‘Ants on the elephant’s ear’

Five Acre School co-founder Juanita Ramsey-Jevne took a two-and-a-half-month sabbatical to the southern part of Africa last spring — and returned armed with months worth of curriculum.

Since January, the children have been reading and studying about Africa, as well as learning dance and music from the continent.

“The big emphasis is that Africa is a continent, not one country,” Ramsey-Jevne said, adding that most of the older children at Five Acre School can rattle off all 53 countries on the continent.

The children’s lessons will culminate in a 90-minute play, “Ants on the Elephant’s Ear: A Tiny View of a Very Large Continent,” which they will perform for the public March 28 at Peninsula College’s Little Theater.

“(The play) is an example of connecting almost every subject with music,” said Five Acre School co-founder and principal Bill Jevne. “The children had a deep immersion in the cultures of Africa.”

Each student has a role in the performance — the kindergarten-through-second-graders are rehearsing African tales that they will act out and the older children are playing instruments or dancing for the grand finale.

Jevne said parents and children have gotten into the spirit, working hard to sew costumes and create background scenery.

“There was one day when parents brought in sewing machines and spent the day sewing,” he said. Ten-year-old Alexandra Stuart-Lovell, who is dancing in the performance, said she enjoys learning about a new culture.

“We got to choose whether we wanted to be dancers or play an instrument,” Stuart-Lovell said. “It’s been so much fun.”

Ramsey-Jevne wanted the performance to be as authentic as possible, so she said she did her homework, as well. This past fall she attended a weeklong music teacher training conference that featured guest teachers from Africa. With their help, Ramsey-Jevne worked on her skills playing and teaching the music. She bought 10 authentic African drums with money raised from the school’s parent organization and, wanting to make the stories relevant to her students, Ramsey-Jevne adapted some of the tales.

“The music is so rich and I’ve wanted to do a play like this for a long time,” Ramsey-Jevne said of the performance, which features six stories and eight songs. “But I had to build up my musical skills and the skills of the whole school. It’s taken 13 years to build up a music program that could do it — and they are so great.”

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