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On the world beat

Seventh-graders learn musically flavored lessons about medieval, Asian, African and South American culture.

April 05, 2008|By Chris Wiebe

Students at John Muir Middle School had the chance to take a trip around the world on Friday — all before noon.

The school’s “Around the World in Half a Day” event exposed seventh-graders to a variety of international cultures, bringing in exhibitions that showcased medieval, Asian, South American and African culture.

In previous years, the event focused on medieval history, but it has expanded to include a wider breadth of nationalities, Principal Dan Hacking said.


“We felt it was too focused on European history,” he said. “So we branched out.”

The event featured Japanese taiko drummers, an ensemble of Peruvian musicians and a Nigerian troupe doing a “talking drum” routine, where the skins bore tonal qualities of the human voice, said event coordinator and science teacher Heidi Sasaki.

“It’s exciting for the kids to be exposed to the performances and also learn about other cultures,” she said.

In the school auditorium, thunderous drum sounds reverberated as taiko drummers Kris Bergstrom, 31, and Masato Baba, 30, put on an exhibition.

When their performance came to a halt, Bergstrom said he needed some volunteers who wanted to give the drums a try.

Hands shot up in the air as the students begged to be selected.

A lucky few took the stage, learning the proper taiko stance before mimicking Bergstrom as he pantomimed the rhythm.

“The drums make a good vibration, and the sound was really nice,” said Nick Gould, 12.

But the broader international focus didn’t mean that medieval history didn’t also get some play, and students were treated to an equestrian exhibition and joust out on the field.

“It was pretty cool,” said Richard Brown, 12.

“It was kind of boring when the lady in white came out on the horse, but when they started jousting, it was cool.”

The students also watched a staged horse race.

“It looked like the blue [horse] was going to win,” said Robert Murphy, 13. “But I was glad when the red [horse] won.”

Some students were also dressed up in cultural or medieval garb, such as John Reuter, 12, who was dressed as a priest, and Nathan Ahern, 12, who wore a monk’s habit.

The demonstrations corresponded to lessons covered in the students’ history classes, Sasaki said. Ancient African and South American culture, specifically the Incas in South America, are being covered on the curriculum.

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