African village: A case study of an African-centered public elementary school

Verna S Cole, University of Pennsylvania


This research describes and analyzes the experiences of children and staff in “A Children's Village”. From 1993 through 1997, this pilot project—sponsored by the North East School District—operated as a school within a school. The location is in a large urban setting. The intent was to simulate aspects of an African village within an educational setting. In-depth information is provided on the physical, interpersonal, and institutional aspects of African Village life. Central to the study lies the question, “What happens when African Americans choose a distinctive pedagogy for African American students?” Clearly, the disproportionate number of African American students being labeled learning disabled and at-risk for failure gives rise to the latter question. Moreover, the broader concern for African American students is one of bi-culturality. For instance, survival in America requires that these students negotiate simultaneously within the Black community and the broader American society. Consequently, the societal and institutional context within which students live and learn were examined. Emphatically, it does take a village to educate a child. Therefore, the Village environment was the most significant variable examined within this study. Ethnography, an interpretative approach relying on sustained participant observation and informal interviewing, was employed as a means of studying everyday lives and values of Village participants. Audiotapes, videotapes and fieldnotes were used in the collection of data. The participants included a total of four teachers, 150 students and their parents. The study broadens present research in this area by providing a rich description of actual classroom practices. The study also reveals the following: (1) African American parents truly desire continuity of values and belief systems between home and school; (2) African American families are intimately involved in the educational lives of their children; (3) Educational practices, perfected within Independent Black Institutions, worked in the past and continue to work now; (4) and Shared ethnicity between the teacher and student encourages the African American educator to operate within multiple roles, such as: advocate, nurturer, instructor and admonisher. These multiple roles create a distinctive avenue to academic enrichment.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Cultural anthropology|African Americans|Elementary education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Cole, Verna S, "African village: A case study of an African-centered public elementary school" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9937713.