Students treated to a taste of Africa

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Staff members bring an African fable to life during Seaview Elementary School’s Africa Day on Thursday, May 24.

LINWOOD — Seaview Elementary School students were treated to a simulated field trip to Africa Thursday, May 24, thanks to librarian Michele Yakopcic.


Each year, the school has an event day that is the culminating activity of year-long lessons on a specific theme, according to Principal Susan Speirs.

“We’ve had peace and friendship, Cinco de Mayo, problem solving, Japanese culture and others,” she said. “But this year it was Africa because our librarian spent time in South Africa last year.”

Yakopcic, a national director with the National Education Association, traveled with the group to Cape Town, South Africa in July 2011 to attend and participate in the Education International 6th World Congress. The NEA is a member of the congress, and sends delegates to conferences every four years.

According to the congress’s website, the event offers the members a chance to meet, share ideas and take action on shared issues.

“It was a really amazing experience,” Yakopcic said. “There were four different languages spoken, and we had to wear headsets to have translation.”

She said while the other areas of the world have more severe struggles, the underlying issues in education are similar to those facing schools in New Jersey.

“Their problems are 10 times worse, but at the root they are all the same as ours,” she said, noting classroom size, environmental conditions of school and parental involvement as shared concerns.

While she was there, Yakopcic said she was able to purchase books and artifacts to bring back to incorporate into the school’s curriculum.

“I was fortunate enough to have the Linwood Education Foundation sponsor me financially and send me with some money to buy books and other items for the school,” she said.

These items were used throughout the year to help the children learn about the continent. Every Friday during the school’s weekly assembly, each class presented facts about a country in Africa, she said. Children would present facts about the animals that lived in each location, the climate, the condition of the land and cultural facts.

“We were able to learn about 35 of the 46 different countries,” she said. “We wanted them to be able to understand that Africa is a continent that is divided into countries. It’s different than the United States that is a country that is divided into states.”

Thursday’s event featured a variety of fun activities.

Throughout the day students were treated to snacks of “African nectar,” aka Rita’s Water Ice and animal crackers, in the courtyard.

In the morning, Ugandan music called ssuuna was performed by a musician. In the art room, children crafted African beads and decorated them, and African fables came alive in the library when Yakopcic and other staff members read and performed native tales.

  From left are Seaview students Sydney Pohlman, 8, Olivia Sommers, 8, Helene Tjoumakaris, 9, Maya McCabe, 9, as they prepare to learn a Zumba routine during Seaview Elementary School’s Africa Day on Thursday, May 24.

“When I was in Africa, I met a storyteller who gave me a bag that contains all magical things a storyteller might need,” she told the students seated on the floor of the library before she began. “This ‘kente’ scarf was given to me by a storyteller so that I may tell you these stories today.”

Yakopcic said she incorporated the other Linwood schools in the fun as well. A Zumba routine was taught by BelhavenMiddle School students, and the moves were performed as the entire student body outside on the playground at the end of the day as a MainlandRegionalHigh School student filmed.

“It was a whole year-long activity, and I think they really learned a lot,” she said.

From left in back row is Belhaven Middle School teacher Kim Peschi Danee and students Paige Care, Walter Dale, Jessica Gold and Mia Rake, all 12. In center row are Julianna Cino, 11, and Tabitha Hernandez, Aisling Cooke, Alyssa Aldridge and Tiger Carey, all 12. In front are Marie Carney, 12, and Megan Bozzi, 11. The students are part of Danee’s student advisory group who choreographed the Zumba routine and taught it to the Seaview students.

Seaview students work on making African beads during Seaview Elementary School’s Africa Day on Thursday, May 24.

Logan Sands, 10, works on African beads during Seaview Elementary School’s Africa Day on Thursday, May 24.

From left are Emma Savov, Neely Craig, Dahlia Ross and Kaylee Santoro, all 7, as they enjoy their “African nectar” snack, aka Rita’s Water Ice and animal crackers.

Seaview students listen as librarian Michele Yakopcic tells an African fable.

Seaview librarian Michele Yakopcic tells an African fable to the students during the school’s Africa Day on Thursday, May 24.

Photos by Laura Stetser


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