"Start them early!" This El Sistema approach toward instrumental instruction came to life when I visited the ORCHKids program in Baltimore this past week where all kindergartners learn how to play the violin as part of their school day. They first begin with a "Paper Orchestra" (see photo from Sistema Scotland) to help master the physical challenges of holding and playing the instrument without fear of breaking it, but then quickly transition to the real thing.
Early instrumental instruction accessible to all students is a model that I would like to bring back to Juneau. It ensures access for all students by offering violin instruction during the school day and then transitioning to after-school in the 1st grade. A kindergarten strings class also provides a developmentally appropriate intervention to support mental discipline, focus and improved memory. Research studies show that early musical training affects brain development in young children: "After one year the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ." Here is the link to the article from ScienceDaily.
Dan Trahey, the director of the ORCHKids program, shared with the fellows a classroom violin storage unit on wheels that they had custom-made to help cut down on transition time, as well as avoiding those opportunities for violins to break when children are taking them in and out of their cases. This would be a must for Juneau!
With so much footage from the week, I was inspired to attempt my first video documentation using my new Flip camera, iPhone and newest version of iMovie. This short documentary is posted below. I hope you like it! I included some information that I learned from Eric Jensen's webinar on Teaching with Poverty in Mind. The three main components that Jensen recommends all schools include to support children in poverty are evident in both the ORCHKids and El Sistema programs: Relationships, Socialization and Social Status. My Abreu Fellow, Dantes Rameau, made several postings about our visit to Batlimore if you'd like to read more. Thank you, Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School, ORCHKids and World in Motion for welcoming the Abreu Fellows into your program this past week. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to be working with kids again! Hope you enjoy this short video: