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West Hartford's Charter Oak International Academy Has Hip Hop Week

During the week of January 13, Charter Oak students took part in a study of hip-hop.

Contributed photo
Contributed photo

By Jo-Ann Lizon, IB Coordinator, Charter Oak International Academy

As an International Baccalaureate World School, Charter Oak International Academy encourages students to become active, compassionate, lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

The IB philosophy looks at learning through transdisciplinary themes. One of these themes, How We Express Ourselves, is an inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express our ideas, feelings and culture. In IB units, teachers collaborate to infuse conceptual learning into many different areas across the curriculum.

During the week of January 13, Charter Oak students took part in a study of hip-hop. In art classes, they looked at urban art. They discussed different perspectives about graffiti. They looked at the bus shelters in West Hartford vs. an international singing star who drew graffiti on a hotel wall; and read an article about a Hartford community project that is transforming public spaces in the city. They studied famous graffiti artists like KAWS, Shepard Fairey and Gajin Fujita. Then they investigated the work of Keith Haring, a famous New York City street artist. Students created artwork based on the work of Haring, copying his simplistic style of outline drawings. Some grade levels created graffiti art using their “tag names”; and others created graffiti on “bricks” – using paint, foam etchings and rollers.

In music, students explored the history of hip-hop and discovered the original themes of peace, love and unity. In all grade levels, students discussed the function of music in hip-hop culture as a way to express feelings, bring people together, send messages, and dance. The elements of music such as ostinati (patterns that repeat) that lie down what rap artists may call the "beat," looping, flow, and layering were explored through active participation in the creative process. Students in grades 3, 4, and 5 discussed the difference between original hip-hop music and today's hip-hop in reference to themes and appropriateness.

The issue of sampling was explored through listening to original R&B and funk music and comparing it to rap music. Students formed, shared and defended their opinions concerning ethical issues in music. Eventually, all classes will be creating "beats" using MadPad (an iPad app) and reciting poetry or self-written stories based on one of the three themes: peace, love or unity.

In PE, each class spent two sessions working with Austin Dailey (or “Red Supreme”), a professional hip-hop artist and DJ. They learned different styles of hip-hop dancing, along with some dance history. Dailey emphasized the positive side of hip-hop – and interspersed healthy eating and exercise tips within each lesson. Students in grades PK-5 loved learning the steps to a variety of dances.

The week of lessons culminated in a Family Dance Night on Thursday evening.

Student groups from every grade level performed their finished dance pieces. Student artwork lined the packed gym and the school was rocking as families watched their children perform; and even participated in the final dances of the night.

The program was made possible through a generous grant from the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools and Whole Foods Market.

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