Learning West African Drumming and Dancing at Konnoak Elementary
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
March 5, 2019 – Christian Gomez had big fun when he and fellow third-graders at Konnoak Elementary learned about West African drumming and dancing last week.
“I really love music,” Christian said.
One of the things that he likes about music in general is that, when he is sad, playing a song he likes can make him less sad.
With the drumming and dancing classes, he also liked that, along the way, they learned about the West African history and culture and more.
“I liked that we learned the language,” he said.
On this particular morning, Christian was wearing a Superman T-shirt.
What does he like about Superman?
Thanks to a magnet school grant, third-graders had been studying with Greg and Shaliah Ince, who work with Living Rhythms and with Tam Tam Mandingue Winston-Salem, a branch of an international school of West African drumming.
On Friday, the third-graders were going to have the chance to let all the other students at the school experience some of what they had learned. As they were getting ready for the celebration in the gym, some of the other students also talked about their experiences.
Third-grader Brooke Ward had never drummed before. She discovered that she really liked drumming.
Anything in particular?
“The noise of it,” she said.
Brooke would like to keep playing drums.
Andrea Palacios had played drums at church. She, too, likes drumming.
“It’s loud,” she said.
Plus, it’s one of the few times when it’s OK to be loud.
Emma Hinshaw, who teaches third grade at Konnoak, said it had been a good experience for all of the students.
“They loved it,” Hinshaw said. “It’s something they have looked forward to doing every day.”
“It’s been a real positive thing for all of our students in third grade.”
Along the way, she had joined the students for a little drumming and dancing.
“It was fun,” Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw and other teachers were helping students put on the sashes they would wear for the performance, and, when it was time for the dancers to rehearse, she joined them on the steps to the stage.
Hinshaw enjoys teaching.
“Every day is different,” she said. “Every day is something new.”
Third-grade teacher Nayeka Uitenham, who was also helping students get ready, really likes teaching as well.
“I am passionate about molding students,” she said.
And she likes being around for those “ah-ha” moments when the unknown becomes the known.
Uitenham’s students were also excited about going to the drumming and dancing sessions each day. One of the fringe benefits of the experience, she said, was they had learned a lot about working together as a team.
While everyone was getting ready, the third-graders got to see a little bonus dancing. As Ronnie Crosby, the Day Porter at Konnoak, was opening the folding wall that separates the gym from the cafeteria so there would be room for everyone, he was laughing and dancing as he worked.
Crosby enjoys dancing.
“It makes me smile and be happy,” he said.
As Principal Shelia Burnette was zipping around taking care of details, she took a moment to talk about some of the benefits of the third-graders’ experiences during the week – learning about history and culture, learning about the importance of self-discipline, learning about teamwork, learning about the power of each person.
“One person can make or change the rhythm or beat,” Burnette said.
During the week, Konnoak had also been celebrating reading in conjunction with Read Across America. Friday was Character Day, and some students, along with teachers and other members of the staff, had come dressed as favorite characters from books.
Alya Day, an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, was dressed as Paddington Bear. Lots of Dr. Seuss characters were there – the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2.
After a parade of students dressed as characters, it was time for the program to begin.
When he came out, Greg Ince – who goes by Brother Greg – said, “We believe learning should be about having fun. You guys agree me?”
The enthusiastic response from the students made it clear that, they did indeed agree.
During the early part of the program, he filled them in on some of the history of drumming and dancing in West Africa and taught students some of the words connected to it.
And then, filled with excitement and enthusiasm, the Konnoak third-graders came out and showed everyone else at the school what they had learned.