The learning environment reflects the values and beliefs of the people who create and use it. As we set up our ateliers for the school year, the PSA Music Specialists took some time to reimagine our music-making spaces. We wanted to create spaces where the children could explore the broad spectrum that is music and the many ways people interact with it.
In each space, we asked ourselves:
- What would each space look like in the adult world? How would it be laid out?
- What materials and equipment would someone who was interacting with music in this way need?
- What ways could we adapt this equipment so that it is safe and provides children with meaningful learning opportunities?
What will inspire your music?
Offering opportunities for solo and group exploration, the Music Studio is a hub for all things inspiration. Reading stories, listening to music, singing songs, playing instruments, studying musicians and composers, dancing, and laughing together are just some of the ways we can use this space to gather inspiration for our own music.
The book Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy provided inspiration for us to look at music through different areas of contrast: quiet/loud, slow/fast, hard/soft, sad/happy, etc. The contrast between acoustic vs. electric seemed to intrigue the Gold Room children in particular.
Teacher: What does electric mean?
Student: It means don’t touch it.
Student: Yeah. It hurts if you touch it.
These observations opened up conversations about safety and how electricity can be dangerous, but people have found ways to make it safe to use for things like lights and guitars.
Student: Are these [headphones] electric or acoustic?
Student: They’re acoustic. They’re not plugged in.
What music will you listen to?
In this corner of the music studio, we listen to our favorite music and music we have never heard before. We explore story and the power of music on our emotions. Each family in any particular classroom is invited to fill out a family questionnaire. The responses are used to create a playlist reflecting the musical tastes of all the children in the classroom.
Student: I have this song at my home! [in response to We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel]
What music will you play?
A moveable shelf houses a selection of instruments that are made readily available to the children. The closets within the studios are home to our entire collection of instruments that can be rotated in as needed.
What music will you write?
How can we show the music that’s in our heads? How will others know how to play our music. Our composition station answers these questions and more. In this part of the music studio, children have access to loose parts and other manipulatives, a color-coded keyboard, metronomes, staff paper, sheet music, grids, whiteboards, and more.
Children are not simply learning to read western musical notation here. Instead, they are playing and experimenting with music and using symbols to visually represent it. They are asking themselves, “What COLORS, LETTERS, SHAPES, and NUMBERS will I use to represent my music?”. In this way, music is art, science, math, literacy and so much more.
Student: I think the purple one sounds like “tsch-tsch.”
A keyboard labeled with both note names and colors arranged in rainbow order allows children to notice patterns in the layout of the keyboard and offers different ways of naming each key. The colors on the keyboard match other C-scale pitched instruments such as Boomwhackers & resonator bells.
What music will you record?
Similar to our composition area, our recording station offers a way to re-create and save our music for future use. The symbols for play, pause, stop, record, rewind, fast forward, and skip are available to promote children’s independence when using electronic devices and programs.
What music will you perform?
Unlike the preservative qualities of recording and composing, performing allows us to be in the moment. Here, we express ourselves and share our music with others. We play around. We act silly or serious. We build our confidence and receive feedback so we can grow.
You don’t necessarily have to feel comfortable with performing to be a part of a performance. There are many important jobs to be done behind the scenes of a stage production, such as a lighting technician who controls the lights on the stage.
The presence of music, scarves, ribbons, and lighting provoke many dance, movement, and theatrical performances from the children. The mood of the music and the color-changing lighting had a noticeable effect on the children’s play and the overall atmosphere of the room.
How will music move you?
Our new Music & Movement Studio is a large, open space which provides ample room for whole-body creative expression. This space is used by all classrooms in the afternoons and houses the school’s shared gross motor equipment. Instruments and recorded music are available as needed.
As we get to know each other and ourselves this school year, it is our hope that these spaces will grow, change, and adapt to the children’s ever-growing learning and interests.
Reflection by Amanda Lautenbach, Music Specialist