Upper School English Explores Nigerian Culture

Grade 10 Honors English makes traditional food, crafts based on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Upper School students in Cat Morphis’ tenth-grade Honors English classes don’t only read books—they make the stories come to life. Recently, the students made original creations based on their reading of classic novel Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.

The book’s main theme centers on pre- and post-colonial life in late nineteenth century Nigeria. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, one of the first to receive global critical acclaim. Mrs. Morphis chose the book for students to read for this reason: “Achebe is such an important writer because he was able to offer for the first time a compelling and true-feeling narrative on this topic,” she said.

After students read the book and worked to understand the plot and characters, Mrs. Morphis wanted them to connect their “hearts to the subject” and choose a creative project that reflected cultural elements of the story. Projects completed included papier-mâché masks and 3D printed dolls based on select characters, traditional Nigerian instruments and food, and even models of the village where the characters lived.

Mrs. Morphis said that one of the goals of the project was to give students the chance to engage in the creative process, which they will continue to do as they prepare to write in-depth essays on some of the book’s more challenging topics.

“Whether it’s making a papier-mâché mask or writing an essay, the creative process requires you to saturate yourself with a whole bunch of information and then figure out the best way to organize and present what you have,” she said. “At the end of it all, you should create something that reflects the story and is meaningful to you personally.”





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