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BWS BiblioBlog | January & February 2024

Updated: Apr 18

Library World Tour Arrives in AFRICA!!

We are halfway through our World Tour of books and it’s time to bang the drums loudly! Thanks to the gift of National Geographic Atlases from St John’s Church of Lafayette Square, various grades started 2024 with a deep dive into geography. Terms became real: hemisphere, compass, physical features like mountains and rivers as boundaries, latitude, longitude, and political borders that change over time.

BWS Board member Toya Carmichael shared her passion for travel by discussing her goal of visiting 50 countries before her 50th birthday. She brought a photo album of her first international trip to Ghana. Toya described the preparation needed to travel: passport, visas, vaccinations, packing, and researching the country. She read to Kindergarten about the mythic origin of Kente cloth.

Then the librarians stepped in to show the scholars all the books we had about African countries and cultures. 5th graders had to choose a country and come back with 3 fun facts to post on the hallway world map. Share the news!

From Ghana we went to nearby Benin with the help of Aaron Hilton. He is on a Fulbright Scholarship to study the artisanal economy of this small country. He organized a Zoom call with the 5th grade. Some of the artwork was on display during the call and Aaron answered many questions, including how can a BWS grad get a Fulbright!

We ventured into two genres to discover the traditions and inventions of several African countries and regions. By looking through the Biography section we discovered stories of individual people making real change. Whether you read about Nelson Mandela moving the world against apartheid in South Africa or Wangari Maathai planting trees in Kenya or William Kamkwamba who brought electricity to his village in Mali, our boys could see the values of creative problem-solving and persistence and serving your community like KINGS.

The other genre that revels so much about a culture is Folklore. From the origins of the world, how humans came to be, how the natural world gives to us (Kente cloth) or the instructive parables using animals, values and traditions are passed to the young. The Ashanti people used the antics of a little spider, Anansi, to show how a trickster can stop a bully or be caught in his own selfishness. Anansi learns many lessons as we laugh along with him.

As we celebrated Black History, we brought music and dance into the library space. Nana Ghana (aka Ernest Frimpong) hauled over 20 African percussion instruments to our school for a fabulous concert. He began by giving the history of drumming in sub-Saharan Africa. They were a means of communication, religious expression, and ceremonial announcements. Nana showed different techniques and rhythms.

Then he asked various students to demonstrate. Oh, boy-now this got exciting. Starting with kindergartners and simple drumming to the oldest and quite complicated multi-rhythms, the library was Alive. Of course, we followed up with many fiction and nonfiction books that included drums as a major element.

What is drumming without dance? At a Community Gathering, Ms. Walker from the Development office shared her experience coaching a team of girls to compete in Dance Competitions. Then she showed us all the awards they had won. Next, we split the school in half. Both Mr. Harris and Dr. Arrington took turns teaching their team a particular African dance. Brother Reggie blasted the music and we were all transported to Africa.

During Black History Month, Ms. Herron had a special theme or event every day. When students arrived dressed as their favorite scientists or inventors, we brought out the corresponding books. We also introduced some local civil rights history such as the integration of a Baltimore amusement park and the heroism of Marylander Harriet Tubman who has a new US stamp in tribute to her bravery on the Underground Railroad.

Both 1st and 2nd graders received a brand new stamped envelope from Ms. Ware who was at the unveiling on the Eastern Shore.

All grades were thrilled with the range of animals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians found in the huge continent of Africa. We did a deep dive into the 500’s on the north wall of our library. Another traveler shared her photos from a real Safari: Dr. Arrington gave us a full picture of her real trip to Tanzania. Then, she read a fictional book about a safari and it corresponded with the exact same animals. Some stories carry the truth within.

Along the way, 3rd graders continued reading leveled books for the Accelerated Reader program. Mrs. Ochmanek filled crates with books about water which is the science/social studies theme that Ms. Clark is teaching. A watery chart followed the progress of the readers as they finished books and cleared high marks on their short weekly assessments. This data gives good feedback to the student as well as the teacher for further instruction. (The pilot program will end this spring but will return next fall.)

The Great Dewey Hunt was a major focus for 4th graders. They had to become experts on finding any nonfiction book or folklore/literature between 000.1 and 999.9 in the stacks.

After mastering all the categories from psychology to religion to myth to social science to folklore to language to domestic technology to the arts and sports to natural science to poetry to geography to history and finally, to biography, 4th graders could teach their fellow students the ropes. Small trinkets representing a book stood at the exact spot. The boys then recorded titles and call numbers and described the subject area. We conducted The Great Dewey Hunt with 2nd graders just as it was done in the book by the same name… ending with We Love Dewey flags.

The scholars ended their tour of Africa by reading books about the history of some of its most famous leaders and eras. Venturing to the Northeast of the continent, we went way back in time to Ancient Egypt.

Sarah Hake’s family is Egyptian and she spent long periods visiting family there. She shared stories of customs of hospitality in the Muslim faith and offered a spread of typical food that our boys dug into. So fresh and tasty. We then opened books about the ancient civilization along the Nile River.

Sarah brought real papyrus for the scholars to practice actual hieroglyphics which is one of the first languages ever written down. We discussed the value of written language for marking land ownership and trade contracts. It allowed Egypt to flourish over a large area, all the way to Alexandria which is where we find one of the largest and oldest Libraries. From the Mediterranean, we travel to the Middle East and Asia!

And another Thanks to Christ Church Washington Parish for their enormous gift of science books to update the 500’s!

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