Children's rock passing game Africa

Educators learning a traditional children’s rock passing game in the village of Kopeyia, Ghana.

“Holo holo holo holo, gbe sia, bne nono…” The voices of my second grade general music students sing in Ewe as the students hold the garden rocks, tracing circles on the floor. “Ala, sariki babu. Ala sariki babu.” Each student excitedly picks up his or her rock and, moving to the beat, passes the rock to the student to his or her right as they sing the phrase “Ala sariki babu” over and over. While students eagerly wait for the student next to them to pass the rock, one student inevitably ends up with multiple rocks, laughter ensues and the game starts again! This is a learning opportunity to practice singing skills, reinforce steady beat, learn about tempo, and introduce music of world cultures.

This rock passing game was just one of the children’s songs, dances, and lullabies I learned while on the ThisWorldMusic summer 2012 trip to Kopeyia, Ghana which I have started integrating into my general music classroom. My music classroom activities include primarily Orff and ETM (Education Through Music) for the younger students, which emphasize activities where students move, dance, and sing.

I am currently teaching a unit focusing on Ghana in the general music classroom to the younger students, and the children’s activities I learned in Ghana expanded my repertoire of appropriate and relevant activities for this young age group. They are able to dance and sing an Ewe song, and then watch a video clip of school children in a rural Ewe village performing the same dance singing the same Ewe words! To my students, this makes Africa and Ghana seem much closer and “real.” Several of my students are from West Africa or have parents from West Africa, and this also leads to discussions of family, culture, and shared memories of Africa.

My classroom activities for the students in grades 5-8 include a partnership with Little Kids Rock, which is an organization that provides instruments and training in the inclusion of “modern band” instruments such as acoustic and electric guitar. I have already received 6 student djembes from DonorsChoose for my classroom since my return from Ghana, and by spring hope to have a classroom set of West African percussion instruments so student are able to recreate the West African rhythms I learned in Ghana.

Thanks to ThisWorldMusic for an amazing experience. A special thank you to Fund for Teachers for providing generous funding for study in Ghana. FFT funds teacher designed study programs throughout the world.

Chicago music teacher Heidi Farrand in AfricaHeidi Farrand has been teaching general music for 13 years. After receiving her Bachelors Degree in Music Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, she taught music in rural Alaska for 6 years. She left Alaska to attend graduate school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City where she received a Masters Degree in Music Education. Ms. Farrand has taught general music in Chicago Public Schools for 7 years. She has training in Orff Schulwerk, Suzuki, and ETM (Education Through Music) and received National Board Certification in Music in 2009.