Spotted in Manila, 2014

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Rise and Shine Academy, Week 1

On Monday, Trade Winds began work at the school we will focus most on in Kenya, The Rise and Shine Academy in Nairobi’s Kawangware slum. As we approached the school, which is tucked in the back of the neighborhood, we were struck by the condition of the slum. We passed pigs, goats, and children alike digging through the mounds of trash that line the streets. Our focus quickly changed when we saw amazing hospitality just by entering the neighborhood. We were waved at, smiled at by the people on the streets, probably just because we are white “muzungus”.

We reached the top of a hill and I could see the school in the distance. I got chills! I could not believe the school I had been communicating and planning with for eight months was a real place, with real students ready to learn. We entered the bright red school gate to a courtyard surrounded by trees and bright blue walls. It is a beautiful school, where poverty does not matter and it is easy to forget that just outside of that red gate is the neighborhood trash field.




All 170 students were eagerly awaiting our arrival as they sat in their school desks, which they had moved outside to the courtyard. We met the principal, Peter Kilo and he explained that the students prepared a welcome ceremony for us. The ceremony was about 40 minutes long with beautiful songs, poems, and prayers written by the students about AIDS, poverty, and religion. It was so moving and I could tell the five of us were thinking, “what are we even going to teach these talented, confident kids?? They know it all!”





When the show was over, we gave them a taste of what we do with instrument demos and a few movements of the Ligeti “Six Bagatelles”.  Then I explained that they were going to get their own instruments thanks to our donors at home. I held up a recorder and the whole school burst into applause, cheers, and screams of joy. I felt so lucky to have gotten to tell them.



Distributing 170 recorders to everyone was such a challenge that we finished our day with that, exhausted. It was a wonderful first day.

On Tuesday, we began what would become our regular schedule. We decided to teach in two pairs, while the fifth member of Trade Winds would visit each class to document. Here is our daily schedule:

(Morning Ages 4-11)
9:00-9:20 Group warm up game
9:20-10:00 1st Period
10:00-10:40 2nd Period
10:40-11:00 Group journal reflection

(Afternoon Ages 12-19)
11:30-11:50 Group warm up game
11:50-12:30 1st Period
12:30-1:10 2nd Period
1:10-1:30 Group journal reflection

The classes are split by age and level in school, and each class is about 35 students. Every day, we begin with a group game which combines both classes to get moving, singing, and set the tone for the day. Then teaching pairs will split the group one pair will spend class time working on recorder, while the other teaching pair will work on something else like music theory, composition, or history. To finish the day, we join together for a reflection in the student’s journals. We give them prompts like, “Why do you love music?” or “what makes you unique?” Then in the evenings, we spend time responding to their thoughts which really allows us to get to know the students.




Tuesday was our first day of teaching and I spent it with Christina. With each class, we played one of my favorite ice breakers, Shabooya, a name game with lots of energy and a strong clapping pulse. I used this pulse to introduce quarter notes. 

On Wednesday, I took the day off to document what the classes were doing, but returned to teaching on Thursday when I taught with Ellen. Trying to teach toward the idea that music can portray different ideas and emotions, I asked the younger students a set of opening questions. The class answered in perfect unison, like they often do when addressing a teacher in Kenyan classrooms:
“Have you ever heard a piece of music that made you happy?”
“Yes ma’am, of course.”
“Have you ever heard a piece of music that sounded sad?”
“No ma’am, never.”
“Really? What about music that sounded angry?”
“No ma’am.”
One student raised their hand and explained:
“Music is so nice and beautiful. It never makes us angry or sad to hear it.”

Ellen and I brought our instruments and had the younger students to use their imagination to draw and dance to the music they heard us play. I played short contrasting excerpts like Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” Overture and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony bassoon solo. The students really enjoyed it! In the afternoon, we worked on learning rondo form with the older students. Next week, the students will use their knowledge of rondo form to compose their own rondo!



Christina and I worked together again today, teaching recorder. We prepared a worksheet that had the students fill in the correct fingerings for the notes they have learned, as well as the note names and their position on the staff for the song we taught them. We have been working hard on a song that we know as "Hot Cross Buns", but changed the words to "Mandazis" and "Ugali", staple foods of Kenya.

It has been a really beautiful and inspirational week of teaching. The students are working so hard and have taught us a lot. We are excited to really start preparing for their concert they will present next week!

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