May 22nd, 2009
May 13th & 22nd
We took two final trips to Summit Charter School in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The students here have recently relocated to these new schools grounds, with vistas of the hills they walked and did a trash clean up to share, a lesson they captured on video, to share in valleys on another continent. The 2nd graders could hardly contain themselves as they watched the video of their mosaics being shared with Mrs. Beauty’s class at EP Primary in Ho. There were continual outbursts of joy, with identifying their own artwork, as a group it was a constant stream of excitement. They were especially overjoyed to see the songs about Kofi the Farmer sung and acted out!
While much more contained, the impact was also noted by the 7th graders that just joined in this exchange, and the 8th graders whom now twice have offered an art experience that the Prince of Peace boarding students. They appeared most moved by the excitement of the Ghana students to have the freedom to create and share with the materials.
Thank you Ms. Leslie Rosenberg and Mrs. Laurie Amerson for your creative spirits and open hearts to bridging these kids this year.
May 15th, 2009
Barnwell Elementary School, Alpharetta, GA
“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.” -Jean Houston
Laughter will be one of the memories for the exchange between these groups. As this class shared the books they were sending last fall, the entire class burst into laughter. As we shared the video of this to the children at EP Primary, they also shared in the laughter. The kaleidoscope of new possibilities also came from the beautiful poems that this class sent, and the lessons they taught the children in Ghana of new ways to express the beauty of the natural world around them. As the EP poems and drawings were shared, the positive comments swirled in the room. As Ceci shared, she realized that she “can make a difference in this world!”
“They are so talented and creative!”, one student exclaimed. “What I like best about mine is… and … over there her poem is great because…”. Not only were the students thrilled with their own poems, they took equal pride in sharing what was amazing about the others. Thank you Mrs. Stiers and Mrs. Woodman for the generosity of the book drive, and the colorful poems which added new dimensions and possibilities to the learning experiences for the EP students for now and years to come.
May 11th, 2009
Oglethorpe Charter School, Savannah, GA
This school began their projects with banners of peace and friendship, and completed the circle with banners of thanks! Mr. Butler’s students came period after period to see the films, ask questions and share their thanks. This was clearly the largest expression of gratitude we have seen expressed, with students in each class reading letters of thanks and sharing about the impact of being involved in this project this year. The back of classroom is adorned with the projects from Africa. I am asked to step outside after a class and am surprised by multiple banners of thanks from the students in each class. RC Mixed Primary, your letters and drawings inspired these students and connected them to the power of gratitude, one of the most valuable lessons we all can learn from. Thank you Mr. Butler for all of your hard work in engage the entire 7th grade in this project this year!
May 8th, 2009
We reconnect with St. Andrew’s School this Friday, reminding us of our declaring Friday to be “Fun Friday” while we were in Ghana, and are excited to be on the coast at the end of these week of exchanges across Georgia. Two large groups of 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 8t graders gather to see the films and receive their projects. The projects reached several schools and a village, and the students were glued to seeing their projects spread so far and wide. As we continue to observe, there is a powerful exchange among all the students and teachers, young and old alike, as they receive the letters, drawings, and colorful pouches in return from you all at Prince of Peace, Ziavi, EP Primary in Ho and Sokode-Bagble. You all have done a phenomenal job of sharing your humanity!
The first annual Arts on the Marsh was a great success, enabling us to share more with the parents the impact their children have had on the students in Ghana. The colorful bags and beads moved rapidly, helping us to cover some expenses for the travel to make this cross cultural exchange possible.
Thank you Mrs. Jeanie Knight for being such a Super Star teacher and going above and beyond with your projects! Thank you also to Mrs. Stubbs, Mrs. Beckman, Mrs. Connor, and Mrs. Keine for the colorful pouches and crayons which have added so much excitement and color to these village children’s lives.
May 7th, 2009
Stevens Creek Elementary
We began the day with the 1st grade class at Stevens Creek Elementary receiving notes of thanks from the Prince of Peace P1 class. They were really excited to see how excited you all were to receiving the letters from another class, even though their own did not make it time for this trip. As we passed around the letters, the room became filled with excitement as everyone wanted to share with each other what their new friend had to say. Both classes truly touched each other’s hearts. Thank you Mrs. Brisco, Mrs. Ballard, and Mrs. Ratley for participating in this exchange this year.
CT Walker Magnet School
“Stories become “testaments”, old or new, that choreograph the life of the community.” – Stephen Larson
The students at CT Walker received the completion to the story they began. Their friends in Prince of Peace P5 completed what they started, with a joining of the two cultures and friends miles away in the celebration of a birthday dinner after a day at the pool. The collaboration on this story is part of what makes the story so unique, as well as the joy and universal themes shared. Ethel, Jett was so pleased to receive the responses to his questions and hear more about your family. Liberty, Will could hardly contain himself, and was eager to share your letter with his classmates. They mostly loved seeing you all read their letters out loud to each other, and were very impressed by how well you all are reading English. These two classes are part of a new rising global community, bound in friendship and common pursuit of their hopes and dreams. Stay tuned for the rest of the story, as future chapters are added as these students walk connected paths. Thank you Mrs. Painter and Mrs. Gerardot for starting this story, and enabling all of the children to have their own copies of this original story written collaboratively across the globe.
Riverside Middle School
Two assemblies of multiple classes gathered with joyous anticipation today to see their friends again, and the response to their projects. The middle school students feel nearly silent, with bursts of giggles, and pointing seeing their friends in Ghana. We shared how the beautiful recycled glass beads are made, and other cultural traditions. They were amazed to see all of you pilled in the room mesmerized by the Planet Earth movie. These were among their favorites. A couple of students came up to us after the presentation and shared that their friendship bracelets from the last exchange are framed, or hanging in their rooms which they look at and think of you all each day! Thank you Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Morris, and Mr. McDaniel.
May 5th, 2009
“How did you learn in school today, and who are you now?” An international leader in education, Stephanie Pace Marshall, posits that we ask this question of our children, rather than simply, “What did you learn in school today?”
The Cliff Valley 4th graders learned from their heart spaces today as they saw their creative expressions mounted on the walls in a classroom in Sokode-Bagble, Ghana. Jennifer held her hand over her heart as she watched the video of the students she is now connected to, next to her- with tears in her eyes- is Ms. Peters, their art teacher. The creative genius of their “Go Blue” theme encouraged genuine dialogue about protection of the rivers and streams in Ghana. The entire class resoundingly cheered at the end of our time, as if at a pep rally, that they wanted to remain connected and reconnect with this class next school year. Who are they now? I believe all of you are inspirations and cartographers creating new maps for a more harmonious future in human relations and our environment. Thank you Mrs. Kate Sidorski and Ms. Kathy Peters for creating such an open and welcoming space for these kids to speak from their hearts and join together by a shared learning purpose.
May 4th, 2009
We will be posting in the next couple of weeks the full circle blogs, of the US kids receiving their projects from their friends in Ghana. We will share it much from the perspective of the kids, their joyous responses, and how they have expressed the impact of this project on their lives.
Holy Innocents’ 4th Grade
On a very dark rainy Monday morning, the first of our reconnections was Mrs. Jennifer Brown’s 4th grade class at Holy Innocents’ in Atlanta. The warmth of the African sun could be felt as the room was infused with heartfelt connections through songs that these students, although thousands of miles away, sang together. Mrs. Brown’s twenty students chose to sing “With My Own Two Hands” by Ben Harper as their project to reconnect with Mrs. Aurelia Atsu’s classroom at EP Primary in Ho, Volta Region, Ghana. What started as one class singing spread like a harmattan grass fire in the school, and local area, with hundreds of kids learning this song.
Holy Innocents’ Webmaster and Communications Associate, Bonnie Taylor and Sarah Alexander, were in attendance that day to help capture this story. Please click on this link to see the rest of the story, told in print and video, and footage or both connections- Click here.
Holy Innocents’ 2nd Grade
We returned again in the afternoon to share the “Heart People” project from Susan and Lena’s P2 classes with Mrs. Audra’s Thompson’s class. The kids were glued to the screen watching you all make the heart people! The kids excitedly shared their heart people, comparing them to their own, and holding them up like prized trophies. They sang a beautiful song for you as well, “May the Lord Bless You.” We look forward to sharing their excitement with you, and this beautiful song, next time we are in Ghana.
A special thank you to Mrs. Terri Potter, Mrs. Jennifer Brown, Mrs.Audra Thompson, Mrs. Anne Reiger and Mr. Charles Schoen for your support and encouragement in making this international exchange possible! Thank you also to super star volunteer Ann McGinley, for traveling to Africa and Atlanta all the way from California to play the “G-tar”, as they say in Ghana. Music, art, and love, are universal languages which transcend barriers created by distance and misunderstanding. All of you who used your own hands, and hearts, truly changing the world! Akpe ka ka!!
March 31st, 2009
This is our last full day facilitating classes, making final fundraising purchases, and we are busy from sun up to sun down. As we arrive at RC Mixed, nearly the entire school is outside cleaning the rocky schoolyard, sweeping the dirt with a hand full of long dried grasses- always a fascinating process. The children settle back into their classrooms and RC P6 completes the letters for Oglethorpe School, including a lesson in Ampe- a favorite game amongst the girls here.
We move onto EP P3 for our final rehearsal of My Own Two Hands. Aurelia is out sick, so both P3 classes are jammed in the room which equals close to 100 students! Ann quickly gets out the guitar to garner interest and we cross our fingers that we can “edutain” this large group in the sweltering heat of mid-day. First accomplishment is going over the lyrics and making it thru one complete round of the song. The room swells with energy so by the end of our time, there is a small case of pandemonium we are orchestrating… yet we can’t help but smile at the beauty of it all that started from a class at home wanting to share this song. And a big thanks for Ben Harper and Jack Johnson!
Next we fuel up with our usual mid-day ice cold Coke, which we are now referring to as our “medicine” and head to RC Girls for one more round of With My Own Two Hands. They perform a short play for us and then enjoy several renditions of the song. They are the first group to add natural harmonies and are smiling the whole way through, beginning “from the top!” each round we sing. We discuss afterwards linking the messages we dialogued about after Planet Earth and the parallels to the song. After a little thought, and some minor hesitation, they share one-by-one “I can protect the animals with my own two hands.” “I can protect the environment, with my own two hands.” ”I can protect the flowers with my own two hands.” Flowers always seem to be a priority with this group, a natural for girls of this age in any country!
We have been on an escapade looking for a colored copy machine- day after day- to preserve some of the beautiful poems written by Mrs. Woodman and Mrs. Stiers 5th grade class at Barnwell Elementary in Alpharetta, Georgia. Since we were down to the wire, we had to settle for a scan, as the few color copiers that exist in town are all “spoiled” we are told. As we sit waiting, our clothes and skin slowly adhering to the plastic chairs, another favorite past time here in Ho, we run into a couple of the girls from RC coming into make additional copies of the song just after we’ve left them, a sure sign of enthusiasm and validation that the message of the song has reached their hears. The cost of making copies not a light decision. We pass them a few that remain in the folder for our visit to another class and they come back shyly just once asking for a few more to hand out to friends.
We head off to our afternoon session at EP to complete the animals in their environments and to begin reading and writing poems. We will have our final session with them tomorrow and then a closing celebration Thursday morning. They are eager to finish their projects and beam with pride as we slide them into plastic protector sheets in a new 3-ring binder that we will present back to the children in the U.S. They excitedly pass around the colorful poetry and pictures we’ve brought and eagerly read thru the poems at their desks in small groups. It is amazing how the colorful paintings on these projects from the U.S. almost create a glow in the classroom in contrast to the cinder block walls and sea of dark green school uniforms of the children. We introduce the poems we have learned that they may be familiar with ranging from “bah bah blacksheep…” and “rain, rain go away…” to poems that educate even the little ones on health and hygiene issues that they all face here in Ghana. I guess it’s not unlike our own “stranger danger” and messages from Smoky the Bear. We hope to work more with them tomorrow on the freedom of creative expression that the U.S. children have demonstrated so beautifully. Like “Listen” written by Isaiah Shaw from Barnwell Elementary, Trees shake/as angels fly by/and drop their poems/on the face of the earth./God is telling us to listen.
March 30th, 2009
We begin our final week with the new school EP Primary Sokode-Bagdle. The children are singing lined up in morning assembly, our smiling faces ready to greet each other again. We begin our exchange with P4, paired with Cliff Valley School in Atlanta, and working on the “Go Blue” theme. We are taken from the class temporarily to meet the local chiefs under a palm thatched outdoor structure; in actuality, one Chief, two Elders and the Secretary for the Chief. They are given our mission and share their feedback. They say that they want us to return, when we receive an invitation, for their annual festival so that we can “fasten the belt of unity between our cultures tighter” We return to a happy P4 room, adorned with all the Cliff Valley School artwork, and many drawings already well in progress. On to the combined P3 classes to work on the index card letters. The kids have already drafted their letters, and are eager to transfer them and color. Ann takes a break and plays with all the KG kids, running around in a cacophony of laughter and joy. The school gathers to send us off true Ghanaian style with songs, and a gift of beads. A prayer is also said for our safe journey home and hopes that we will return soon.
Holy Innocents’ second grade class project was under way today in a very excited P2 classroom at EP back in Ho. They loved seeing their handprint art work in the children’s hands in America, and were even more excited to receive the construction paper heart people! Cut and pasting is a rare treat, as is colored paper, so there is a wonderment that fills the air and learning some special skills. How foreign the thought, we say to each other, having not experienced cutting out hearts in childhood. The project will continue tomorrow, and the heart people which are now hanging around the room are a real and tangible reminder of the heartfelt expressions and love sent from a far away land, not so far away anymore.
We get one final dance lesson this afternoon, and have learned enough that the perpetual laughter, or attempt to conceal it, has mostly subsided and is replace by tacit smiles of the bond of sharing this experience. We love getting to learn from them and be a part of their cultural traditions. We share dinner with Vida, the Head of EP School, and reflect on the project. Ann inquires as to the impact she feels it is having on the school. Her first response of many is from a child that joined her in the office the other day while paying fees. She reports that this child asked if “our friends” were coming today. The child goes on to state that, “They are lovely people, I don’t want them to go; can’t we invite them to just stay here with us.” Vida explains that there are children at home that we also will be working with and does she want to prevent us from sharing with those children as well. Vida’s first response to the impact of Children Inspiring Hope is one from a child’s inquires and heartfelt expression of connection.
March 27th, 2009
Today was a day of song, dancing, and celebration. Given that we also spent most of last Friday in song and dance, we have decided that this trend of Fun Fridays should continue! We greet a new school this morning, EP Primary in Sokode-Bagdle. The Head Madame is Mawuse whom we met at EP Primary in Ho-Bankoe our first trip for Children Inspiring Hope. This school is a little out of Ho, and a more rural area. There is a peaceful feeling here, and the students greet us with a beautiful song that Mawuse translates for us. “They are singing about what each of us can do to move forward and make Ghana a better place, how we are all inter-connected.” We are introduced to each teacher then move to two specific classrooms that have been chosen for the exchange with Cliff Valley School in Atlanta and St. Andrews School in Savannah, Georgia. The P4 class is excited to see all of the projects and by the time we leave every single one of them have been hung on the walls. We greet the P3 class, who will be getting what is left of the index card letters and self-portraits. They proudly stand to read these cards out loud impressing us with their strong language skills. Then they excitedly share some of their favorite things to do as a “warm-up” for when we return next week for them to create their own index card letters and portraits. A little boys arm pump is not lost on us when we pull out the zip lock bag of color and leave it on the teacher’s desk. Before parting, we meet the KG little ones, and can hear them singing “If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands.”
We are charged with the energy of this new connection as we drive towards another wonderful new connection we’ve made with two amazing Dutch men. Jan and Hans have invited us today to the Celebration Ceremony for Shoonhaven: Cured Lepers Village they have created and funded here in Ho after witnessing the unbelievable conditions these handicap live in even after they are cured. Shoonhaven is the name of their hometown in Holland and it means beautiful garden. The women and children gathered to dance for us are like bouquets of color in their brightly printed fabrics and the joy they exude this day. The drums beat as special guests arrive including the local Chief and the media. The elderly cured lepers are seated waiting patiently to receive keys to their new homes and clap and sing in celebration for the kindness that has touched their hearts. The sweetness of this project and being able to share this day of celebration with our new friends whose basic humanity inspired it will not soon be forgotten.
Our continuation of letter writing to RC Mixed has been canceled, and the kids are in games this afternoon and on early release, but we are able to engage with the EP kids in a dance lesson this afternoon. Ann gets a roaring cheer as she crosses the sandy classroom floor swinging her hips and moving her arms to the complicated rhythms. I am told more than once by the leader to stop laughing and be serious; clearly he missed the Fun Friday memo. We are pouring sweat out of every pore by the end of this session.
I finally find the time to drop by and say hello to Eryam & Koku, the children on a path not far from us that we checked on so much last trip working to heal Eryam’s foot. As I walked down the familiar path through the palms and banana trees, I am filled with gratitude for this day and all the beauty being exchanged and am lifted by acts of kindness all around us. As I enter their small path to the mud huts, Koku yells out for Eryam and both charge at me for hugs.
My visit is short, as it is the end of the day. They walk me back, each holding a hand. With each step, I give thanks for this small slice of heaven and the privilege to be here and connecting the children back home.