member Bao Ku Moses dancing with Mills Lawn students this month
during the groups residency at the school.
learn to dance to a new drum
How am I different
from and similar to others in my community and across the world?
Last week, Mills Lawn students received very specific answers to that
question, as artists-in-residence from the African drum and dance school
Bi-Okoto shared details about an African childs day, including breakfast
food and the games played after school.
Captain Crunch, called out one second-grader, when Kwame Pongo
of Ghana asked the children what they eat for breakfast. But in Africa,
he said, children most often find tea and porridge on their breakfast
African children walk to school rather than riding a bus, Pongo said,
and when they arrive, the first thing they do is find a broom.
You grab a broom and sweep the hallway, he said. In
African schools we do our own cleaning.
Kids squirmed and furrowed their foreheads sweep the school? It
seemed a bit hard to grasp, like the part about African children having
to pay respect to their elders each morning, or clean the house after
But the children found similarities, too.
Hide and seek! We also play that in Africa, said Pongo after
a response to a question about what games Mills Lawn students play after
school. But when a boy offered Star Wars as his afterschool
activity, Pongo shook his head.
Woo! We dont play that one, he said.
Such sharing of the details of daily life expands a childs awareness
both of the world and of their place in the world, said Mills Lawn teachers.
This enriches their lives, said Mills Lawn second-grade teacher
Dorothy Poortinga. The kids are building global awareness. It opens
them up to knowing about different people.
Providing children opportunities to learn about themselves as well as
about those different from themselves was exactly what Mills Lawn teachers
had in mind last year when they created Looking Out, Looking In
Our Place in the World, a three-year school-wide program
that was partially funded by grants from the National Endowment for the
Arts, the Yellow Springs Endowment for Education and the Ohio Arts Council.
The programs centerpiece, which began in September and will extend
throughout the school year, is a series of visits by artists-in-residence
who will use drama, art and dance to help children explore the topic of
While most of the artists-in-residence will visit the school for a few
weeks or a month, Bi-Okoto will have a yearlong relationship with Mills
Lawn, involving two-day visits with all students each month. Such an ongoing
relationship means that the students and Bi-Okoto members get to know
each other on an individual basis, and that the African customs the group
teaches become more a part of students daily lives, said kindergarten
teacher Becky Brunsman, one of the projects organizers.
For instance, Brunsman said, each day the MLS News, the schools
daily radio program, begins with an African greeting. And teachers throughout
the school are finding ways to incorporate African culture into their
studies, such as art teacher Amy Minehart teaching students to create
musical instruments from gourds.
Overall, said Brunsman, the children are beginning to look out at
a whole new place in the world. Its opening their horizons.
To keep everyone focused on the goals of Looking Out, Looking In,
teachers display in their classrooms the programs three questions:
How does engagement in the arts develop us as sensitive and appreciative
members of a global community? How am I different from and similar to
others in my community and across the world? Which is more important,
our differences or our similarities?
While children from Africa and Yellow Springs may differ in what they
eat for breakfast or play after school, they seem to have found one strong
similarity what happens at the end of each Bi-Okoto session, when
Kwame Pongo sits behind an African drum and Bao Ku Mosess long limbs
When those drums start, said Brunsman, the kids are
up and moving.