LS Music Classes Adjust to COVID World

By Elle Storoe

The teachers at Oak Hall School have changed many programs due to COVID-19 to keep the students, and themselves safe. This task can be challenging, especially for the Lower School, which spans from pre-kindergartners to fifth graders. Oak Hall has done several things to keep the littles safe, such as altering how the music classes are held.

Oak Hall Lower School music teachers Erin Cushing and Amanda Ferwerda have revamped their lesson plans while the pandemic continues. They have prepared music kits for each student, so sharing does not occur. In addition, Cushing and Ferwerda split up the grades, so students in pre-kindergarten through second grade received kits that include egg shakers and rhythm sticks, while third through fifth grade students received kits that include rhythm sticks and an unpitched percussion instrument of choice. The choices included a triangle, a guiro, a cabasa, a sand block, a woodblock, or the maracas. The third through fifth grade students even crafted their own instruments that they use during music class. Cushing sent the music kits to students who are distance learning. Because of the restrictions due to the coronavirus, however, certain instruments cannot be used, such as wind instruments and instruments that are shared, such as hand drums, xylophones, metallophones, or recorders. Each of the lessons include musical activities, whether its dancing, learning, and playing the instruments, learning about music and music literacy. 

Third graders try out new dancing techniques during their unit of study on Bomba and Plena music from Puerto Rico

COVID-19 has put many restrictions on the music program. “It hasn’t been easy, especially considering we cannot sing which is such a foundational component of early childhood development,” Cushing said. Virtual conferences were held this past summer to help teachers learn how they can make their music class better and safe for students. “Both Mrs. Ferwerda and I each attended summer conferences to find out how we can best serve our students in a way that is still fun and educational,” said Cushing. Ferwerda and Cushing attended virtual conferences that introduced a curriculum called “Music Play”, which focuses on the movement and instrumental components of the music programs for elementary classes, and “Music Explores”, which emphasizes the diverse musical genres and cultural traditions.

With the COVID-19 restrictions, students and teachers are not allowed to sing, which is a major part of music classes. “It has been tough, but thanks to the conferences we attended over the summer, we are still excited by what we can offer our students,” Cushing stated. With the numerous restrictions, more opportunities to learn about music have been found. “We are getting to focus more on movement, genres, and history that we wouldn’t be able to include in a normal school year,” explained Cushing. The students are learning about Bomba and Plena music from Puerto Rico, learning dances, rhythmic instrumental parts to songs, and the history of music in Puerto Rico.