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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Playing in Africa

For a while now the children have been creating their play in Africa.
Taking their cue, I decided to introduced some projects, stories, and songs into the school that take place in Africa or that are influenced by Africa.
It is encouraging to see how their interests fuel further learning.
We have talked about the animals of Africa.  That Africa is actually a continent, which to preschoolers is a broad concept, but we talked in terms of it being a large piece of land with lots of little parts in it that are called countries. 
We have also been learning a song, which I learned from African dance with Elena and Greg Mosley.  They love this song, which is from Nigeria and is called Funga Alafia, and we have also been working on our African  drumming and singing along.  Below are the lyrics to the song and their meaning.

Fungu Alafia is a traditional song from Western Africa (Nigeria) sung in the Yoruba language and means "welcomes and blessings".

Funga Alafia
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Drum solo and ¼ turns around in a circle.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
(With my thoughts, I welcome you.
With my words, I welcome you.
With my heart I welcome you.
See, I have nothing up my sleeve.)
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay.
Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay. Funga alafia, Ah-shay Ah-shay

 Painting Sticks
There are many art projects from Africa that I could have chosen for the children to learn, however I wanted to relate the art to their play in some way.  I wanted them to have an authentic relationship with their play and learning about this continent that they have been playing in for the last couple of months.  They love playing with sticks, so I looked into the significance of sticks in African culture.  Interestingly, I found an online book called African Material Culture by Amoldi, Geany, and Hardin, which is a textbook, but had a chapter on sticks in African culture, namely the Booram Oromo Society. 
The Booram Oromo is a society in Africa that stretches from parts of Ethiopia to Mombosa and Kenya and parts of Somalia.  Sticks symbolize the the structural changes in different levels of society and different significant stages of life.  They also symbolize a link to the past and present and grounding an individual.  Keeping them connected to the natural forces of life and creation.  All a little bit heady to explain to a preschooler, however still significant.  They can understand the concept that a stick symbolizes an important part in a persons life, that in Africa people get a special stick when they get married, or perhaps when they are sick, or just when they are getting older.  They also can understand the importance of staying grounded and connected to nature, and that a special stick can do this for us.

With this explained to the children, they chose their own sticks they would like to make special.
They then painted their sticks for our art project.
The sticks are beautiful, but what I loved the most was the the authenticity of their play and their joy in learning about Africa.  We still play regularly in Africa and look for more posts because I am sure we will continue to learn more about Africa together.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Learning About Sound and Vibration

This week we explored the concept of sound and vibration.  We also talked about what media the children are aware of that produces sound.  We heard answers such as; radio, Cds, and Ipods, but only a couple knew what a record album was or even a cassette tape.  These are defiantly modern times.  I showed the children a record and then we did a fabulous experiment my husband taught me.  We placed the album on his turntables and using a sewing needle placed through a tunnel of construction paper, the children heard music coming from the cone of paper.
the children were transfixed as they heard music come
 out of a piece of paper. and we talked about how the vibration of sound is what is traveling through the cone.
Here I am showing them, but then they each took turns.  It is a little tricky so they need some assistance, and if you try this at home, use a record you do not mind getting scratched.

Click on the play button below to hear the music

We also played with a tuning fork, which the children enjoyed hitting on the floor and then shaking to get an altering sound.  From this, our conversation on vibration continued.  We talked about other things that vibrate, such as our tongues when we all would say buzz, or on this particular day it was raining, so we pounded on the floor like thunder and one of the children pointed out that the floor was vibrating.  We also talked about instruments that make sounds when things vibrate, such as guitar strings.  It was a neat conversation because we sing and create music a lot at school, but we never really talked about the creation of sound.
After our discussion we went into art time where we set the children up with acrylic paints and
discarded records.  I then put on a mix of different styles of music.  The children were invited to paint on their records in the rhythm of the sounds they were hearing.  We saw things like swirling motions for soft music such as Celtic music and drumming  and dabbing motions when the African drumming and Herbie Hancock were played.

Click play on the picture below to see the process:

A finished Album