It's not every day that you can walk into an elementary school and see students snacking on sushi, taking a whack at a piñata or listening to a speaker about the experiences of an African Safari. On May 25, you could have seen all of these things, along with many more at the Manawa Elementary School.
On this day, students celebrated the culmination of a project-based learning activity they had been engrossed in for much of April and May. The project was introduced by Manawa Elementary School's Art, Music and Physical Education teachers. Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Roenz and Mrs. Ziemer were all very excited to see how the grade level teachers embraced the activity and carried it over into their classrooms.
The basic idea was to introduce students to different cultures through the arts, focusing on specific art projects, music and dance, putting together a program that all students would participate in. The program was dubbed The International Arts Festival.
Each grade level was assigned a country or region of the world. Then, within Art they created a project in Music they learned a couple of songs, and within Phy. Ed. they were taught a dance from that region/country.
At the program, each grade level had the opportunity to share their dances and songs with the rest of the school, along with giving facts about their region/country and telling their peers about the history of their art projects, songs and dances. Their art projects were displayed throughout the gym and all of the students had the opportunity to admire those throughout the day.
The program was a huge success. All of the students were completely engaged and really seemed to enjoy watching their peers and performing. Within their classrooms, students did a myriad of other activities to explore their region/country. Thanks to funds provided by the PTO, they also got to experience different foods from their region/country too. For example, the Kindergartners had a traditional American picnic while the second-graders tried matzo balls and kosher hotdogs from Israel.
The International Arts Festival started with a surprise dance by a group of teachers. The teachers had spent the two weeks prior to the International Arts Festival learning a medley of dances from around the world. The students really got a kick out of watching their teachers move to the rhythm while doing a Swing dance, Irish Step Dancing and the Cha Cha!
Then the Kindergartners, who represented the United States, told everyone about their Native American Magic Power Shields, danced a traditional Native American Friendship Dance and sang "Yankee Doodle" and "I Love America."
The first-graders studied Mexico. They made Aztec Suns and Paper Flowers in Art Class, danced La Raspa (The Mexican Hat Dance) and sang a song where they counted to ten in Spanish and another about "La Piñata."
The second-graders, who focused on the Middle East, talked about the Egyptian Mummy Cats that they had made, danced the Israeli Horah, and sang two songs in Hebrew.
Japan was the country the third-graders focused on. Their art projects were Japanese Cherry Blossom Scrolls, they did a Bon Odori dance that pantomimed a miner's work day and they sang one song in Japanese and another that talked about the "Star Festival."
The fourth graders, who represented Australia, spent their time in Art making Aboriginal Drawings. They performed a dance called The Drongo and taught the rest of the school about the didgeridoo while singing "Kookaburra" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport."
While the fifth-graders were assigned Africa, they focused on the countries of Ghana while making Kente Cloths in Art, Morocco from singing "A Ram Sam Sam" and "Tina Singu," and South Africa where their dance, The Pata Pata, originates from.
The program ended with the sixth-graders, who were studying South America. They really focused on Brazil and the rainforest. In Art they made rain sticks, which they used in their final song, "Music of Life." They also sang two other songs in Portuguese and danced the Bossa Nova.
Mrs. Roenz, the music teacher, was very impressed by the work done by everyone throughout the project. She stated, "The students showed a lot of enthusiasm and respect learning about the music from the different cultures. They did a great job learning their songs in the languages of each of the countries represented. I couldn't have been happier with the response of all the students, kindergarten through sixth grade, during the festival itself. They were extremely attentive and interested in each other's presentations and gave it all they had when it was their time to perform. What a wonderful afternoon!"
"This project turned out better than I could have ever imagined," said Mrs. Ziemer, the physical Education teacher. "Walking throughout the building that Friday you could simply feel the excitement in the air."
Manawa Elementary School Art teacher, Mrs. Wilson says, "The IAF was an amazing experience for students and staff alike. I think we all learned something new about the countries being studied. It was really fun to see the whole school working together to make this a very special experience and to celebrate the arts in a unique way."
Mark Ziemer, who has traveled to South Africa twice, came in the morning of May 25 to talk to the fifth-graders about his trips. He was blown away by the students and staff of MES.
"It is obvious that the teachers at MES care deeply about their jobs and their students," he said. "The time and energy put into this project was endless and it was so neat to see the students be excited about learning about the world and other cultures."
With the help ofhigh school student Katelyn Langman and Computer teacher, Jen Krueger, the entire International Arts Festival can be viewed on the Manawa Elementary webpage.
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