A Full Head of STEAM!

What follows is my full handout from my workshop on STEAM learning at the New England Regional Conference of The Children’s Music Network on May 2, 2015.

A Full Head of STEAM!

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) + Arts = STEAM!

1) Why is it such a great idea to integrate music & movement into learning about other subjects?

  • Music incorporates rhythm and catchy language that’s often easy to remember, helping students retain content.
  • Songs, like books, help build vocabulary.
  • Music, singing and movement are working many parts of the brain simultaneously, thus stimulating brain development and keeping the listener engaged and active. Best-sellers such as Daniel Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music (2006) offer insights on neuroscience research on the human experience with music. Levitin’s elaborate brain diagrams show how nearly all parts of the brain are utilized in processing musical experiences, not just those related directly to listening and language, but also the memory center in the hippocampus, the timing circuits in the cerebellum, the planning centers in the frontal lobe, and the motor, sensory and visual cortexes.
  • Music develops skills such as keeping a regular beat, which has been shown by research to be connected to success in academics, especially reading skills.
  • Many songs naturally draw students into learning about patterns and sequences, essential in math, science and literacy learning.
  • Songs and finger-plays with movements and/or sign language help children incorporate a concept into their bodies.
  • Music/singing is a non-competitive activity that helps build children’s sense of self worth, and also helps teach important social-emotional skills such as taking turns.
  • Most of all, music is GREAT FUN and builds community!

“By and large, the arts are not conveyors of information.  Dance and music do not add to our information overload. Their purpose is not to convey data but to supply insight and wisdom – in a word, meaning.  Their power is that they can move us.”  – Charles Fowler, 1994

“When children dramatize, move to, or create music to represent a story, they become actively involved in working with the ideas in the story. As they translate the words to art forms, each story comes to life.  Indeed, the act of transforming or translating is fundamental to attaining understanding or comprehension.”  – Meryl Goldberg, 2006

What kinds of songs are most effective for encouraging learning?

– Songs that are easy to learn, have a catchy tune. The classic example is Schoolhouse Rock.

– Songs that have parts kids can repeat. Examples include Liz’s songs, “I’ve Got Potential” or the “T-Rex” song. Right away, the children are involved in the song.

– Songs that include instruments. Rain sticks, thunder cans, shakers and rhythm sticks can actually dramatize aspects of the song.

– Songs that include props. Puppets, stuffed animals, rubber duckies, scarves. These incorporate visual learning and extend body movements.

“If it hasn’t been in the hand, the body and the heart, it can’t be in the brain.” – Educator Bev Bos

Songs I personally find effective for science/math learning. You can find recordings of most of these songs on Liz’s Sound Cloud page (https://soundcloud.com/antelopeliz/) or in Liz’s recent blog posts at http://www.antelopedance.com.

Cloud in the Middle of the Sky. Uses scarves & rain sticks.

– Once I Was a Seed – Uses body movement to embody concept of growth. Rain sticks or combo with scarves.

Nuts for the Winter. Stuffed squirrel & shaker eggs.

– T-Rex – Song written by Liz with English language learners; the kids pretty much could repeat back the whole text of the book. We turned it into a call and response song.

Finger plays! Surprisingly simple ideas are very engaging. Adding puppets and visual props makes it even more so.

Here is the beehive –  Here is the beehive, where are the bees? Hiding away, where nobody sees. Watch them come creeping out of their hive, 1-2-3-4-5.

– Plant the seed down in the ground – (Tune of Pop Goes the Weasel) – We plant the seed down in the ground. The rain makes a shower, and then the sun shines bright all around. Up pops the flower.

I’m a Little Worm – I’m a little worm, I’m a little worm, here is how I wiggle and squirm. I go under the ground, under the ground, ‘cause that’s where all the worms are found.

How can we create songs with kids that will help them learn?

Liz’s Songwriting Worksheet

 Song Topic or Question:

Two descriptive words ____________________________

Two action words ________________________________

Say something!  __________________________________

Create an illustration for your song topic on the back of this sheet.

Some tips:

– For science songwriting, picking a topic could be as easy as asking an “I wonder” or a “why” question. Why do stars look white? Why do rainbows appear? I wonder how big infinity is? Why do animals become extinct? Why does the ocean have waves?  Then you and kids go do some research to find the answer.

– Tune & song structure. You don’t need to start from scratch. Look at classic songs that work well with kids, such as the examples on the previous page. Another example is Pam Donkin’s Water Cycle song, which was based on a gospel song.

– Use brainstorming and list-making to help create your song. You can read more about my songwriting process with students in my blog: http://www.antelopedance.com/uncategorized/from-brainstorming-to-creating-a-new-song/

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