Carnaval of learning

“Hey guys, let’s go guys!
Carnaval starts at the crack of dawn!
The children are sleeping
And the flowers are drinking the morning dew
And the early morning rooster
Is already out on the streets saluting Carnaval!
(free translation of an excerpt from the Galo da Madrugada Anthem)

(trecho do Hino do Galo da Madrugada)

The children parade through the halls of the school singing the Galo da Madrugada Anthem, announcing that Carnaval is here! At be.Living, in addition to being a time of celebration and joy, Carnaval is also a fun time for meaningful learning. This year, teachers Vinícius Medrado, the Early Childhood Education music teacher, and Amanda Ribeiro, who teaches music and “Coisas D’Aqui” [Things from Here] to the Elementary School students, provided a true carnaval of learning for our school’s boys and girls with the “Other Carnavals” project.

One of the project’s main objectives is to portray and appreciate the diversity and richness of Brazilian culture through Carnaval. The teachers started the project by introducing the children to the different types of Carnaval that take place around the world. They danced, imitating the old European court balls, played with Commedia dell’arte masks, and learned about Entrudo: a party that always ended up causing trouble because people threw water, flour, and eggs at passers-by. Then it was time to dive deep into Brazilian culture, getting to know and experiencing some of the carnavals that take place here.

The children played tambourines, sang and danced samba, remembered the steps of the frevo – a dance that has become a be.Living Carnaval tradition, paraded through the school as street carnaval groups and learned about the rich carnaval of Pernambuco with its puppets, maracatus groups, and famous carnaval groups such as “Galo da Madrugada”, considered the biggest street carnaval group in the world.

“This year, a Galinho da Madrugada visited our school! In addition to being great fun, this kind of meeting helps to broaden the children’s cultural repertoire. They begin to identify with and appreciate the culture of the country where they live. Learning about one of the symbols of the Brazilian Carnaval, singing songs about this character, and dancing with him was a very special and meaningful experience for everyone” – says Vinicius.

Teacher Amanda says that Pernambuco’s culture was explored in great depth this year. “In “Coisas D’Aqui” classes, we introduced the Elementary School children to this Brazilian state whose capital is Recife and which has a city called Olinda, where the biggest Carnaval on the planet takes place. We listened to Alceu Valença, a composer from Pernambuco who composed many frevos, and started to study what the Pernambuco carnaval entails. We recognized Olinda’s puppets as a very beautiful manifestation of art and talked about the oldest puppet in the history of this carnaval, which is Homem da Meia Noite [Midnight Man], responsible for opening Olinda’s Carnaval every year. We then learned the song “O homem da Meia Noite”, composed by Alceu Valença.”

Besides frevo and Olinda’s Carnaval, teacher Amanda introduced the children to the universe of Maracatu: a cultural manifestation of the carnaval cycle that is very prominent in Pernambuco and has strong traces of Afro-Brazilian culture. “There are very old Maracatu nations in Pernambuco, a very beautiful tradition. We listened and danced to the steps of Alceu Valença’s Maracatu song. We deepened the studies about Maracatu even more with the Elementary School children. We learned about the “cortejos”, which are processions to celebrate the coronation of a king and queen that take place throughout Carnaval. The ritual goes back to the king and queen of the Congo, celebrating this ancestry, as a reminder of these kingdoms that were left behind on the African Continent, and also demonstrates how people have been giving this procession a new meaning in Brazilian lands. The children learned about a doll called Kalunga, which represents the ancestry and the protecting spirits of each Maracatu. Then came the damas do passo, baianas, estandartes, in short, the entire experience of this Maracatu structure. And it’s important to also say that the Year 4 and Year 5 students are already playing Maracatu!”

In teacher Vini’s opinion, one of the most significant learnings about Carnaval is that it exists to be involved in, not watched from the sidelines. “The Samba School parades are very beautiful, but the experience of actively participating in a carnaval party can be much richer and more meaningful, especially for the children. Learning new songs, trying out different rhythms, dancing other dances, playing instruments, and meeting new characters are very special and fun learning experiences! Playing and celebrating are very important dimensions of human life! Dimensions that bring us joy, fellowship, and a feeling of community,” – explains teacher Vinicius.

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