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Volume I: African Art


Parallel Cognitive Structures for Reading Literature and Reading Art
as Texts to Deepen Comprehension
Sheila L. Carter-Jones
Pittsburgh Montessori School

This curriculum unit expresses the belief that the culture of the student plays an important role in the ability to deepen comprehension. This premise is further explained in the use of information about African seats to inform and match the culture of the students. By using African seats as a teaching tool to deepen comprehension, students have an opportunity to apply background knowledge from the culture of their home life and from their community. As evidenced by research, students gain a deeper understanding when the text can be connected to self and to world.

What is introduced here is the idea that cognitive structures used for reading a written text are acutely similar or parallel to the cognitive structures used to view art as a text. Using reading strategies and visual thinking strategies, two lessons are designed to develop the skills of anticipating the text and accessing background knowledge. Within each lesson are two activities designed for deeper comprehension through the use of parallel cognitive structures of reading and viewing.


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African Art in Context and Concept
Cheree Charmello
Pittsburgh Gifted Center

African Art in Context and Concept is a multilayered writing course that uses African art as a springboard for response writing. The underlying goal of this unit is to discover African Art from an African perspective; to see its beauty in the context in which it was created. The unit contains ideas for helping students to make improvements in writing. Also included are unit-supporting thumbnails of African countries and the art of various ethnic groups, which will be used to prompt writing, speaking, and research activities.


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Using Objects of African Art as a Medium in Learning
About Francophone African Cultures and Related French Language
David Ghogomu
Taylor Allderdice High School

Teaching art is challenging to most world language and language art teachers who are trained mainly to teach the language and socio-cultural aspects of the country whose language they are teaching. To many French teachers, teaching French art requires more preparation and extra study time than normal grammar or other cultural lessons. It is even more so when the art lessons have nothing to do either with France itself or its famous artists. African art is gradually being integrated into school curricula at colleges and high schools. The challenges that many instructors face in teaching African art include how to rid it of the negativity with which westerners have associated it for many decades, and how to present objects of art as more than just utilitarian objects and fetishes. Using Francophone African art objects as medium this unit proposes ways of teaching/learning French language (especially through vocabulary acquisition) and learning the cultural values and norms of Francophone African countries as represented by, or presented through, those objects.

Art objects mostly from four Francophone African countries, Cameroan, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaïre) provide the medium through which not only Francophone cultural values and norms but also French language (mostly vocabulary acquisition) are taught within the context of art education.

Consisting of fifteen-day lessons, the unit progresses from art-related vocabulary acquisition through the introduction of Francophone African countries and then the analysis of the utilitarian, and other cultural implications of selected art objects from the four countries mentioned as well as neighboring countries, such as Mali, Bénin, and Sénégal. Various vocabulary-building methodologies are used for the language aspect of the unit while anecdotes as well as the observation and handling of genuine art objects, or pictures of such objects, help in the understanding of their cultural importance and aesthetic nature.


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African Masquerades: Art and its Importance in African Cultures
Susan A. O’Toole
Pittsburgh Public Schools/Arsenal Middle School

As a visual arts instructor, teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, I try to use the visual arts as reinforcement for all other academic areas. Therefore, within this curriculum you will find activities relating to language arts, math, social studies, science, technology, and music. All of the activities will relate to the academic subject area as it interacts with the visual arts. Although this curriculum is designed for seventh grade it can easily be adapted to other educational levels. This unit works well with social studies because of the importance of art as a visual record of societies, cultures, and history.

Information will be given on the African tradition of masquerades and their purposes in traditional African cultures. This curriculum will focus on the historical, social, political, and spiritual aspects of the African cultures and what the masquerades of Africa can teach us about their cultures. The African mask and the masquerade will be the central focus of this curriculum. In this curriculum the students will study the ancient traditions of mask making, understand the role or function of masks in traditional African cultures, create instruments and participate in other related class projects.


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Rhythm in Sound, Rhythm in Sight
William D. Pfahl
Arsenal Middle School

Rhythm in sound, Rhythm in sight will focus on African traditional musical instruments and the role they play with visual forms of expression in ritual and daily life.

We will learn about a wide variety of traditional African musical instruments, their classification, sound, relationship to masking and other rituals and their influence on modern instruments.

In this unit we will learn about music, masking and dance, African forms of expression that are performed in the moment with life and spirit. We will learn about a culture that uses performance masquerade, music and dance with renewable materials, and does not care to attempt to build timeless monuments in stone.

This unit will be taught at Arsenal Middle School to a primarily African American population. It is has a multi-cultural subject, involving traditional African and modern western music and art forms. This unit relates to the ancestral history of 95% of my students.


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African Art: A Slaves Journey into Africa
Camille E. Smith
Helen S. Faison Arts Academy

This is a unit about Africans coming to America and the influence this has had on American art. I have included creative lessons and a format that is inclusive to all students in the early childhood range. Some of the information you can use in your social studies classes and the reading stories will assist with literacy. As I researched and traveled through the period of slavery, I learned about different rituals within the tribes. These rituals assisted in their daily living environment and some of them have been used to teach key skills within my regular curriculum. Some of the art activities will assist with the art infusion component at my school. You will find that this is an interesting unit full of useful activities for your growing students.


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“Rites of Passage” Seen through African Art
Christine Tapu
ESL Itinerant: Arsenal Middle School / Frick International Studies Academy

This curricula unit, “Rites of Passage” Seen through African Art seeks to give students the opportunity to explore the human existence and the universals we all experience regardless of culture or ethnic background. In doing so, the art of Africa is the central focus with the hope that the art will show similarities amongst people from Africa where they choose to see vast differences. A third goal the unit seeks to achieve is broadening the artistic experience of the students who may have little exposure to the artistic tradition of Africa. The unit will focus on cycles of life and the various ways that these events are commemorated. In particular, the unit will focus on births, initiation and death. All of these stages are “rites of passage” with their own symbols and meanings and the unit will attempt to make connections with students through these universals.


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UNDERSTANDING AFRICAN ART
Frank Tillman, Jr.
Schenley High School

The main objective of this unit is to have the students first clearly understand the values of African art and its purpose. A second objective is to learn the various beliefs and rituals behind some African art in various cultures. Third is to promote enjoyment of making an African mask, African doll, and African seat within this curriculum. And last to reflect on what they learned about African rituals and beliefs and how it effects the people who live in that culture. If possible, the students would have he opportunity to combine music with the African mask in order to do a performance in the classroom. This curriculum should provide more of an appreciation for African art. For each lesson, the curriculum will provide information on a work of art created, the location and culture where it was made, how it was made, and how the students can create their own art form.


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African Art at the Heart of First Grade
Alexis Tuckfelt
Fort Pitt Elementary

This curriculum unit is designed to increase the multicultural awareness of first grade students. In this unit, aspects of African culture are fused into the existing Language Arts, Mathematics and Social Studies Curriculums of Pittsburgh Public Schools. This multidisciplinary unit focuses on the cultural heritage of the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria. Throughout the unit, students will take part in interdisciplinary activities surrounding this interesting culture. Students’ will connect these cultural experiences to ones in their own lives.

In Social Studies, students will learn concepts correlated to the following strands of Geography: culture, government, history, economics and citizenship. They will explore using maps and picture books that portray different aspects of Nigerian life. Role-playing will allow them to further experience aspects of the culture. In Language Arts, students will participate in shared writing, responding to literature and research and inquiry. They will be given opportunities to view, discuss and critique art. By learning to “read” art and explain through written description, they will see that visual images can communicate as well as text. Actual works of art and pictures will be used to encourage their writing. In Mathematics, students will be given opportunities to view patterns in Nigerian cloth. They will construct a game that children of this culture play. An extension on this idea is to develop their own instrument for movement and its’ meaning, which relates to rituals performed in divination. They will also discuss the power of twins in Yoruba culture relating this to the math concepts of fact power and doubles facts.


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Chatham University
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Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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