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Students Learn Black History Through Music

“I think exposure to all cultures is so important,” explained Morah Dionne, who teaches ECE and Kindergarten students the joys of music and dance. 

Right now, she is honoring Black History Month by focusing on some of the most influential Black artists. To help the students understand the importance of music, she teaches more well-known songs across a variety of genres. 

You can find students grooving to “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder or belting “Lift Me Up” by Rihanna. They loved dancing to “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, a song recently used in the “Trolls” movies! Students got to learn the history behind one of their favorite, most-recognizable songs. 

Using children’s books, Morah Dionne wants students to feel a connection to the artist and their music. By reading “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop,” the kids are introduced to both jazz music and the saxophone, singing along with Morah Dionne as she reads by imitating the squeals of the instrument. “Black Music Greats: 40 Inspiring Artists” provides an overview of some of the most famous Black artists — including the Jackson 5. She explained Michael Jackson’s career to the students, from his early days in an ensemble to his epic solo career. Then, they rocked out to “Billie Jean,” complete with hats and gloves.

Students practice motor skills each time they visit Morah Dionne on her stage. Every class starts with a “good morning” song, complete with a choo-choo train around the stage to get everyone ready to move. Then, she leads the class in dancing to her carefully selected playlist for the day. 

This joyful way of learning and expression of emotion sticks with our Lions throughout their time here: “I also teach Upper School sound engineering classes, and any high schooler who has been at Hillel since preschool has had me as a teacher. They still come up to me going, ‘Morah Dionne! Do you remember how we used to wear costumes in your class?’ I love it.”

Morah Dionne is passionate about what she does, and about incorporating many cultures into her work. “We are a very diverse school! We have kids and staff from a lot of different countries. I want to expose kids to what I can, helping them be the greatest they can be on their path of growing up. I love what I do!”