Both of our classes read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart about the Igbo (pronounced eebo) tribe in Nigeria. We took our students to the Museum of African Culture to see the tribal Igbo masks that we learned about in the novel.
Because we wanted to go for the day, and would only be in the African museum for an hour and a half, we added a walking tour and lunch at Whole Foods to round out the day. So I walked around Portland on this beautiful spring day with this crew of 25 Seniors. We took 100 kids but had them in four groups, two of the groups with parents who graciously accompanied us.
My students were so happy walking through the city, soaking up urban things.
The next stop was the Museum of African Heritage where the curator Oscar gave us a terrific presentation. He was a real animated character who definitely had the kids' attention, speaking passionately about the art and culture of the Igbo people we had read about.
In preparation for this trip, we had studied the symbolic meanings of the Igbo masks and asked kids to design a mask that represented their own identity. They did a fantastic job on these.
Oscar spoke about this mask of a crying man, and about how men are taught not to cry or show emotion; he asked one of my boys to put on this mask and have a good cry. My student was a great sport and while he cried, everyone laughed.
His overall message to the kids, which he wove into his discussion of individual pieces of art, is that you have to know who you are, where you came from, and who you want to be in the world. He asked them many times: "what is the ball of fire that drives you? what is your passion? what brings you joy?"
I could feel them all thinking.
Next, Oscar changed into full Medicine Man garb and we were treated to a healing ceremony. He blessed each student, and danced around us. While my students looked up at him, I thought about our original intention for taking them on this trip: to expose them to a cultural experience they wouldn't otherwise get in the town where we live.
With the budget as tight as it is these days, and field trips being at an absolute minimum, I felt so lucky that we got this grant to take our students out into the world for such a rich experience. They were all abuzz today with stories and thoughts about the field trip. One kid said to me: "I think we should go to Nigeria next." That would be one heck of a grant, but yes, I think we should.