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James Childs teaches Tiffani Jones' first grade class about African drums at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday.
James Childs teaches Tiffani Jones' first grade class about African drums at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
James Childs teaches Tiffani Jones' first grade class about African drums at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday.
James Childs teaches Tiffani Jones' first grade class about African drums at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Kristofer Duckett and his wife, Tashara, teach classes about the Tuskegee airmen during their seminar at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday.
Kristofer Duckett and his wife, Tashara, teach classes about the Tuskegee airmen during their seminar at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Stacey Cole teaches Breanna Caldwell's Kindergarten class the meaning of the movements to an original African American dance at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday.
Stacey Cole teaches Breanna Caldwell's Kindergarten class the meaning of the movements to an original African American dance at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)
Mrs. Wanda Roberts teaches Mrs. Danielle Byrd’s class about relaxers and tools for hair straightening at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday.
Mrs. Wanda Roberts teaches Mrs. Danielle Byrd’s class about relaxers and tools for hair straightening at Yokota West Elementary School on Friday. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — To Yokota West Elementary School faculty members, teaching their students about Black History Month involves more than just an educational movie and perhaps reading one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches.

Instead, they have a celebration, or to be more specific, a “Learn-a-bration”

Twenty presenters from Yokota’s community were on hand Friday to teach the students about different elements of African-American culture, from West African dance and famous black inventors to the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

“Not all education comes out of a textbook,” said principal Lee Kirsch, during the school’s 15th annual Learn-a-bration. “This event gives the students an opportunity to become involved in Black History Month in a hands-on way.”

The school’s multicultural committee organizes the event each year to bring the African-American experience to life for students, said Cheryl Johnson, the school’s information specialist.

Norise Greene, a first- and second-grade teacher, said she believes it’s important students be taught about black culture and history because in Japan they might not be exposed to it as much as in the States.

“This event shows a more realistic part of our culture,” Greene said. Already that morning, she noted, her students had been exposed to West African dances and story telling and currently were in a class about the West Indian islands of Trinidad and Tobago.

One of the students in that class was third-grader Joe Zak, who said he was having a lot of fun learning about his history. Zak said his favorite session so far was about the World War II pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen.

“However,” he added. “The morning’s not over yet.”

A Yokota West fifth-grade teacher, Dr. Jane Hodges, also was a presenter during the event.

Having traveled to Kenya and Nigeria to study and work with African educators, Hodges showed Yokota West students what life is like for students their same age growing up in Africa. She also taught them about different elements of African culture and even had them build models of traditional Kenyan huts.

Hodges said educating the students not only about African-American history but also about life in Africa is important — as is teaching them to appreciate what they have.

Said Greene: “Any time children are exposed to diversity, it is beneficial to them.”

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