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Children of Tomorrow: Thoughts On Mindful Music Education in the Early Childhood Space

By Marlena Raymond - Mini Maestros Business Development Assistant

Introduction

As educators, musicians, teaching artists and parents, it is essential that we regularly reflect on what we do, how we do it and why we do it in order to provide meaningful learning experiences to the children in our care and remain at the forefront of thinking in our field, amongst many other things. In addition to thinking on the practicalities of class room activities, class room management/social and group dynamics, meeting desired learning outcomes etc., let us broaden the scope of our reflections to include reflections on (1) the child-created and adult/child co-created image of the child, and (2) the power of symbolic languages such as music and dramatic play.

Idea 1 – the image of the child and child as protagonist

The image of the child has evolved over time and depicts the child as an individual who is capable and creative (Deans & Brown 2008), is a ‘cultural citizen’ (Robinson 2001), and has agency over her own learning and collective agency over the learning focus/direction of the group. This image of the child can be child-created, but is often adult-child co-created. As teaching artists, we can mindfully contribute to the image of the child, the cultural life of the child and of the Early Learning Centre or Kindergarten, develop imagination and creativity, build community, develop sensitivity, team work, cohesion and self-worth, develop a sense of self-discipline and foster a sense of wellbeing. In line with the image of the empowered child, we can offer learning opportunities and facilitate discovery that supports the child’s ownership of the experience.

Idea 2 – symbolic languages: music, dramatic play and visual arts

Let’s ask ourselves: as a teaching artist, how can I facilitate investigation through dramatic role-play? How can I facilitate investigation through sound-scape creation? How can I facilitate investigation though drawing and visual art? How can I facilitate investigation though creative movement? As discussed by Deans and Brown (2008), as a specialist arts education program, we can share modes of expression that are non-languaged, i.e. symbolic languages, such as role-play, movement and sound. Within sound, we can create symbolic meaning using pitch, dynamics, timbre and orchestration.

Through music and arts education, children are ‘…engaged in the production of artworks that [are] personally meaningful and aesthetically pleasing, and affirmed by their teachers and families’ (Deans & Brown 2008). Engaging in the symbolic languages of music, drama and the visual arts serves to introduce abstract thought, provide a means of relaxation, provide a means for aesthetic education, develop thinking skills, develop imagination and creativity and develop and extend language and listening skills. Research points to the use of symbol in assisting children to develop comprehension, memory, concentration and meta-linguistic skills (Deans & Brown 2008). Furthermore, the literature shows that:

‘…it is important to go beyond the surface level, and tap into the rich learning experiences afforded through the combining of cognitive, affective, aesthetic, spiritual and cultural ways of knowing – captured in the arts’ (Deans & Brown 2008).

Creative responses in the classroom that demand full engagement of the whole child – cognitively, physically, emotionally etc. – tend to demonstrate ‘detailed memory, bodily kinaesthetic awareness and creative interpretation’ (Walker 2007). Hence, communicating using multiple platforms (word, song, dance, role-play etc.), increases ‘…the children’s ability to represent and reflect on their learning, and in doing so, communicate their thoughts and feelings more fully to adults’ (Walker 2007) and each other. As teaching artists, we can facilitate expression of thoughts and feelings.

Conclusion

I believe that the arts are naturally engaging for children, promote active learning, inspire the imagination, foster cognitive, kinaesthetic and aesthetic awareness, and promote play. This has been a musing on what we do, how we do it and why we do it.

Be engaged!

What’s on for teaching artists? http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/arts-and-culture/artplay/artists/artist-learning-program/pages/artist-learning-program.aspx

What’s on for children and parents? http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/arts-and-culture/artplay/whats-on/pages/default.aspx

References:

Deans, J, Brown, R 2008, ‘Reflection, Renewal and Relationship Building: an ongoing journey in early childhood arts education’, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 339-353.

Robinson, K 2001, ‘Out of Our Minds: learning to be creative ,’ Oxford, Capstone Publishing.

Walker, K 2007, ‘Children and their Purple Crayons: understanding their worlds through their drawings’, Childhood Education, vol. 84, no. 2, pp. 96-101.

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