SUMNER — A giant poster announcing that this is the Year of the Tiger in Asia covered a huge section of the gym wall at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School. On the gym floor, a group of fifth-graders received instruction from members of the Bates Indonesian Gamelan Orchestra on how to play gongs and other exotic instruments.

Other children learned Chinese jump rope, practiced the Chinese ribbon dance under the leadership of members from the Lotus Dance Troupe of Portland, or tried on traditional Indonesian or Chinese costumes.

Virtually all the school corridors were decorated with Asian-inspired works of art such as Japanese and Pekin Opera masks, all created by the children.

Friday wrapped up a six-week program called Asia Will Amaze Ya.

“The project just grew and grew,” said Meghan Andrews-Wright, school music director.

The school’s allied arts program organized the study, which started with youngsters taking part in Asian-related activities in music, art, and physical education classes. Classroom teachers also participated by assigning Asian-related texts or poetry writing, she said.

Some of the activities really surprised pupils.

“I thought ribbon dancing would be boring,” said Grady Turcotte, a fourth-grader. “But it was really fun.”

Norliyana Menes, also a fourth-grader, was born in Singapore, but has spent much of her life living in Buckfield. She returned to her home country for a year and came back last year. She said Buckfield is sort of like living in rural Malaysia.

Her mother, Noraizada Menes, a substitute teacher, was one of the presenters who described her country to the youngsters.

“President Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia,” she said.

Buckfield High School foreign exchange students from Taiwan and Mongolia also worked with the youngsters during the day.

Fifth-graders Abby Shields and Jacob Kraske were fascinated by instruments in the gamelan gong and chime orchestra. All the children were asked to remove their shoes before they entered the orchestra area as a show of respect.

“We weren’t allowed to walk over the instruments because there might be spirits of former players there,” said Abby, a  clarinetist in the elementary school band.

Jacob, who plays the saxophone in the school band, said he had a great time playing the gongs and chimes. “You really have to work at it,” he said.

Even lunch had an Asian theme: Thai noodles, spring rolls, shrimp poppers, and fortune cookies.

Andrews-Wright, a member of the Nezinscot Valley Music Boosters, said the group sponsored the concerts by the orchestra and troupe. In the past, the school has had African drummers or Native American groups.

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Fifth-graders Erin Eastman, left, Courtney Tremblay and Mae Kolln play during an Indonesian gamelan orchestra demonstration at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in Sumner on Friday. Wahyu Roche of Indonesia instructed the students on how to play.

Norzaida Menes, right, a native of Singapore who lives in Buckfield, helps second-grader Abby Warren, 7, try on traditional clothing worn by children during one of four major holidays in Singapore. Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya and Christmas are the four major holidays celebrated in the multicultural country, Menes said Friday. Warren is a second-grader in Mechell Smith’s classroom at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in Sumner.

Students sing a Malay song during a presentation by Singapore native Norzaida Menes at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School on Friday.

Nathan Cyr, left, and Nik Vayda participate in a Chinese ribbon dance at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School on Friday. Cyr and Vayda are third-graders in Heidi Campbell’s classroom.

Second-grader Steven Elsman listens to a presentation by Singapore native Norzaida Menes at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School on Friday.


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