Using Music as a Teaching Tool

Posted on Sep 22, 2022 by

What do the symphony and engineering have to do with each other? How do you connect fractions with music? In many area classrooms, the answer is arts integration.

Arts integration goes beyond including art projects in class; it is a teaching strategy that seamlessly merges arts standards with core curricula to build connections and provide engaging context. This school year, the fourth-grade curriculum within the Oshkosh Area School District featured a new unit called Full STEAM Ahead. STEAM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.

Students learned about the science of sound, used technology, engineering, and math skills to build musical instruments from recycled materials, and tackled the arts element by playing their instruments in a concert.

“The kids were so creative about how they put their instruments together,” says Kellie Ruedinger, a fourth-grade teacher at Emmeline Cook Elementary School in Oshkosh.

Instrument designs ranged from rubber bands stretched across cardboard boxes to friction drums made with a large bucket and stick.

“My favorite part of the program is when the students had the chance to play their homemade instruments along with the orchestra. It was a symphony of music and laughter,” shares Renee Schumacher, ArtsCore Coordinator for the Oshkosh Area School District.

“I liked how the music was really loud and booming and it was dramatic, I like things that are dramatic,” says Norah who is a fourth grader.  “Sounds can sound more different than I thought they could,” adds fourth grader Mooka.

Full STEAM Ahead is a collaborative effort involving the Oshkosh Area School District, the local parochial schools, and the Oshkosh Youth Symphony. A $4,500 grant from the Fund for the Arts within the Community Foundation supported the creation and offering of this unique educational experience.

Yukiko Grine, the music director for the Oshkosh Youth Symphony, helped develop the lesson plan for the Full STEAM Ahead unit. “I love working with young people because they are still uninhibited and willing to take risks and their ideas are amazing and inspiring,” she says. “It is rewarding to see the kids recognize new skills in themselves and nurture collaboration among both students and teachers. Plus it’s just plain fun.”

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