Smithsonian curator talks to Wade King students about Africa.

In early May 2015, Deborah Stokes, curator of education at the National Museum of African Art (part of the Smithsonian Institution) in Washington D.C., was onsite at Wade King Elementary teaching about the art of Africa and hosting art workshops with all grades.

Her visit was part of a comprehensive schedule of activities around World Tour Africa, an annual celebration of a different region of the world.

In fall 2014, Wade King students learned about the diversity of the continent through classroom instruction around the book Africa is Not a Country. In spring 2015, learning focused on four nations from four parts of Africa as examples of that diversity: Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda and South Africa.

Learning about the African countries was integrated into related units of inquiry at each grade level.  Third graders learned African rhythms and drumming in their unit on cultural expression through music. Fifth graders focused on the structures of governments in African countries, and how they compared with our government.  Books about Africa have been added to the library collection and the children are engaged in an African “Reading Passport” program through the National Museum of African Art.  A Family Resource Guide is available on the Wade King PTA website so children and their families can independently learn more about the continent through suggested materials, resources and activities.

Additional World Tour Africa activities included Wade King singers performing the South African national anthem with the African Children’s Choir, storytelling of traditional African tales, Ghanaian dance and music, presentations by African guests telling about their countries, and a Safari overnight at the Woodland Park Zoo.

World Tour Night is scheduled for June 5 and will feature African cuisine, a gallery of artwork created with the help of our visiting artists, and performances by Wade King students and guests inspired by their yearlong learning experiences.

The Smithsonian visit was made possible with grant funding by the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation and the Wade King PTA. During her time in Bellingham, Stokes also presented Visual Arts of Africa: Partnerships for Teaching at the Whatcom Museum (a Smithsonian Institution affiliate) which discussed creative ideas for classroom learning with local educators.

Click here for more on the artwork studied and created under Stokes while at Wade King.

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