Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Exploring the St. Louis - Ilheus Connection

Yesterday, we had a morning of presentations from all of the lower grade levels at Piedade. We were all very impressed and some of our students even remarked that we should do more at Ursuline to connect our two cultures and schools. I hope we do too!

Dancing the Samba
The preschool and kindergarten classes sang for us an invited us to dance the samba with them. As the song went, "When you hear the music playing, if you don't feel like dancing the samba you must be crazy or have a broken leg" (rough paraphrasing).

Next, we came out into the courtyard to watch capoeira, a type of fighting dance that originated in Brazil. Students and teachers demonstrated some of the moves and then invited our students to dance.

Gooey Butter Cake, recipe at left
After a short slide show of projects that students had completed comparing Ilheus to St. Louis and Buenos Aires, we were led to three different food stations that were serving foods from each of the three cities studied. The boards at each station included recipes in Portuguese and English. Any guess on what was chosen for St. Louis? Gooey Butter Cake was right! We were impressed with how well they did getting the recipe correct.
Abará, classic dish from Ilheus
For Ilheus the recipe chosen was Abará, made with ground black-eyed peas surrounding shrimp and steamed in banana leaves. What a treat!

Sydney and Cristina checking the St. Louis trivia facts.
In Math class, students had developed board games based on the three cities. From the games I was able to observe, they included plenty of trivia about St. Louis and the other cities. What a fun way to learn more about the sister cities!

Several class presentations from the Elementary school grades followed. They covered American food packaging; a comparison of our school to theirs; a comparison of our cities including photographs of very similar sites and landmarks in both; a comparison of the Mississippi to rivers in Brazil; a comparison of the native peoples in the St. Louis area to the native peoples of the Ilheus region; and finally an exploration of the Blues as an influence on Brazilian music and its origins in America. In every classroom there was an opportunity to taste, watch, listen and otherwise participate in the presentations.
1st graders after sharing a dance with us
Learning about St. Louis vs. Ilheus after enjoying fresh cocoa fruit
A spread of traditional native Brazilian foods, including root vegetables not found in the US and tapioca flour

After the presentations we broke for lunch. All of us needed some time for mental digestion as well. I am left very impressed with how well they had integrated St. Louis into so many of their classes. The focus on the two cities (three when you count Beunos Aires) instead of on whole countries was a great lens to explore a diversity of topics. The multi-sensory aspects of the projects encouraged engagement by both the Brazilian as well as American students. The language barrier was overcome largely through practical demonstration.

Artisan Craft Market
The afternoon was spent touring the city of Ilheus which ended at a trip to the marketplace. By evening our bags were full of souvenirs and our minds full of even more valuable mementos to carry back with us.

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