Cultural Learning with LEAF
Cultural Learning with LEAF
Posted on 05/14/2018
A class at Oakley Elementary School learns the hip-hop dance stylings of Otto Vasquez.Otto Vasquez shows off one of his hip-hop dance movesSix Oakley students work pose for a picture in the gymnasium on Thursday, May 10, 2018.By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

As the soulful melody of a Puerto Rican pop song filled the Oakley Elementary School gymnasium on Thursday, hip-hop dancer Otto Vasquez led six girls through a series of dance moves that grooved to the feel of the music.

The girls performed their routine for the whole school on Friday and again for the Schools and Streets program at the LEAF Festival on Saturday (May 12).

In a larger class, students shifted between amusement and amazement as they watched Vasquez’s fluid movements and tried to copy them. Many of them ended up laughing on the gym floor after arching back a little too far.

“It was amazing,” said Vasquez, who goes by the stage name Aquaboogy. “Watching the smiles on their faces fills my heart. It’s wonderful!”

Vasquez, along with Malawian drumming artist Masankho Banda, spent most of last week as resident teaching artists at Oakley, sharing their cultural backgrounds and arts with the children for a partnership between BCS and LEAF Cultural Arts. Banda demonstrated the oral tradition of Malawian storytelling by drumming and singing with the students in Melanye Crayton’s music classes, while Vasquez led P.E. classes through his impressive repertoire of popping and locking, robotic, and fluid dance styles.

“This is our second year participating in LEAF, and it is such a joy and blessing to participate,” Crayton said. “I've learned so much myself and love this opportunity to open the world to my students in my own classroom. I hope that they fall in love with these art forms from all cultures and learn the importance of preserving them.”

LEAF, which aims to protect the culture of indigenous communities through music and art, brought resident teaching artists to Oakley Elementary School, Charles T. Koontz Intermediate School, T.C. Roberson High School, and Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. Discovery Academy in the lead-up to its annual festival this past weekend. BCS students performed with the teaching artists in Schools and Streets showcases on multiple stages at the festival.

“Watching the students interact with cultures different from their own is like seeing the future happen in front of your eyes,” said Bill Feste, a board member for LEAF Community Arts. “The students will leave our school system and enter a global economy that will require them to interact and collaborate with those beyond our borders. As they grow, those borders may become more and more irrelevant, and having a foundation and an understanding and appreciation of cultural differences and similarities will be essential in creating a viable North Carolina and Buncombe County workforce.”

Buncombe County Schools is committed to global education, ensuring every student graduates fully prepared for the world in which he or she will live, work, and contribute. Global education is one of BCS Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin’s top four priorities


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