One story, titled Yatandou by Gloria Whelan, told of how a little girl and the women of her village used their various talents to earn money to make it no longer necessary to work for three hours at a time to complete a task. The book shared an African tradition passed down from generation to generation of women using a very heavy instrument called a pounding stick to grind the millet corn for their village. The Kindergartners also observed materials depicting this common tradition. We discussed the technique of batik-ing (using a wax resist process while tie-dying fabric) that is found in a lot of traditional Indonesian and African clothing. We also inspected a wooden carving of a woman with baby and pounding stick and noted its textures, weight and composition. We speculated about the origin of the African sculpture.
Another book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, explained how an actual teenager in Malawi made it possible for his fellow villagers to work their farms into the night because of his witty invention. A third story, My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff provided a surprising twist of the "helper" versus the "one in need." A child in Africa hears of a problem in the village of New York City during the Depression era and rallies her village to assist them. This story is a perfect followup and catalyst to our bottled water drive for the families of Flint, Michigan. Please see the previous February blog, "Would You Drink That Water" for more details of our journey. The Kindergartners desire to collect a total of 1000 bottles of water to donate to the residents of Flint, MI.
Our African American history month began with a story titled A Patchwork Path. This story told of a little girl who learns of a family tradition of sharing secrets embedded in bed quilts. She finds that the brightly colored geometric squares hold more than swatches of her family's outgrown garments but also contain a secret code and a map to freedom. Kindergartners later used brightly colored paper to create their own patchwork square with an embedded code. These will be used as patterns for an upcoming batik dye project on fabric.
Secret codes and "Underground Railroads" were not the only witty inventions used during the time of slavery. Other stories we read, Henry's Freedom Box: The Story of Henry Box Brown by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson and Freedom Song by Sally M. Walker each told of a clever way that a slave solved his problem of desiring to escape the cruel conditions imparted onto Black people in the 1800s.
Kindergartners also attended Wild Swan Theatre's production of "African Folk Tales" this month and were treated to a time of celebration of African American culture prior to abduction and slavery. Oral stories, tales passed down like pounding sticks and patchwork squares, were yet another way to share history, tradition and culture. The most famous of this stories are the "Spider" or Anansi Tales found throughout many countries in the continent of Africa. This clever character, sometimes depicted as a man or rabbit as well as an arachnid is a notorious trickster who sometimes gets tricked himself. We also heard other Anansi adventures and will continue to read about fellow tricksters and myths into March, National Reading Month.
Kindergartners will be accepting bottled water donations beginning Tuesday, March 1st. Please stay tuned to dates for our other water fundraising efforts!