Dear Peacock Family Center Parents:
As we officially put summer to a close and move ourselves towards the beauty and the inwardness of autumn, I think of music.
The “autumn” movement from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons comes to mind – a poignant and stunning piece of music that describes the feelings that autumn can often evoke as we both grumble about and celebrate this pivotal season in its transformational qualities. As a musician myself, music has been part of my entire life, and as an educator of young children, I see music as such an amazingly powerful influence in children’s lives. A child’s life that is bereft of music of any kind seems to me to be indeed lacking in something that seems so vital in the human experience. I think of the article that was written in the Washington Post several years ago about an incident in the Washington DC metro station where the renown Joshua Bell was playing his violin, and along with almost everyone in the metro that morning, several rushed parents whisked their children away, each parent not realizing that his or her child was captivated by the magnificent sounds that that were coming out of Mr. Bell’s instrument. A missed opportunity indeed…( If you wish, you can read about this experiment that was sponsored by the Washington Post and was videotaped at the L’Enfant Plaza station in January of 2007. The article was entitled “Pearls for Breakfast.”
Music naturally delights and interests children. Go to a street fair, or even our own Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market, and watch how children become entranced by the musicians there. Some children will dance freely; some will simply stare, mesmerized. Some of you play instruments at home, and how fortunate your children are that they get to listen to you play, to let live music become part of who they are and will always be. For those of you who don’t play an instrument, worry not, as music can envelop a child’s being in many many ways.
There is a plethora of research out there that talks about the benefits of music education with young children. I, of course, can’t relay more than a tiny bit in this newsletter, but I will tell you of some. It is been well researched and documented that music (and movement) experiences help develop both sides of the brain as they contribute to children’s social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development. When engaged in music and movement activities, children are solving problems and are using logic and reasoning, figuring out, for example, which instrument can be used to make a sound like thunder or the wind. They create patterns with the words they sing or chant, with the motions they make with their bodies or with musical instruments.
Children learn about number concepts as they clap their hands and stomp their feet three times or as they sing number songs. They think symbolically when they pretend to walk like an elephant or hop like a bunny. Young children develop and focus on their listening skills as they notice changes in tempo or the pitch of the music. They learn new words and concepts through songs and the vocabulary that songs provide. They develop phonological awareness as they play with the rhythms and the sounds of language that music gives us all the time. As I noted in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons autumn movement, music evokes universal or even subjective feelings in children. Music can make us happy sad or playful or pensive or just calm. I love watching how children’s art is so richly embellished when music is played in the background. Singing and moving together to music is not only very enjoyable for children, but is also an activity that helps everyone feel a part of the group. Even more timid children tend to feel a little more comfortable when they are singing with others.
Young children love to combine action, words, and music, the basis of songs with finger play. I have observed so many children who have a natural inclination towards music and movement. They sing or hum throughout the day as they work and play. They notice the ticking of a clock or water dripping from the roof after a rain. They make sounds with their mouths that emulate their own instruments. They love clapping and making rhythms with their hands and their bodies. In the womb, there is a drumbeat, a natural rhythm that surrounds their being. Once out in the world, there is a natural inclination to find other rhythms and beats and melodies. It is that vital aspect of music that is so inherent in a child’s world.
Music is prevalent every day at Peacock. Singing voices come from every room all the time, and instruments are often accompanying them. All kinds of CD’s are played every day, that expose the children to a range of music that spans all cultures. In October, we will once again begin our music program, providing engaging musical experiences in every classroom that enrich the already wonderful musical moments that the children have each day.
So, now, what have we been doing in every classroom this week?
In the Infant Room, the babies have been exploring everything possible. We have future plumbers and engineers in our midst, undoubtedly. On a musical note, I notice that the children very actively respond to music in the infant room. One baby was tapping his finger on my arm completely in time with the Vivaldi sonata I had playing in the background. In general, infants respond very keenly to music and the effects it creates on the brain and on the nervous system. One day I walked into the infant room and observed Petra and her daughter Amber both singing lullabies in Spanish to all the babies. The infants were in a state of complete calm and relaxation, so soothed and loved by these beautiful melodic voices singing in a language that sounds so lovely to the ear.
In the Toddler Room this week, the children had a some wonderful painting experiences. One day they took a little adventure to the “upper yard”, and they painted a huge mural with soapy paint. Another day they painted with sand. Another day they took their paintbrushes and they painted with water, washing toys and other objects that needed “cleaning.” Another day they decorated and explored chalk, both on the chalkboard in the classroom, and in a larger space outside. Haleigh taught the children a new song this week, a very catchy tune that the children love with stickers and body labeling. Every day the toddlers listen to and dance to a range of wonderful music that comes from all around the world.
In the Green Room, the children have been enjoying lively and rich curriculum projects and outdoor experiences. The teachers have introduced to them some new sensory smell activities where they get to smell and recognize cinnamon, coffee, lavender, cloves, ginger, oranges, and vanilla, and then they get to play a matching game to try to match the smell with a corresponding picture. The children have also been playing another kind of matching game, this time with fall patterns and different kinds of leaves. On this leaf theme, the children took a wonderful nature walk this week in which they picked up all kinds of nature’s treasures: leaves, pine cones, sticks, and rocks. They also observed spiders do what they do. Today the children enjoyed an in the dark with a flashlight story time. Cooking this week was great fun making solar pizzas, and painting with colored ice cubes also provided the children with a wonderful experience. Music in the Green Room happens every day, and on Tuesday, which they have named “Toe tapping Tuesday”, the children learned the Macarena and other dances to songs the children already know.
In the Blue Room the children have been focusing on friendship, making friends, new ones and how to continually appreciate and respect the old ones. The children came up with some interesting statements about friends and what is important to them about friends. Some examples of direct quotes from the children: “Please don’t leave me.” “I want you to play with me everyday.” “I like to be nice to my friends.” “I like to play with my friends.” Shari has been teaching them some lovely songs about friends and friendship, and one of the lines of one of these songs is : “I’m not perfect. No I”m not. I’m not perfect. So I hope you like me a lot.” How is that for profundity? The children have been reading several friendship stories, and are getting refresher courses on how to be nice to one another. They are in the process of making a friendship apple tree, and they made friendship apple sandwiches that included many things, the way we all include each other in our friendship building. The children are continuing with spelling and writing and they have succeeded in learning how to write not only their own names, but that of their friends’. The blue room has many new games and manipulatives this year, and the children are learning how to play these and treat them respectfully. Outside, the children have been having fun running and jumping and leaping through obstacle courses, and they continually want to be challenged for more and more difficult obstacles.
And to those who are celebrating the new year this week, may it be a sweet one filled with happiness and good tidings. L’shanah Tovah!
A very happy Autumnal Equinox to all!
with warmest and kindest regards,