Sixth Graders Focus on African Culture for Wheel Performance


Rissy Dalton

The chorus students sing one of their numbers during the wheel performance on October 15.

You know, there’s more to Africa than just deserts, exotic animals, the Lion King, and the Ebola virus. It’s a continent made up of rich cultures, varied landscapes, and interesting people. That’s why the sixth grade chose Africa as its continent of focus for its first wheel performance on October 15.  The purpose of the wheel is to give sixth graders a feel for the different art electives (dance, drama, music, and visual art).  It is called the “wheel” because the students rotate around (like a wheel) the different electives so they may make informed decisions about their electives in seventh and eighth grade.

The theme for the wheel this year is geography, and the sixth grade explored Africa this quarter. Sixth-grade students demonstrated their skills and knowledge of a variety of different African countries through their artwork.  “We decided on our themes last June before we left for the summer, giving us time to think about music, art, skits, and dances that would compliment our chosen area of study for the 2014-2015 school year,” said Middle School Arts Department Chair Nancy McAllister.

Everyone in attendance, including parents and faculty, saw the results of the students’ hard work. However, what they didn’t see was that the students went deeper than the dances, skits, songs, and

Some of the sixth graders pose backstage prior to the wheel performance on October 15.
Some of the sixth graders pose backstage prior to the wheel performance on October 15.

artwork they performed and produced. The sixth graders actually  “studied the terrain, the culture, the people, designs, flowers, flags, and animals [of Africa], and, in addition, how diverse and/or similar each country is to America,” explained McAllister.  A lot of work went into studying the continent and its countries so the students had a better understanding of what they were creating for the stage. “There are so many funny parts, whether they were meant to be or not,” laughed McAllister.  Drama and English teacher Mr. Robert Bayless purposefully makes the show very humorous, even in the serious scenes. “My favorite part in the wheel performance was the act with the talking camel,” said sixth grader Carol Chen. “It was so funny when the camel said he was going to eat the people before they ate him.”

Every year the wheel is different. Themes in the past have included movies, musicals, sci-fi, and summer, along with academic subjects such as math, English, and science. “That’s the beauty of the wheel…new group, new theme, new lessons!” exclaimed middle school dance and math teacher, Mrs. Rachel Rudner. “It’s always changing.”

For the students, it’s a chance to show off their skills and illustrate to their parents the things on which they have been working in their wheel classes. “I love performing because you can be yourself, and I love the nervous energy of it,” said sixth grader, Sebastian Nachilly. However, the thrill of performing doesn’t prevent some students from reflecting on themselves with a critical eye. “I can improve being louder because I am usually shy and a little quiet,” admitted Chen.

However, one of the great aspects of the wheel is that students do get a second chance (and a third and a fourth!) because the wheel takes place at the end of each quarter. “I liked the theme but I’m also excited for [the] second quarter wheel,” commented sixth grader, Lili Hernandez, who was featured in a singing solo during the “We Are the World” finale. For the second quarter wheel performance, students will be researching countries such as the Philippines, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, West Malaysia, and Vietnam.  To see that you will just have to wait for the performance on December 17.  The excitement of Southeast Asia awaits!