Ella Jenkins comes to Circle Rock's African Market

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By Robert Felton

On Feb. 25, the Circle Rock Prep School (118 N. Central Ave.) will hold its annual African Market Day, a two-part festival allowing students and community residents to explore the cultures of various African countries.

Part one will run from 10 to 11 a.m. and features a special appearance by legendary folk singer Ella Jenkins who received the 2004 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was nominated for Best Recording for Children at the 2005 Grammy's.

Jenkins, a native of Chicago's South Side, has made a career out of creating quality music for children. In her nearly 50-year career as a songwriter and educator, she has taken on the role of an ethnomusicologist, drawing upon the wealth of American musical and rhythmic traditions in her work with children.

She has educated children about everything from reading to geography to dance, and over time she even began teaching their instructors as well?"through her famous "Adventures in Rhythm" workshops. Jenkins demonstrated new group-vocalizing and rhythm-building methods to music teachers.

Her lifelong dedication to music made her the ideal guest at this year's Circle Rock event.

"We are honored to have such a great musician and great person such as Ella Jenkins attend our event," said Joyce Caine, assistant principal of Circle Rock Prep School. "During the first hour, she will engage in a reading with the children and share her songs with them as well."

In the events' second part (between 1 and 3 p.m.) the students will be divided into three clusters. The middle school students (grades 6-8), which will encompass about 120 students; grade school students (grades 3-5), making up about 80 students; and students (grades K-3) who make up the third cluster. About 45 students are in this group.

The students in each cluster researched a specific African country and created fact sheets and photographs, showing all the information they had learned through their research. This information will be on display during the event.

The children also made African crafts such as flags, necklaces and medallions, which they will sell at the event as well.

Caine says that the event, which the school first began planning last December, is primarily a teacher-motivated affair, as it has been incorporated into their individual curricula. But the relationship between the students and teachers makes the festival flourish.

"The event has been on-going for a couple of years now," said Caine. "It can be considered a class project, but the event has become such a staple of our school the last few years, many times the children will approach the teachers with suggestions and countries they'd like to research. It is a group effort."

 

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