The Magic Gourd

by Vicky on April 25, 2010

This week in our Page Presents class, I had to take over Mr. Matt’s Minute of rhythm instruction, since Matt’s daughter Zoey had the croup.  Matt had emailed me his idea about teaching an African “marketplace” rhythm that the kids could play on their bodies.  This worked out really well.  I started out at a very slow tempo, and when everyone was slapping out the rhythm on their knees and hands, I asked them if they could do it faster.  We gradually worked up to a much faster tempo, and then I played Angelique Kidjo’s Battu, from the African Playground cd.  Everyone did amazingly well at keeping the rhythm going at this very fast tempo!  Whenever they started to lose the beat, I had them switch to clapping out downbeats.  Then on the next time around we would go back to the marketplace rhythm.  It was fun and challenging!

Then I told the West African story, The Magic Gourd, by the wonderful Baba Wagué Diakité.  I had help from my handsome black Rabbit puppet and my new Chameleon puppet.  It is a time of prolonged drought, and Rabbit is poor and hungry and hard at work trying to find a few roots to feed his family.  He takes time to free Chameleon from a thorny bush, and Chameleon gives him a magic gourd that fills with whatever is asked for.  Rabbit shares his plenty with his friends and neighbors, and soon the greedy king hears of the gourd and sends his guards to take it by force.  With the help of Chameleon, Rabbit tricks the king into giving back his gourd, and the king learns a lesson about generosity.  Rabbit and Chameleon, of course, already know that true friendship is the greatest treasure of all.

For our weekly craft, we made our own magic gourds.  My original idea was to use Chinet paper bowls, but I couldn’t find any, and I didn’t want to use plastic.  I happened upon this great template from Martha Stewart, which worked just like…magic!  I enlarged the template, traced it onto recycled file folders, and cut it out.  It was a perfect preschool craft because the kids could do everything themselves.  I had printed out examples of African mud cloth, which the kids could cut up and glue onto the flat template.  Then we punched holes in each petal section, and the kids could lace the heavy twine through the holes and cinch up the petals into a bowl.  Here are two views of the one that I made:

…and here is a gallery of the ones made by the kids!

I love how each child brings his or her own sense of design to create a unique work of art.  In the story, Chameleon demonstrates the magic gourd by asking it to fill with insects, which he proceeds to gobble up.  Elijah showed me how he filled his bowl with black-and-white animal images that reminded him of Chameleon’s insects, and he and his friend pretended to gobble up the contents of their gourds with gusto.  Avery had taken some of the red, green, and yellow construction paper strips into his finished bowl, and he told me, “See, here are some carrots and some peas and some corn in my magic gourd!”

One mother told me that she had taken her child to a storytime at a different branch, and afterwards he declared, “I like Ms. V.”

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