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Outdoor Music

Posted by on in Early Childhood
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What do you do to bring music outside in your preschool or child care program? I mean, if you don't have donors flooding you with money?

The photo above is of a hammock-style xylophone made by a father at my last center. He made it out of old bed slats. It is a great example of "upcycling", a new word for an old concept. You rescue forlorn old items, making them into something new and exciting. This cool musical instrument can also be made with new wood by following this "recipe" (my word for anything you make from scratch, instruments included). I have seen young children stand and play one of these beauties for twenty minutes or more. The sound is like this amazing forest xylophone, only not quite as well-tuned. 

drummers 10

Another way to upcycle unused or discarded "junk" is to turn dry wall buckets into drums. These can be kept outdoors and set up for drumming any time. No beaters? Children pick up sticks all the time. We tell them not to run with them, but now we can tell them what they can do with them instead! I have seen Pre-K boys interrupt a chase game of Ninja Turtles to drum out their abundant energies. What better way to channel that vibrant, wild spirit? 

Connecting indoor or outdoor music to a Pre-K curriculum is very easy. Beat and its companion, rhythm, teach mathematics. In the article, The Patterns of Music, from Y.C., the authors explain how music and rhythm teach "sequencing, counting, patterning, and one-to-one correspondence". It is required reading for my college students. Social studies standards can be addressed through playing and imitating music native to the cultures represented by the ESL students in your class. Science standards are also addressed by working with young children to experience the various vibrational qualities of sounds. 

The most important element in promoting outdoor (and indoor) music making is teacher engagement and enthusiasm. Play with sound alongside the children in your care. Suggest new ways to make joyful noise. Listen to their ideas and encourage their exploration. 

Give children the chance to create music of their own. They will thank you with their smiles.


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Gail teaches Early Childhood Education as an Adjunct Associate Professor for Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest community college systems in the country. She is a popular trainer in the DC area, leading workshops on such topics as Engaging, Arts-Based and Outdoor Learning, and Guiding Behavior. She is a member of the Virginia Community College Peer Group which collaborates with the Virginia Department of Social Services to train and license childcare professionals throughout the state. Her blog on BAM's EdWords is referenced in several arts websites, and is used in Early Childhood courses throughout Virginia. She is also a member of NAREA, the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance. You can contact her for more information about Professional Development opportunities. 

Gail lives and works in Northern Virginia. Her special interests include arts-integration, play, Reggio Emilia, music and yoga. 

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Guest Sunday, 26 May 2019