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Paul Hillman

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African lesson unit @ Madison Park School, Jan-March 2006

For the past 8 weeks the seventh and eighth graders (approx. 200 youth) at Madison Park School (a title one facility), Phoenix, under the direction of Anna Keenan, geography teacher, have experienced learning about the "African Continent" through the visual, performing and literary arts expression of multiple guest artists and presenters.


Introduction of lesson in poster board displays

Funding for this project was made available through a grant with the Phoenix Office of Arts And Culture, applied for by The Bead Museum in Glendale, Arizona. The lesson unit designed to accompany this quarter of school instruction adheres to the http://www.ArtsCARE.org/cac3.shtml "14 Guiding Principles of Cultural Arts Coalition Programming & Practices in the Community" (This listing is a take off on "Best Practice: New Standard for Teaching and Learning in America's Schools" by Zemelman, Daniels and Hyde, 1998) Please note there have been modifications to the original document to meet criteria set by the Cultural Arts Coalition. Wording in italics comes from original document.


Additional literature added to the curriculum

Many of the artists who supported this 8 weeks of various learning activities are Cultural Arts Participants:
  • Christy Puetz, Visual Arts Roster artist and Director of Education @ The Bead Museum
  • judy butzine, one of the founders of the Cultural Arts Coalition
  • Christy Sholola, journalist and teacher with a background in African Studies
  • Kawambe Omawale Drum & Dance Theatre including the expertise of ASU Professor Dr. Mark Sunkett
  • Keith Johnson, Roster Artist "Extraordinaire" who spent two weeks in an African musical residency with these 200 children.
  • Additionally planned Teacher activities:
    • Bringing the "Lost Boys from Sudan" to the school and selling some of their clay figures to support refugee programming.
    • The Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda


Keith Johnson with some of the students

The Bead Museum is one of the few cultural sites in the greater Metropolitan area whose educational staff outreaches into community providing integrated arts activities that accompany an interdisciplinary learning curriculum. http://www.beadmuseumaz.org/yoruba/yoruba.index.asp Through partial funding provided by a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts two years ago, this curriculum was designed and tested in two area schools (2004-2005).

Ms. Keenan and Mr. Ramos, Principal at Madison Park, were very supportive of implementing this project at their school when Judy and Christy approached them for the collaboration.

All of the 7th and 8th grade teachers were more than willing to embrace this comprehensive lesson unit and expand the dialogue and teaching into their specific areas of instruction. Complimentary literature was selected and read to the children depending upon their interest.


Madison Park students play for the audience

The teachers reached out into the community to bring the "Lost Boys Of Sudan" to the school to tell their courageous stories. Open House for parents midway through this arts/educational process brought Keith into the school to dress the students in African fabric and demonstrate what he was teaching their children.


Student African musical event with Stilt Walker

Christy Puetz and judy butzine came into the school and created visual arts expressions with the 200 students out of tree branches, representational figures of the children's ancestors. These students had already interviewed their family members to obtain those stories. Reflections by each child of what this total process has meant to them were to be written concluding the Watoto concert. (Exhibition of this art and writings will occur at ASU in May through Community Partnerships Director Melanie Ohm, another founder of the CAC.)


The visual arts expression with Christy Puetz, The Bead Museum

The culminating event of the 8 week unit occurred Wednesday, March 8th, with an hour performance by the orphaned children from Uganda who sang songs "uplifting the human spirit to give a hand to someone in need". As I observed 400 children respond to the Joy in the singing and dancing these African children conveyed to their audience, it became very clear that the ARTS IS A UNIVERSAL EXPRESSION OF UNITY AND PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES FOR ONE TO ACHIEVE IN SPITE OF TREMENDOUS ODDS.


Watoto Children's Choir performs

At the conclusion of this concert Mr. Ramos spoke of the genuine UNITY (TOGETHERNESS) that at that very moment was felt by all in this large gym. And how he hoped that each child from Madison Park carried this powerfully shared feeling with them each day as a REMEMBRANCE OF THIS PROFOUND EXPERIENCE.

Ms. KEENAN IS PREPARING A COMPREHENSIVE VIDEO AND WILL BE A GUEST PRESENTER AT THE CAC COMMUNITY FORUM ON SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14TH AT THE ASU DOWNTOWN FACILITY. MARK YOUR CALENDARS.