When our school year kicked off, it was clear that language was going to be an opportunity to explore difference, family culture, and our shared experiences with this group of toddlers, families and teachers. Our group of Spanish, French and Chinese speaking teachers and children as well as our kiddos who aren’t yet speaking (and everywhere in-between!) means that right away we look for what brings us together. In September we worked on basics with our groups- naming things and each other again and again, practicing American Sign Language for conversation basics and food, and leaning heavily on the routine while our new children got used to the pace of the day. Through it all, there has been a common theme emerging on it’s own in the children creating attachments here, and that has been the power of music to unify them, and us!
In our outdoor space the children enjoy making (what we call) “jam sessions” by gathering together with any available musical or semi-musical instruments in the yard. This often involves the toy piano, the xylophone, and some funnels turned into horns. I have noticed these jam sessions often begin with one or two children kicking off a song by playing either a part of their body, or with sticks.
Music is coming into our classroom in a lot of exciting ways, as well. Wednesdays, Heidi comes and leads a romping musical circle with the children in the Elm Room. Caroline has brought in her soothing and delightful ukulele to times of day we wouldn’t always necessarily have music with instruments to reach for: nap, transitions, waiting in the hallway at diapering, and outside. Manuela told me yesterday she was humming in Spanish! Our cohort of children have found ways, too, to find a common language through music bridging their differences, difficulties, and navigating imaginary play.
For me, exploring music with these kiddos is wandering out of my comfort zone of nature-based and visual arts expression. Still, I’m finding this learning to be wildly engaging and fun. Having noticed our afternoon groups using their bodies in this creative way I have been introducing bells into our outside space slowly in the last few months. First, on trees, the fences, the Tiny Elm House… a few just out of reach to engage some problem solving in reaching them. From there I brought in jingle bells for our boots this week (you may have noticed when some of your kiddos came home with them!), encouraging more of that music/ body connection. Again on “jingle bell day” we saw a lot of work outside around percussion, drumming, building and constructing musical groupings, and getting together to jam.
How do you experience music in your family culture? Do you listen to music together, dance, have sing-alongs in the car? Do you go to see live music, play an instrument, make instruments with your children or provide them with inventive ways to make noise and sound experiments at home? Do you have favorite songs for special times of day, ceremonies, special occasions? Do you read books about music, or does music cross over into other forms of expression and learning like visual arts and science? What would that look like?