Although the Children's Art and Music Activity Group will remain relatively similar week to week in terms of who participates, the individual activities taken on by the children are ever changing. Kids get bored, and that's just the way it is. It is then our responsibility as planners, teachers, and as fellow participants to come up with new and exciting activities for the students to engage in each week.
This Friday's session went as follows. There was again the same two age groups participating, ages 4-7 and 8-12, although this time there were a few more people in each group making the day a bit more lively. Just as happened last week, the younger group of children went first. Ghazwan, Sasha's colleague and translator I have mentioned before, first read the children a story and asked them questions as he went along. Next on the list was an activity that was slightly more messy than book reading. The children each were given one of many different colored balloon hats that had been made earlier in the day. The balloon hats were then lined with white glue on one side, most obviously not the side that would be touching the kids' heads. This is were the messy part began. Glitter, sequins, feathers, and most every other shiny or fluffy decoration one can think of....the children loved it! They spent the next half hour sticking these different decorations to their balloon hats and even before they had finished, their smiles got brighter and their eyes grew bigger. Although I am sure there was still glue and glitter on the floor, on the table, and in the children's hair, this did not keep them from fully enjoying their afternoon snack. As the children hurried to gulp down their juice boxes and crunch their last chip, there was a slight change to the day's schedule. Instead of having the younger kids wait for the older group to finish their session, everyone would spend the middle half hour, after the young group's snack time, playing music.
This was by far my favorite part! I did not need to speak Arabic to communicate to these mini Mozarts and soon to be Beethovens. I spent the following 20 minutes, after everyone had a chance to pick and choose the specific instrument they wanted to play (harmonica, drums, flute, etc.) demonstrating just a few simple things. After taking the first ten minutes teaching each instrumental group how to pay soft, then loud, then slow, then fast, it was time to hear the beauty that had been created. Using a common Arabic beat in the background, I would change the volume on the beat in order to signal to the kids to play in one of the numerous different ways they had learned at the beginning. wahid, itnen, thaletha.....and the children would come to a complete stop. The one, two, three, STOP! was probably the winner of the day. After everyone silenced, it was only a few short seconds before they all began laughing.
Although these little proteges may not yet have made it to Benaroya Hall or Blues Alley, there enthusiasm has put them half way there. It is my hope and dream that every child should be so lucky as to play, learn about, and hear some form of music in his or her life. It is most evident in my own life that sounds serve as an expression for all, and it is that unifying quality found in music that I had the privilege of watching each child embrace.
As for the older group of children, their task was a new and challenging one. Following Sasha and Ghazwan's short lesson on how to paint someone's face, where to place the eyes, nose, ears, etc., the children were then asked to paint the face of that person to which they were sitting across. Dark skinned, light skinned, blue eyes, brown eyes, boy, girl, hijab, no hijab, these students' drawings and paintings spoke for themselves. The smiles and surprises began when every person had their picture taken holding their portrait but standing next to that person whom they had depicted in their art. It was a fun yet challenging experience for all. After the portraits came the group activity. As we laid out a large brown sheet of paper spanning nearly an entire three tables' length, Ghazwan wrote on the center of the paper We Love Iraq, using a heart instead of the word love. Within 20 minutes, this was one of the most beautiful murals ever. Some kids painted flags of Iraq, while others drew palm trees and sunshine. One figure in particular that has stayed with me since the event was a painting that a young man did right below the center phrase. He painted a brownish male stick figure, nothing too unique, but in the center was a very detailed depiction of this boy's heart. It had a flag inside with the country's honorable Arabic script painted in the center, symbolizing that the man's heart would always be in Iraq.
While the mural is far from completed, there are also many more Fridays to come. As the children will spend a portion of next week and the following completing the work of art they have just begun, I am anxiously awaiting the time when this beautiful masterpiece can hang from the wall of CRP to be seen by all.