Have you ever wondered why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears? CICS West Belden students explored that question in their performance of the annual 5th grade musical. This year’s show, “Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears,” was a musical adaptation of the West African folktale and was especially notable because, not only did students sing and act, but they also played accompaniments on live instruments, danced, and created both set pieces and original costumes. The show afforded our students the opportunity to connect emotionally to the arts through music, drama, dance, visual art, and literature.
Enrichment teachers, Mr. Lyerly (library/media) Ms. Ausmann (music), and Ms. Gore (art), each focused on a specific aspect of the play. In library/media class, students developed acting skills like expression, projection, pantomime, blocking, line memorization, characterization of movement, and constructive criticism. Each character in the play was an animal and students researched their particular animals to accurately depict its mannerisms for the performance. Furthermore, library/media students analyzed the meaning of the play and character motivations.
In music class, students sang authentic African folk songs and/or songs composed in an authentic African folk style. They also accompanied themselves utilizing a small percussion ensemble, including xylophones, djembes, bass bars, and various smaller instruments. While the melodic lines were simple, the accompanying rhythmic patterns were complex and fostered independent rhythmic skills, students’ knowledge of form, and note reading skills. In addition to singing and playing instruments, students performed complex dances requiring teamwork and cooperation amongst all students.
In art class, students created their own costumes using traditional West African textiles and stamping techniques. Students analyzed the meanings of Adrinkra symbols in order to authentically represent their character information and character traits in their textile designs. Students also painted a scenic backdrop that transformed the stage into an African jungle.
In addition to fostering unique aesthetic viewpoints, students simultaneously developed their 21st century skills- creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication – skills that are embedded throughout all parts of this production.
Students expressed themselves creatively by demonstrating originality and inventiveness in making textile stamps, bringing life to the script, and their musical choices. Students and teachers collaborated respectfully and responsibly to create a shared work of art. Students engaged their critical thinking skills by analyzing and interpreting the script, making connections between the folk tale and their production, and reflecting critically on their experiences. They learned how to communicate effectively in diverse environments and media through singing, playing instruments, dancing, acting, and costume making.
These unique opportunities are possible because CICS West Belden and Distinctive Schools are committed to the importance of a valuable arts education. While reading, math, and science are cornerstones of a child’s education, the arts allow students a consistent opportunity to connect with each other, create an expression of truth and beauty, and tangibly express the ineffable. The philosopher Plato once said, “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”
These cross-curricular Enrichment projects are further made possible each year by the Oppenheimer Teacher Incentive Grant, which funds project-based learning in Chicago Public Schools.