Teaching the Whole Child: The Importance of Creativity in Education

I have had the fortune of working closely with Sally Gregory on a range of projects during my time at Canadian Lead Primary School. She is far too modest to say it herself, but she is a skilled musician, a talented director and above all, an outstanding educator. She has taken the time to write the guest post below outlining her take on Music education and its value in our primary schools. – Teddy.

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It has taken a great deal of persistence and nagging on Teddy’s part for this post to be written. I think it would have found it easier so play one of my own songs for a crowd of thousands than to somehow put the cacophony of thoughts in my head about music education into a ‘brief and succinct’ blog post.

I was one of the lucky students who went through the mainstream education system in Australia and came out the other end with not only knowledge but also a love of music. Unfortunately this was not due to the quality experiences at school, but the foresight of my mum to pay for me to learn at a private music school. This is a classic illustration of what I like to call ‘The Great Divide’.  On the one hand, there are amazing educational opportunities for young musicians who can afford to access them. On the other, most students in government schools don’t have this opportunity.

Why not music? The excuses will come thick and fast if you ask. Not enough money, no teacher expertise, lack of resources, not enough time or just not a priority. In primary school music, dance, drama and visual arts are all thrown under the one blanket of ‘the Arts’ with vague statements thrown around about how to teach and access them together. Surely they are all the same?

Wrong. To put them together and to say teaching any part of one is enough diminishes their value and educational benefits.

So what are the benefits?

Here is where I struggle to articulate what it is that I so passionately feel. I could quote endless results from case studies about the benefits for school communities, how music has turned schools around, increased attendance and made students feel more connected to their peers. I could provide links to research into the educational benefits, how it assists student’s brain development and learning in literacy and numeracy. I could talk about the value of creativity or about music for enjoyment and the response it evokes in all of us.

But ultimately, words can only go so far in expressing the worth of music.

Evelyn Glennie, a deaf virtuoso percussionist, has developed a better understanding of sound than most of us will ever achieve. She can determine the pitch of a note through touch alone. Most would argue that music is of little significance or value to someone who can’t hear and yet the impact it has had on her life has been significant.

I challenge all those out there who proclaim often and loudly that you’re not musical to think about what experiences lead you to come to this conclusion. For teachers in schools without a music program please consider how you might be able to use music to benefit you students and school community.

Music Matters- A short documentary about the music education program at Canadian Lead Primary School

 

You can find Sally Gregory on Twitter: @SalGregory

 

Are you a Music/Arts educator? What are your thoughts?

What does the Music/Arts program look like at your school?

How do you bring creativity into your classroom? What benefits have you seen?

Please share your comments and expertise in the space below.

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End of Term Maths Fun: Fermi Problems!

Towards the end of the year, in the last couple of weeks of Term 4, I always find it difficult to keep the balance between work and fun. Part of me just wants to kick back and relax with my grade, but the other part knows that if I do I’m bound to face some issues with behaviour.

I realised that the solution is simply to choose relevant, fun activities that are whole-class oriented and allow for some flexibility in timing. Of course, the odd after lunch Christmas craft activity is thrown in too! I have even thrown in a free resource for doing Fermi Problems in your classroom before the end of the year!

Nobel Prize Winner, Enrico Fermi. By Department of Energy. Office of Public Affairs, via Wikimedia Commons

The solution? Fermi Problems. Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) was a physicist who was also famous for amusing his audience with problems. One of the most famous questions he posed was, “How many piano tuners are there in the state of Chicago?” (See the video below for the answer!) A Fermi problem sounds tricky, but anyone can solve them using a series of estimates.

Some examples of Fermi problems are:

  1. How many blades of grass are on our school oval?
  2. How many people would fit in our classroom standing shoulder to shoulder?
  3. How long would it take everyone in our classroom to go down the water-slide at the local swimming pool, twice?
  4. How many hairs are on your head?
  5. how many Mars Bars would it take, lined up end to end, to reach from one end of our school to the other?

These multi-level problems can be introduced around Grade 3/4 (using the scaffold resource in this post) but extended way beyond that into secondary classrooms. My grade have had fun this week, firstly estimating how many cola bottles were in the jar, and then answering and developing some questions of their own!

We brainstormed strategies together to solve the problem.

We brainstormed strategies together to solve the problem.

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I asked students to draw their Fermi after I had spent some time describing him, with some crazy results!

The cola bottle prize was an excellent 'hook' for the lesson!

The cola bottle prize was an excellent ‘hook’ for the lesson!

To finish this week, we are breaking into four groups on Friday and each constructing 30x30x30cm cubes out of cardboard. I’m then posing the question to them:

“How many full water balloons can we fit into our teams’ cubes?”

Of course, we’ll be finishing with a water fight on the oval!

To all Australian teachers, enjoy your last few days with your grade for 2013! To teachers elsewhere, sorry you don’t have the weather for a water fight! Don’t forget to check out the free resource below.

Cheers,

Teddy.

Click here to access the Fermi problem scaffold that I used with my grade. All I ask is that you retain the watermark to respect the work that has gone into producing the resource and keep sharing this page!

See the video below for a slightly higher-level stimulus to hook students into Fermi problems:

Here are some great links that inspired this post:

 

http://mathforum.org/workshops/sum96/interdisc/sheila1.html

http://www.edgalaxy.com/numeracy/2012/8/22/an-excellent-collection-of-fermi-problems-for-your-class.html

 

I’d love to hear what lessons you have been using to have some fun in your classrooms towards the end of the year, please share your ideas in the comments section below!


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