Hearts To Hands To Paper
We arrive at EP Primary in Ho this morning ready for another fun and hot day in Ghana! We are acclimating to the school routine now, but less so to the heat. Our days at EP are full with 3 classes and two breaks in between. As we walk up the covered porch that leads to Doris’s 6A classroom , through the open windows the children’s clapping and sounds of delight erupt upon seeing us approach. We are smiling because we feel the same! In opening circle, some get shy in front of the camera and need to be told to speak up, while others shout out their responses. The students giggle at each other and need to be reminded to be quiet during this circle.
These students are quick to be able to say why the things they like about the environment are important and why we need to take care of it. Again, similar responses are heard: stars, rainbows, plants, trees, water, and animals. However these children, who live more close to nature than many of us in the United States do, had some different ideas about why these things are important. Plants give us medicines, animals give us transportation, are some of the responses that may have been different from American children’s. Next we shared the projects from Mrs. Smircic and Ms. Duval’s 7th graders at St. Andrews School (SAS) in Savannah, Georgia. The students look at them carefully and read the descriptions the SAS students wrote. They show them to their friends and point out different aspects of the beautiful mandalas with smiles, awe and lots of talking. As we pass out the templates supplied for them to begin their own, the noise level dies down considerably. For the rest of the class the students work quietly, each engrossed in their own creation. They work carefully, sharing rulers, compasses and erasers. Most of these students are able to write their descriptions without any help, impressive as English is not their native language. Toward the end of the class we offer the letters from SAS students to those who want to write a return letter. Because they enjoyed working on the mandalas so much and had spent all of their class time on them, the letters will be written at home and we will pick them up next week.
As we head to Anita’s P4A class, students compete with one another to be selected to help us carry bags and materials- just a few doors down. We find ourselves empty handed as our belongings disappear in the melee that is EP’s break time: students play Ampe and other clapping games under the shade trees, chase each other through the play area, eat and get water from the large spouted plastic containers. The little ones follow us and try to communicate although they do not yet speak much English. When break is over, we stand in front of a wiggling room full of excited anticipation. During our discussion these students are quick to make the connection between taking care of ourselves AND taking care of the natural world. When the mandalas from Ms. Kapity, Ms. Lafontaine and Ms. Ward’s students at Summit Charter School are shown the students respond with oohs and aahs. We hold them up one-at-a-time for students to see. They pat their friends to notice the ones they like and point to themselves indicating which ones they would like to have.
These students get right to work and seem to know exactly what they want to create. They work intently, some making creative patterns and others dividing their mandalas in quarters to draw pictures. They are careful with the crayons and colored pencils and enjoy using the battery-operated pencil sharpener. They share and help each other easily. While heads are quietly bent to work, we can hear songs and the recitation of lessons drifting in through the open windows from neighboring classes. As they complete their drawing and coloring, Anita’s students begin to write the descriptions of their mandalas in the margins of the paper. We notice they help each other with writing and spelling. A few of these 4A students ask us how to spell words or to write what they want their friends at Summit to know about their mandalas. As class draws to a close, the students return colored pencils and crayons- careful to put each in their respective bags and boxes. We notice one student counting to be sure there are 24 crayons in the box he is returning. Then it is break time and we move through the ruckus to our next class. Once again we are empty handed but when we arrive at Rejoice’s 4B class, just next door.
In Rejoice’s opening circle there is, again, lots of giggling. As these students state their names and their favorite things in nature we notice the similarities and differences. The mandalas from Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Stone’s class at Cliff Valley School, bring smiles to the shiny faces. This classes artwork is so phenomenal, we have made pages of small images that we share with all the classes for examples! The now familiar cadence to the classes of pointing and talking amongst the children as CV beautiful creations are presented and transitions to a quiet peace as they work on their own. These students listen carefully to our lesson on mandalas and quickly grasp the concepts of symmetry and patterning. They get straight to work and ideas seem to flow easily from their hearts to their hands and onto the paper. Unfortunately this is a shorter class and the students are not finished when it is time to go. Although their school day is done these students have difficulty stopping. It seems they just want to finish coloring one thing or draw one more part. Finally we convince them that we will be back to finish these next week and they put their names on their creations and somewhat reluctantly hand them in to us.