Last week, Evergreen 5th graders compared notes on poetry with another 5th grade class—in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Previously, our 5th graders had read and discussed Maya Angelou's poem "Caged Bird," as did the 5th graders at Bishopslea Preparatory School for Girls
in Zimbabwe's capital. Then this morning, over Skype, the two groups shared their impressions in real time, facilitated through The Globe Reads
The poem's themes of freedom and oppression made for rich discussion, and the groups shared anecdotes of life in their respective countries.
Evergreen 5th graders listened, captivated, as the students in Zimbabwe shared their experience with high inflation, long queues for fuel, government shutdowns of the internet, and protests involving tear gas and civilians disguising themselves as police.
When asked for questions, one Evergreen student rose and said, "Was it scary when it happened?"
The students answered yes, and continued to describe their experiences. They offered a concrete example to explain inflation by bringing up school uniforms, which they all wore—one student said the uniforms now cost $100 in U.S dollars, but with inflation, the figure was even more absurd in Zimbabwe's currency. (Regardless of the students' exact accuracy reporting these figures, Evergreen students and teachers gained an insight into the students' experiences.)
Tying the theme back to the "Caged Bird" poem, one Evergreen student said,
"What makes a lot of us feel like caged birds is, maybe we don't agree with the people in political power now—and we're just kids, so we feel like we can't do anything about it. And even some adults can't."
Students brought up situations including the detention and separation of families at the southern border and the proposed wall, as well as the political situation in general.
The facilitator asked both groups to reflect on freedom—is it always better to be free? Are there any drawbacks?
The students offered thoughtful responses.
One commented on the judgment required to thrive in freedom:
"When you are free ... there's nothing or nobody to stop you from doing things."
Another said, "If you've always been free, you don't appreciate it the same way as someone who's been caged."
"A free bird is very exposed to the dangers of the world. It might get eaten by a crocodile, it has to worry about where to get food ...."
"With freedom comes a responsibility to help those who are caged."
(Note: Two of our three 5th grade classes participated in this chat; the third plans to do so soon.)