Performing kids show us it’s a small world after all

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Last Friday I took a trip around the world.

Tuesday, May 08, 2001

Last Friday I took a trip around the world. I realize that’s not nearly the feat of daring do it once was, in this age of space stations that go around the world once every few hours. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun. And the truly amazing thing about this trip around the world was that I didn’t have to leave Alden to do it.

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The kids in kindergarten through grade three at my son’s school put on a show about geography, and in the course of about an hour and a half they took their audience from little Alden to Africa, Asia, and Europe and back to North America again. We heard songs, watched kids dancing and tumbling, saw a bullfight and even had a visit from a couple of Chinese dragons. It was a unique and wonderful experience.

As they performed, the kids not only showed us what they had learned about those countries. They also demonstrated that they had learned how to dance in unison, how to make music with sticks, and how to sing in a foreign language. Most important of all was that they were having fun. So what if things weren’t perfect, by grownup standards; so what if kids occasionally forgot their cues or took longer to complete something than they could have. This program was kid centered, and it moved and scrunched and jumped according to their sense of time and order.

One detail that was interesting and impressive by itself, was how many of the older kids were involved. Some high schoolers had helped with choreography and were helping lead the dancing, middle schoolers helped with set up and were helping with the sound system and lighting. Other high school students stopped in to just enjoy part or all of the program.

Many of the teachers also helped out – those in kindergarten through third grade obviously, but others as well. Even the superintendent was visible helping keep things running as smoothly as is possible when you have nearly one hundred kids all working on the same project (the phrase &uot;herding cats&uot; comes to mind). But I need to repeat what I said above: kids were the ones visible, remembering when to enter and exit, carrying props, singing the songs. I’m sure the teachers worked hard before the day of the program. There were many rehearsals and kids probably had to be reminded to stay &uot;on task&uot; more than once, as the kids learned the music and the facts about the countries they were &uot;visiting&uot; during their trip. But on the day of the program, mostly just kids were visible. Except for the music teacher playing the piano, adults kept to the sidelines and backstage.

In a week when I was feeling swamped by paperwork coming home from school -&160;both mine from MSU and stuff for kids from Albert Lea and Alden – it was refreshing to be provided evidence of learning that did not come from a worksheet (and did not have to be tested). Most of the papers that come home from school get tossed in the garbage or recycling once parents have had a chance to check them over. The only exceptions are pictures they drew themselves and stories they wrote by themselves (not just copied from a book). It causes me distress to toss away things that kids worked so hard on; I’m the kind of person who gets very sentimental about things. But if we kept every single piece of paper they brought from school – every picture, every worksheet, every spelling test, every math test – we would soon run out of living space and have to move into our garage (a very unpleasant place to live, I assure you). So it was a nice change having their learning out in the open and part of a pleasant memory we all can share. I wonder where they’ll take us next year. Antarctica? Outer space?

David Behling is a rural Albert Lea resident. His column appears Tuesdays.