A cold first day of classes on Sept. 1 in Ponoka did not cool off students’ enthusiasm.
Ponoka Elementary School (PES) started the year off with a bang. “PES African Adventure: We’re Wild About Learning” is the theme this year and some teachers were dressed the part in safari or wild animal costumes. Assistant principal Nicole Rawlinson explained the theme will help to unify the school.
“What can we do that would be fun at the beginning of the year?” Rawlinson and principal Lois Spate asked that of each other in June.
They found themselves joking about how fun the circus was, and inspired by that idea, they decided to go through with a theme for the school.
“What started out as something simple really turned into a powerful event for our students and staff,” Rawlinson said.
“It’s about kids. What we learn in subjects is one thing, but what we learn about people and belonging and being a part of the community, that’s fundamental as well.”
Parents as well feel like they are a part of the school experience. Rawlinson says that their welcome back barbecue incorporates the school’s theme and is able to bridge the gap of student, parent and teacher and gives everyone a sense of inclusion.
As parents help their children get shoes on and lockers organized, classroom walls are filled with African themed learning. There were many nerves to calm for both parents and children and parents could be seen in classrooms hugging children goodbye.
To keep the “African Adventure” spirit, PES invited a dance group from Edmonton, “Woezo Africa Music and Dance Theatre,” to their welcome back assembly. Woezo (way-zoe) means welcome in the African language of Ewe, which is spoken in Ghana, Togo and Benin. Woezo is a group of eight people, founded by Wunmi Idowu from Nigeria in 2006. Wunmi, the 29-year-old choreographer, wanted to give people in Alberta a chance to learn about her country and the many cultures on the continent. She has been dancing since she was four. Four people from the group were at the assembly, three dancers and one who acted as a teacher.
Woezo starts their play with a classroom setting and students from grades 5 and 6 were invited on stage and asked some basic geography questions about Africa. They then showed the assembly crafts from different parts of the continent, followed by traditional folk tales and dancing representing Nigeria and Chad.
The group encouraged student participation and students and teachers could be seen dancing throughout the gymnasium.
PES has kicked off the year with a bang and the school will be having their “Wild About Learning,” welcome back barbecue on Sept.8, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Dress to impress.