Glacier Valley Elementary School and have been searching for opportunities to work with children while in Boston. A good friend of mine, Irene Smalls is a children's book author and volunteers at a local Boston school in Rochester: Nathan Hale Elementary School. Irene created a program called Literacise, which integrates children's literature with physical movement, and she shares her lessons with classes at Nathan Hale.
Irene arranged for me to visit the school so that I could work with some of the classes. As soon as I entered the school grounds, I knew Nathan Hale was a very special place. Volunteers greeted me at the door, positive messages adorned brightly painted walls and children's artwork hung proudly throughout the school. The principal, Sandy Mitchell-Woods, is the driving force behind this incredible school. She works alongside the community and parents to bring a variety of experiences to the students and was awarded Massachusetts Principal of the Year for her efforts.
I decided to bring one of the Remo drums along with me on the subway and bus to share with the kids. My first thought entering one of the kindergarten classes was: would this school population of predominantly African-American and Latino students respond differently to the way I teach than those of Glacier Valley consisting of mostly Alaskan Native, Asian-Pacific and Caucasian students? After visiting three different classes that morning, I came away reaffirmed that "Kids are Kids" and that lessons filled with challenge, joy, teamwork, humor, goal-setting and a sense of accomplishment appeal to both child and adult learners.
After we mastered the first skill, I'd announce, "Congratulations, you have reached Level I in drumming." The question from the class that immediately followed was, "What's Level II?" and with the answer came an eagerness from the class to achieve it. From sitting up properly, holding a steady beat to tapping out a complex rhythm while singing an African song, the class was determined to reach higher levels of skill mastery. By the end of the lesson, they had reached Level XII and you should have seen the pride in their faces. We ended the session giving everyone a chance to improvise. Here's a picture of one of the students - his face tells it all.
Thank you, Sandy Mitchell-Wood, Irene Smalls and the entire Nathan Hale Elementary School community for welcoming me into your school. Also, thank you Will Schmid and Remo Belli for your gift of drums, which continues to reach others beyond the NEC community.