Nine female refugees from the African Republic of Burundi performed songs and dances from their homeland for Jefferson School kindergartners as part of an aesthetic education experience facilitated by Mercyhurst College education majors on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
The refugees, ages 7 to 15, demonstrated their songs and dances to Mercyhurst students last week and the students, in turn, used the performance as the basis of interactive lessons they developed and delivered to the Jefferson pupils. The lessons spanned geography to mathematics.
For approximately three years, Mercyhurst has included the principles of aesthetic education in its teacher training programs. The Mercyhurst Initiative for Arts-Based Teacher Education offers two courses to elementary, early childhood and special education majors.
Essentially, students in aesthetic education see live performances and visit museums, learn about the creative process and the vocabulary of the arts, make their own art, and explore the cultural, historical and social context of works of art.
Infusing the arts into education has wide-ranging benefits, encouraging creativity and imagination in students of all ages as well as developing skills of critical thinking, questioning, perception and reflection.
Dr. Leanne Roberts, who teaches this particular class of Mercyhurst students and worked with the Erie Art Museum to facilitate the Burundi refugees’ participation, said that studies indicate that achievement goes up with exposure to the arts.
NOTE: Check out the Erie Times-News video of the dancers at: