ABS Thursday Notes- Sept 13, 2018
Published for the Arts Based School Community September 13, 2018
School Cancelled-Sept 13,14 due to Hurricane Florence.
How We Do It and Why
By Mary Siebert
“What sitting will not solve, travel will resolve.” – Fa-Digi Sisòkò from The Epic of Son-Jara: A West African Tradition
African storytelling includes a rich oral tradition. When these stories appear in American children’s literature they have been translated, not only from another language, but from another form. The American psyche expects our ubiquitous narrative fiction form: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. Beginning, middle, and end. For several years our 2nd graders performed a re-telling of the Legend of King Sundiata of Mali. There was always something missing, though the narrative structure was present. One summer, I came across a transcription of the original saga as told by a great Malian griot, (or jeli – the keeper of history through story, dance and music in African oral tradition,) Fa-Digi Sisòkò. It was full of humor, strange and wild imagery, adult content, and was completely lacking in the familiar western narrative form. Based on facts, it was also packed with fantastic exaggeration. In a column to the right of the page was on-going commentary: “Indeed. This is true. Yes, truly.” It seemed the response of a listening crowd. This did not resemble the westernized picture books we had been using.
The story was clearly one for adults. But many of the available African folk tales for children were “Americanized” and inauthentic, adapted by authors with no African heritage. A notable exception was Tololwa Mollel, a native Tanzanian children’s book author with a background in story-telling and children’s theater. I found Mr. Mollel, who was happy to share his heritage and stories. He had learned story telling from his Maasai grandfather. Listening, he said, is as important as telling in his tradition, and the commentary I had seen on the griot’s page was indeed that of active listeners, as “there is no story without them.” (This beautiful tradition of calling out response, encouragement, or agreement to a leader or performer is mirrored in many African-American events today.) Mr. Mollel said the richest value of a story is the lesson it teaches, not its entertainment punch or historical accuracy. Tololwa visited us several years ago, when we used several of his own books as the basis for our plays. He approved of and contributed to our process of adapting traditional stories for re-telling by our 2nd graders.
Sitting is not the most effective way to discover African cultures; instead we get active. Our second graders are just beginning the process of making the move from listeners to story-tellers. Working with drama teacher Heidi McIver, who teams up with their classroom teachers, the students have been introduced to the basics of the African continent. They will soon begin developing a unique retelling of a story from Liberia. Ms. Heidi will share the tale, then work with students to develop an original, kid-generated script, in the manner coached and approved of by Tololwa Mollel. As they recall the story, scene-by-scene, they improvise it actively; generating the fresh words to accompany the movement.
Visiting artist (and 1st grade assistant teacher) Dawanna Benjamin will perform a dazzling demonstration of African dance, along with fellow dancers and drummers. She has already begun visiting 2nd graders, teaching them the basics of African dance, and preparing dances that will also become part of their story-telling. African drumming with visiting artists from Tam Tam Mandingue Drumming School begin in music class this week. Then come staging rehearsals, and studies of African art and textiles in art class. Also embedded in the play is a unique “stick dance” learned in dance class; an exploration of adventures in the Liberian rain forest. Meanwhile, second-graders will study everything from geography and maps to cultural details and continental water shortages, in preparation for this adventure.
We emphasize the listener and the participation of the story-teller, with the hope of opening young minds to the importance of stories, ushering them into the beauty of African traditions. Families of 2nd graders are invited to come and participate, as the active listeners.
Save the Date! 2nd Grade Performances
Second graders will perform “The Cowtail Switch” in Lloyd Presbyterian Church (our neighboring little white church) with Ms. Dawanna and guest African drummer Allen Boyd:
Ms. Jess, October 15, 12:15-12:45 – Lloyd Presbyterian Church
Ms. Setser, October 16, 12:15 – 12:45 Lloyd Presbyterian Church
Ms. Tiffany, October 17, 12:15 – 12:45 Lloyd Presbyterian Church
North Carolina Vaccine-Specific Requirements
The North Carolina General Statutes (G.S. 130A-152(a)) require immunizations for every child present in this state. Every parent, guardian or person in loco parentis is responsible for ensuring that their child(ren) receive required immunizations. If you have specific questions regarding your child, please contact your child’s health care provider or your local health department.
Kindergarten, 7th grade students, and any students new to the school system who are not compliant with state immunization requirements will not be permitted to attend school on Friday, September 21.
Parent Council Meeting reschedule for Friday, Sept 21 at 8:15.
ABS Family Directory
Each family will be receiving a PDF of the ABS Family Directory this year. It will be sent via email to parents. Printed copies can be requested at the front desk. Please remember the directory is published for the private use of The Arts Based School families. Under no circumstances is the directory information to be used for sales, solicitations, or any other commercial purpose.
We’re excited to announce Mrs. Frazier’s return. She will be back in her fifth grade classroom on Monday, Sept 17. Although they will miss the teaching time, Mrs. Hollis and Mrs. Raper will be happy to get back into their administrative roles full time.
Mrs. Liz Green (ABS Curriculum Coordinator) and her husband welcomed baby Lucy Anne to the world. She was born September 7, 2018 at 2:51pm, 6lbs. 11 oz. 19.5 inches Both are doing well. Mrs. Green plans to return to ABS after her maternity leave.