Perley Elementary Students Perform Songs and Dances from India, South Korea, and Brazil

Author: Allegra Wallingford

On Wednesday, April 13th, the Snite Museum was full of excited, uniform-clad students from the Perley Fine Arts Academy. The event celebrated an on-going partnership with the University of Notre Dame and the local South Bend school. In particular, the event showcased the work of Notre Dame Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants who have been teaching second, third, and fourth graders Hindi, Korean, and Portuguese respectively since the start of the school year.  With help from Dong-gyun Kim, Maria Gabriella de Castro, and Suman Rani, these students learned about the cultural traditions of South Korea, Brazil, and India. After many hours of practice, the students were ready to perform for their families during their night at the Snite Museum.

First to perform were the second graders, who worked with Suman Rani to choreograph and perform a dance to "Jai Ho."Img 0413

Rani described the song as one of hope and praise, and the students' energy conveyed the message well. With bright tassels tied to their wrists, the students twirled and swayed back and forth, creating a stunning visual. When the song finished, the second graders timidly bowed and shuffled offstage to enthusiastic applause from the audience.

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The third graders made their way up to the stage next, including two students dressed in hanbok, the traditional Korean dress.

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Guided by Dong-gyun Kim, the third graders shared what they had learned about Korea during their studies. They labelled the garments that made up the hanbok, and demonstrated how to play two Korean games that looked similar to the American games of hacky sack and jacks. Next, they sang "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" in Korean. 

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Finally, the fourth graders took the stage, along with Maria Gabriella de Castro. After singing a song in Portuguese about a stinky frog, the students spoke about capoeira, a Brazilian dance that resembles a martial art.

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Once their parents were convinced that they would not actually be fighting on stage, the fourth graders joined Maria in a song with a heavy drum beat. They all clapped and moved to the beat, and in groups of two, moved into the center of the stage to demonstrate capoeira. The fourth graders clearly enjoyed "fake fighting," and the audience was riveted as well. After everyone had the chance to participate, the drumming and clapping ceased, and the winded fourth grades were met with thunderous applause from their loved ones.

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The mood after the show was jubilant as families gathered their students and headed upstairs for a picnic dinner. The Perley students could not contain their excitement at having shown their parents what they'd been working so hard on, and their parents were proud that their young children were able to be exposed to such interesting and fulfilling experiences.

After the show was complete, the FLTAs had some reflections on their time with the Perley students. Dong-gyun Kim says that “Thanks to [these students], I recognized that the more fun the class has, the better it is.” Commenting on how schools without access to FLTAs can promote cultural learning, Kim believes that international students and their family members could be great teachers for other students. Suman Rani agrees that local community members could be valuable resources for students learning about other cultures, stating, “Schools that don't have FLTAs can conduct small workshops and seminars for their students by inviting students from universities. Another way could be asking regular university/college students to volunteer for cultural immersion and information programs.” On working with second graders, Rani added, “Teaching adults is very different from teaching small kids. This opportunity allowed me to be in class with kids for the first time. In the beginning, I was very nervous and didn't know how or what to teach. But gradually, I started understanding the learning styles of these elementary students and taught them through games.” Dr. Denise Ayo, Acting Director of the CSLC, added, “The FLTAs have truly enjoyed their experience, some remarking it to be the highlight of their time here. It gives them a chance to meet people outside of the Notre Dame bubble and learn much more about American culture than they could solely on campus.”

Perley has worked with the Snite Museum for several years to provide students with outlets to art and culture, and this is a tradition that only seems to get better with time. According to Jay Caponigro, Notre Dame’s Director of Community Engagement, the CSLC became involved when “Professor [Brian] O'Conchubhair inquired about a way that CLSC could contribute to the local community while providing FLTA's a way to get to know more about education and children in the United States.”

Each year new FLTAs come to the CSLC and to Perley, and students are able to learn firsthand about the nations of the world without leaving their classrooms. 

Watch the video below to view foreign language learning in the Perley classrooms.