As we explore the theme of strengths-based learning, we come across so many examples of cross-subject collaboration to further our ASH students’ learning and growth opportunities. This is a testament to our teachers and their synergetic approach to their lessons and a willingness to team up with their colleagues on lessons. The main benefactors of this collaboration is of course our students! A couple of weeks ago in the FLASH we featured a few photos of our grade one learners and the instruments they had created - showcasing the perfect harmony of when science meets music. Ms. Violeta, the ECC music teacher shared with us the story behind this project and the strengths-based learning and growth in action.
Spring with strings, was a short term project inspired by the heart-warming documentary The Landfill Harmonic, which tells the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura in Paraguay, and the young people who turned trash into musical treasures. Ms. Violeta explained the other inspiration behind this project were the, “spring sounds, smells and colors starting to fill the air… the young musicians moved creatively and listened to Vivaldi’s spring. We noticed how Vivaldi used a variety of string instruments in his composition and we wondered… How could we make our own string instruments? We watched a short clip featuring the recycled orchestra and… our minds were blown! We learned that some communities don’t have access to professional violins, cellos and violas. However, they have music in their spirits. They use what they find in their surroundings to make their own instruments. There is so much for our young musicians to learn from Cateura’s recycled orchestra.”
Ms. Violeta went on to tell us how, “in Science, first graders have been exploring how sound is made and the causes and effects behind the way different materials and actions produce sound. In Music, young musicians were working on their understanding of pitch (higher and lower sounds). Making creative string instruments with various pitches was a fantastic opportunity for science to meet music.”
We wanted to know more about the strengths these young learners used to create these instruments. Ms. Violeta highlighted that they had to embrace their strong imaginations in order to draw a plan for the instrument they intended on creating. “They had a variety of models to choose from inspired by professional instruments (violins, cellos, electric guitars, harps, pianos) Then, they had to select the recycled materials available for them and assemble them using their dexterity. We learned that rubber bands are sometimes tricky to stretch. Watch out! Young musicians learned three different ways in which rubber bands can change pitch: with tension, thickness of material and length of the string.”
“The recycled materials available were so different and fun to work with! We had old cigar boxes, piano keys and even ice cream containers. Students created wonderful decorations that just added color and style to their creations. Instruments were named according to their sound and look.” For example there were instruments as diverse as a rainbow string to a rock & roll a drum-tar (combination of drum and guitar).
These students whole-heartedly embraced the creative process, as can be seen from the final instruments produced. We wanted to know from Ms. Violeta, what kind of feedback she heard from these young learners as they were making and creating:
“Max showed me his instrument with delight. "Feel it! Feel it!" He said. "You can actually feel it vibrate!"
Three girls worked together on a 5-string guitar, they happily came to me and exclaimed: “Ms. Violeta, we can play the first part of Twinkle, twinkle!”
Hamza worked really hard on his train instrument. He said that with the sound of the strings he could make the beat and rhythm of his train. "Why did you call it a train instrument, Hamza?" I asked. “It is a cool name, right? It sounds good” he responded.
Hugo found out that playing two strings simultaneously made both strings move and vibrate together. "See Ms Violeta? they are vibrating. It sounds creepy!" ”
The student experience of these learning opportunities is an important story to tell and so too is the teacher experience, and so to end, we asked Ms. Violeta what is her favorite part of these types of learning projects. “As a music teacher, I like to hear the individual voices that make up the diverse orchestra we are. Every voice, every instrument, every student has a different tone, thought, plan, feeling. Together we can all make our music sound in harmony.”