This year the Evanne Weirich Celebration, which is the annual cultural event at Newark School, celebrated the country of Kenya. Parts of Kenyan culture have been woven into the curriculum all year, but the culminating events took place last week.
Much of the exploration this year focused around Wangari Mathai, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her environmental work in reforesting Kenya. Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, who live in Southern Vermont, filmed a documentary about Wangari, called "Taking Root." Newark School was fortunate to have Lisa visit the school recently, show the film, and meet with students in each classroom. She spent the remainder of the day critiquing the work of the older students, who had created public service announcements about environmental issues in Kenya, ranging from deforestation to elephant poaching. The older students have also spent most of their art class time this winter painting life size African animals on the wall of the gym.
The story of Wangari has also been depicted in a children's book, called "Wangari's Trees of Peace." On a recent Wednesday evening, the fifth- and sixth-grade class read the story while it was performed for parents and community members by the first- and second-grade class. The third- and fourth-grade students sang a welcoming song in Swahili, which ended with a favorite song from the Lion King. The older students performed a percussion routine under the direction of Steve Lindholm, the music teacher. The afterschool program presented a slide show about their work in raising money to help an African orphanage. The performance ended with several songs by the Balkan Chorus, under the guidance of Ellie and Erin Barksdale, two of the original chorus members.
Every celebration needs refreshments, and with the help from the PTG, the afterschool program and a few students, everyone was treated to ugali, mandazi, fresh pineapple and sweet Kenyan tea. This type of learning is exciting and takes many hands to make it happen. Burklyn Arts, the art teachers of CNSU, the Evanne Weirich Foundation, Newark Afterschool, the Rural Global Trust, and many individuals helped to make the 2013 Evanne Weirich Celebration a success. Asante, and Hakuna Matata!