WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom

Exploring Culture and Connection through the Fine Arts

by Jenny Cain, Arts Integration Specialist, Van Horne Elementary School

Van Horne Elementary in Tucson Unified School District participates in OMA, Opening the Minds through the Arts, an award-winning program that integrates arts throughout the curriculum. I work with students of all grade levels, immersing them in art, music, drama, and opera related to their classroom inquiries and we also have guest artists who come to the school (visit for more information about OMA).

This short video has examples from the two arts units that I developed as part of the school-wide focus on Journeys. The younger children engaged in a journey around the world through lullabies. We gathered books and musical recordings of lullabies and enjoyed singing different variations of Hush, Little Baby and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We made extensive use of Moodrops: A First Book of Lullabies from around the World, by Jane Yolen, that contained a wonderful selection of lullabies from every part of the world. The children then composed their own lullabies. The older students engaged in a study of the forced journey of enslaved Africans. We started with the music of Africa and talking drum rhymes using Off to the Sweet Shores of Africa and Other Talking Drum Rhymes by Uzo Unobagha. We followed the Africans on the slave ships through The Middle Passage by Tom Feelings, a stark and moving wordless book that we viewed while listening to the music soundtrack from the movie Amistad. Students engaged in tableaus as a drama technique to communicate the tensions and emotions they were feeling about this forced journey. We then studied spirituals as an expression of the history, culture, and emotions of slaves and went from there into jazz and the blues. On My Journey Now by Nikki Giovanni, was especially useful in providing the stories and messages behind the various spriituals. The inquiry integrated music, drama, and literature into a powerful experience fro students.

The video contains short excerpts of various engagements from the two units as well as provides an overview of our OMA program.

WOW Stories, Volume I, Issue 2 by Worlds of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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