During a recent visit to Northwestern High School, Kevin Collins brought along one of the cellphone’s earliest predecessors: the drum. As he explained the drum’s origins and history, students learned that the musical instrument once served as a form of communication in West Africa.
This is one of many lessons that YouthQuest students have learned from Collins, who founded the African Drum and Dance Parent Association in 1992. The non-profit organization teaches youth and adults about the history of West African drum and dance, while helping students build confidence, learn different concepts and expand their creativity.
“Students learn what the traditional dances and movements mean,” Collins says. “We tell them the history of the dances – stories from West African culture that don’t typically make it into lesson books.”
Through learning West African drum and dance, students are exposed to other concepts as well.
“Along with history, we incorporate math by teaching children to count their step and the beat and we introduce them to the Swahili language,” says Collins. “The kids are very excited to participate. They tell me how excited they are to drum and show me the different dance moves they learned. It is a lot of fun!”
By partnering with the African Drum and Dance Parent Association, YouthQuest is able to offer afterschool students the opportunity to explore dance, languages and other cultures.
“One of our main goals through YouthQuest is to provide students with enrichment activities,” says Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President of Education & Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber. “With the African Drum and Dance Parent Association, students are exposed to West African culture, heritage and language in a fun and interactive way.”
YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.