years ago that they wanted to enhance the studies by including cultural aspects of the country.

Art teacher Barbara Cox, music teacher Carol Schwalm and dance teacher Bonnie Russell coordinated with the fourth-grade team of teachers at Crofton Woods to create a curriculum they can pass on to schools throughout the county.

They spent two years researching Kenyan art exhibits in museums and finding artists they could bring to the school for performances. They received two $3,500 grants from the Baltimore Community Foundation and the Cultural Arts Foundation of Anne Arundel County.

With the money, they hired an artist in residence last year to perform dances and songs for the students over the weeklong project. This year the money was spent on more artists and Kenyan masks, clothing and musical instruments, which will be put into a chest and shared with other schools next year, Ms. Cox said.

Each school that takes a chest must agree to develop a new lesson plan and add it to the chest when it is returned.

"I think it makes the arts more alive," said Ms. Cox. "They're going to learn and appreciate the arts of other cultures."

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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