Students celebrate diversity during musical performance


They sang. They danced. They learned.

Second-graders at Thorpe Elementary School, 1650 Patrick Lane, performed "It's a Small World," a musical of sorts based on the popular ride at Disney theme parks.

Nearly 40 students from two classes performed in front of their parents and peers Feb. 29. They gave short presentations about a country and performed a native song, dance or both.

The hourlong program featured 19 countries, including Italy, France, Mexico, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Trinidad, Greece, Austria, Spain and more.

Second-grade teacher Susan Maddox usually directs four or five educational shows each school year to make learning more fun for the kids, she said.

Students usually are nervous during the first performance, she said, but beg her to do another as soon as it is over.

"The reason I do the musicals and things with my children is to build self-esteem," Maddox said. "A lot of the children are afraid. As they get older … they will be speaking in front of groups."

Maddox also said she wants her children ---- as she always refers to them ---- to get exposure to different cultures and art forms. She said she would love for every student to be able to attend performances by professional ballet companies and orchestras.

Maddox's students have done shows about Native Americans; Africa; Hatshepsut, a female Egyptian pharaoh; Johnny Appleseed; dinosaurs; and more. The next show planned in April is about bugs that tire of being sprayed and squashed, then march on Washington. Maddox said her students will learn about different types of insects and a little about government.

For "It's a Small World," students were able to pick any country, but Maddox encouraged them to choose based on their ancestry.

Parents were asked to help their kids make costumes with household items. They also joined students in the classroom after the show to enjoy a potluck dinner. The dishes represented countries from the show and were prepared by parents.

Susan Carter said she is glad her son, Brayden, is part of Maddox's class. Brayden researched Jordan for his role.

"It was good for him," Carter said. "It was informative. It shows cultural diversity. It lets them be aware that there's more hummus than hot dogs out there.

"I like that (Maddox) keeps the arts open. It keeps that part of the brain active."

Garelyn Marquez came to see her grandson, Bruce Reuter, perform a native song from Spain. She also brought along some Spanish rice.

"I like that it's showing the kids that no matter how different you are, they are the same," Marquez said.

She also said she appreciated Maddox's emphasis on arts in her curriculum.

Maddox taught for nearly 40 years in Georgia before she joined Thorpe nine years ago. She said she has noticed her children have an increased curiosity about the world and other cultures, as evidenced by the kinds of literature they pick out at book fairs and the library.

"It's a good experience for them," Maddox said. "I work 24 hours a day trying to make school fun for them. I do a lot of really challenging things with my children.

"I just wish more teachers would do it. … If you make it fun for the kids and for yourself, it's a wonderful profession."

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

 

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