West African Drum and Dance Experiences for ICSD Community

April 14, 2016


ImoroConcert2016West African Drum and Dance Experiences with Sulley Imoro


IPEI Helps Increase Student Engagement with Connecting Classrooms Grants


Covered in Lansing Star Online  http://www.lansingstar.com/around-town/12583-ithaca-students-share-west-african-drum-and-dance

YouTube video of South Hill Elementary School Assembly

Students and teachers across the Ithaca City School District (ICSD) are learning about West African culture, history, music and life through Sulley Imoro’s workshops this month.  Jonathan Keefner, music teacher at Enfield Elementary School, is the lead teacher for the programming in eight schools reaching over 800 students through “Introduction to West African Drum and Dance”, an Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) Connecting Classrooms Grant.


In addition to the school-based activities, Imoro and his daughter Ayisha will be featured Sunday, April 17 at 3:00 p.m. in the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School Library for a free and open to the public “African Drum and Dance Celebration Concert”. M’Bangba Culture Trupe, Moxie Kumba and Ithaca College Drum and Dance Ensemble will also perform.


ICSD teachers Christopher Bell, Karen Cushman, Jennifer Kivisild, Gregory McQuade, Ross Mizrahi, Dorothy Preston, and Brandon Reyes collaborated with Keefner to host the Imoros and support their workshops at Belle Sherman Elementary, Enfield Elementary, Caroline Elementary, Beverly J. Martin Elementary, Northeast Elementary, South Hill Elementary, Fall Creek Elementary and DeWitt Middle School.


Keefner explained, “The series was designed to give as many students in the district as possible the opportunity to interactively learn about traditional Ghanaian drum and dance practices, and the cultural context of the material, rich historical information on each dance, and how music plays a part in daily life in Ghana.” Collaborating teachers are gaining the necessary resources and understanding to include an African drum and dance unit in their curriculum beyond this year in their “world music” section of the arts curriculum.


In addition, Keefner said the goal is for every student who participates to gain an understanding of a specific rhythm including the movements, accompanying songs, and historical context. Students will also leave understanding the cultural information associated with the rhythm so they can use what they have learned. “Each grade level will participate in a workshop that is age appropriate and will allow for building on the knowledge that is gained. Teachers will be able to include this work in their existing curriculum and progressively build student knowledge each subsequent year,” expressed Keefner.


IPEI’s Connecting Classrooms Grants build on the not-for-profit organization’s successful models for encouraging and supporting innovative teaching and deeper learning. “Our intent is to be the catalyst for ICSD staff to seek and develop innovative collaborative partnerships between teachers within a school, across grade levels and/or between schools,” according to Connie Patterson, retired ICSD teacher who is now an IPEI board member and the Grants Committee chair. “It’s about working together,” said IPEI Executive Director Christine Sanchirico. “This is really our guiding principle for these grants.”


IPEI initiated Connecting Classrooms Grants using funds IPEI received from generous community members who donated to its Our Children * Our Schools * Our Future campaign. One of the capital campaign’s three goals was to expand programs and grants. IPEI’s other grants programs are funded by the Annual Fund and Adult Spelling Bee.


This grant is named in honor of Jennifer Engel, IPEI’s immediate past president who has served since IPEI’s founding 20 years ago.  She served on the Task Force in 1994 that grew out of the ICSD Strategic Plan action item to increase community connections with the schools. Jennifer became one of the first IPEI Board members when it began in 1996, and was Vice President for most of those years until serving as president in 2014-15. She was particularly influential in developing the Adult Spelling Bee and Kids Discover the Trail! Ithaca. She chaired the Executive Committee meetings for many years and served as School Liaison with BJ Martin Elementary School. A downtown business owner and parent of several ICSD alumni, she has been an individual donor and a business sponsor of IPEI, and was a tri-chair of IPEI’s first capital campaign.


IPEI has allocated significant resources for Connecting Classroom Grant recipients to plan, develop, and implement their visions that are aligned with the grant criteria. Connecting Classrooms Grants criteria include: internal collaboration among ICSD staff; identification of overall promise or potential of project aligned with school and district goals; plan encourages active learning and student engagement; realistic, thoughtful outline of process; proposed budget aligns with project goals and intended outcomes; potential for academic impact; and process for effective evaluation of the project.

“IPEI is pleased and excited to support these fantastic proposals that find new ways to get students actively involved in learning and discovery. Each project is created by a group of educators who have chosen to focus on scientific content while incorporating language arts, math, and technology. We are impressed with the teachers’ vision and commitment!” said Patterson.


IPEI expects that these large scale projects will be oriented toward student engagement that support learning consistent with school and district goals. “IPEI dedicates funding to encourage innovative thinking, further engage students, and increase the sense of community between groups of teachers and students,” explained Patterson. To be considered for funding, projects must have a plan for sustainability and a method for evaluation. She added that applicants first consider whether the request fits into IPEI’s other grant categories (Teacher Grants, Red and Gold Grants, and Community Collaboration Grants). The next review of project proposals will be at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.


New Connecting Classrooms Grant AnnouncedRed and Gold Grants Round 4 Announced