Louis Adams, is bathed in stage lights as he takes the microphone during a rehearsal for the Thanksgiving musical at Mt. View Elementary School last month.
M. Scott Moon
Fifth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai used music as a vehicle to take fellow students and parents on a journey across North America’s Native American cultures recently.
The trip began in the Northeast, with a presentation of a Mohawk song, one that likely originated in the Southeast, and progressed across the Great Plains to the Southwest. The presentation then went to the Pacific Northwest, and concluded in Alaska.
The production, which took place Nov. 21, was two months in the making as students learned songs and chants, choreographed dances to go with them, and even learned sign language for the show’s finale.
“We worked a lot with the classroom teachers,” said Mountain View music teacher Elizabeth Ross.
Ross said each classroom teacher was studying Native Americans from different regions of the country, and she pulled ideas for the performance from those units.
“Once I found out the regions (students were studying), I selected songs from each region, then just traveled across the U.S., meandering through and getting to know each region,” Ross said.
Students learned many of the songs in Native American languages, which was challenging.
“Some of the songs they picked up pretty quickly. Some were easier than others and some took a little bit of effort. They’re not in English, so they’re having to learn another language, or something that’s not normal for them to say,” Ross said.
The Thanksgiving program was a school-wide effort and gave students an opportunity to study different Native American cultures.
M. Scott Moon
The performance also included a song played by a chorus of recorders, and a variety or percussion instruments.
“I think the kids have played recorders in previous years,” said Ross, who is in her first year teaching music at Mountain View. “Two weeks before, we sent them home and they did a good job remembering how to play.”
Ross said students spent class time researching the various regions and cultures to come up with costumes for the performance.
“Teachers had their kids research to look into what kinds of dress would be appropriate based on the things they saw in books, so each class came up with something to wear that best represented their region,” Ross said.
Ross said she was impressed with her students.
“I really enjoy working with those fifth-graders. They’re ready to learn, excited, and a lot of fun to work with,” she said. “I don’t know if they get excited to come see me but I do have to remind them to walk quietly back to class because they’re still singing what they sang in class.”
While the fifth-graders got to perform for Thanksgiving, the Mountain View fourth-graders will take to the stage for a holiday concert later this month. That event also will feature the debut of the fifth-grade band.
Ross, said the school’s third-graders will have chance to put on a show sometime during the spring.
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