Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Students give U.S. history a good rap

4th-graders set past to song, dance

Enquirer Contributor

        UNION TOWNSHIP — Lindsay Gooch isn't likely to forget what the three branches of government are, or what each does.

        All the Shawnee Elementa ry School fourth-grader has to do is think of Monday's production, “Freedom in Our Own Backyard.”

        In a 30-minute show written by Shawnee's fourth-graders and directed by Dayton actor Michael Lippert, history came alive through dramatic readings, rap songs and 84 students wearing red, white or blue T-shirts who formed the United States flag.

        “You can remember the songs — and the facts are thrown in there,” said Lindsay, 9, of the production performed on stage amid red, white and blue helium balloons, streamers and specially made blocks that spelled out the word freedom.

        The show began with the readings to and from a family and their son fighting in the Revolutionary War, and ended with “America the Beautiful.”

        The show brought life to dry facts about the fight for freedom, democracy and what each branch of government does, said fourth-grade teacher Connie Fuller. Some educators think that teaching using several styles — traditional lecture, music, art or other means — helps children remember better.

        “What we tried to do is bring arts in all parts of the government,” Ms. Fuller said.

        “I've seen a big difference in how the kids pick up the branches of government,” added teacher Elaine Anthony. “Some kids who typically don't do well with pen-and-pencil type of work are loving this.”

        Many of the lessons include material the students must learn to pass part of Ohio's fourth-grade proficiency test, Ms. Anthony said.

        Those objectives were woven into rap songs and readings the students performed with the assistance of Mr. Lippert.

        The project was funded through the school's PTA and the Association for the Advancement of Arts Education.

        David Hawk liked the project because in it he found the perfect outlet for his love of singing and loud voice.

        “I like to yell — a lot,” said David, 10. “And one of my favorite things is singing. I really like this play.”


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