Hearts Dancing - We Begin!
We arrive in Davi (Sister) Beauty’s 3B classroom at EP Primary a bit late, having forgotten that this is Ghana and things do not always go as planned. The students don’t mind and greet us with lots of enthusiasm – You are welcome! they shout in unison while rising to their feet. We begin our introduction with the Children Inspiring Hope circle, holding hands in the warm classroom and sharing our favorite things in nature. With shining (mostly due to the heat) and joyful faces, each student says what he or she loves most about nature. Trees, mountains, stars, flowers, and rivers are some of the responses. We realize that these are the same things the students in Mrs. Beckman’s class love most about nature too! The earth mobiles from 2nd graders at St. Andrews School in Savannah, Georgia, were a big hit!! The Ghanaian students pick them up and wave them in the air to watch the hearts dance. They look closely at the pictures and are excited to notice that they like the same things as their American friends. Students share the mobiles with their Ghanaian friends around the wooden desks. They are even more ecstatic when they find out they can actually keep them. We begin to work on the return projects for Ms. Beckman’s class by drawing a picture of the earth on paper circles and filling in the shapes with blue and green tissue paper. The occasional breeze through the open windows, blowing paper squares around the room and causes kids to scramble to pick them up and put them in their desks, or on their laps and in their skirts. Then, all too soon, it is time to move on.
The students in Davi Emma’s 3A class are wiggling with excitement when we arrive in their classroom. As we move around the opening circle, again, we notice how the Ghanaian student’s favorite things in nature match Mrs. Keines’ class – the sun, water, and animals. Before we getting to work, we discuss the importance of the environment. One student says, “It helps us to be alive.” This is a spot-on answer! We all clap the congratulatory rhythm that the Ghanaian classes use so often. Then the projects are given out. The reception of the earth mobiles mimics that of the next door; the students are delighted with the mobiles. They seem to love looking at the hearts that describe what their U.S. friends like in nature. They got to work right away on their return projects. They work hard filling in ‘water’ and ‘land’ shapes with the small squares of tissue paper. With just a little time left in the class, we teach the students how to cut a heart shape out of paper…chaos ensues. They love the hearts and ask for multiple pieces of paper. But it is time to go so we leave Emma’s class with students wanting to make more art for their new friends in the U.S. We’ll be back next week to finish up and we can’t wait to see the final product.
We take a break to eat, and small curious faces begin to gather around us. Some linger, some watch, and the clowns make faces looking for more response. Beyond these small faces, the schoolyard is teeming students playing games, eating avocados, running and chasing each other. Settling down in Veronica’s class takes a little time. Noise permeates the room from other classes, as well as the sounds of construction outside. Opening circles are good for settling in. Students have some different responses when stating what they like best about nature. Our favorite is the boy who says: “I like all the colors of the rainbow.” It seemed very appropriate with the song they will soon be learning from the students in 5th/6th grade chorus at St. Andrews School in Savannah. During our discussion on the importance of the environment we receive all kinds of excellent responses: the plants give us medicine, the rivers help us ship cargo, the trees give us oxygen. Each response gets the raucous, patterned clapping from classmates.
As we share the video of the choral group singing “What A Wonderful World”, the students listen and watch their American friends with big smiles. Then they practice reciting the song aloud. At the unveiling of the mural from St. Andrews students loud oohs and aaahs are heard. The 5B students quickly decide what to paint on their return mural, but before they can spread out on the floor to work, one student sweeps using a hand held bundle of palm fronds. The class splits to work on both parts of the projects, with Leslie and the mural in the front of the classroom, and a crowd into the back corner to practice the song with Kathee. Lyrics in hands, each student vies for their spot to re-watch the video- some are standing on the desks! We play it, again and again, and again ☺. Each time they wait until the very end when Mrs. Calhoun’s class says “Hello Ghana!” and then they wave back while shouting “Hello!” These children are very accustomed to singing and do it well. Kathee, who has been known to sing some nursery rhymes and occasionally in the car with the windows rolled up, may not have been the best choral teacher, but we all had a lot of fun. There was a high level of energy in the classroom and they weren’t ready for us to leave when the time came. But it was time to go so we left them with the words to the song to practice until we see them again. We’ll be back next week to finish the mural and shoot the video of their final performance. Like the children, we can hardly wait!