Twenty-four kindergartners line up at the edge of the safe line. They are peasants in the “village.” The king or queen stands across the room at the “castle” guarded by two sentries at the drawbridge. Between them is the “King’s Land.” This particular king or queen is not very nice and takes too much of the peasant’s produce and money for the royal taxes. The villagers (peasants) start walking and prancing towards the castle. They believe no one is at home and start trespassing while making fun of the royalty that own the land. They thumb their nose at the castle, make donkey ears, and do other provocative antics while singing.
I’m on the King’s land the King is not at home,
The King has gone to Boston to buy his wife a comb!
Suddenly the drawbridge comes down and out jumps the king or queen! He or she is at home and runs out to tag as many villagers as possible before they get back to the safe line. These tagged peasants must now become the royal servants. They are set out to tag others on the next round. At the end of ten minutes, the students are counted and the team with the most students wins.
Previously, the teacher had sat down and discussed this traditional English tag game with the kindergartners. They all discussed the types of people (kings, queens, and villagers). They defined the word “castle” and learned the mechanics of a drawbridge. They discussed why some kings were good, others bad. What powers did the peasants have?
This is a demonstration of how social studies, science, engineering and math can be integrated into a music lesson. Music teachers are already doing many of these things, but the next step is to take time to explain the non-music subjects to the students and identify through discussion these standard objectives as a class.
Let’s return to the example. One of the science standards in kindergarten is to design a structure that will reduce the sun’s warming effect. As the teacher, you could lead a class discussion on how we (the villagers) could protect ourselves from getting overheated on the King’s Land. What could we use, build or bring (trees, canopies, tents, materials)?
How does this tie into STEM? STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The idea of STEM is that blending these skills during instruction improves the learning experience. It also is believed, as a result, that increased numbers of students will become interested in these skilled professions. This blending is one way to approach using STEM strategies in the music class.
An even newer idea is STEAM. STEAM adds the arts to the STEM process. The arts stand for music, visual arts, and design. This crisscrossing of skilled fields is controversial because some experts in the arts view it as diluting and possibly demoting music and visual arts education. But by challenging and stretching our philosophy to try out these new ideas, it cannot be anything but a benefit for our students.
Music education college and university professors are striving to prepare their students for a more inclusive approach to the subjects in the class. K-5 schools are asking that their arts programs increase integrating other subjects and increase their collaboration with classroom teachers.
The challenge now for all teachers is to think less of compartmentalizing their subject of expertise and think more of combining additional subjects in ways that enhance their student’s learning experience. By elementary teachers adding STEM subject strategies into their lessons, they are modernizing the curriculum to better suit student’s needs. It doesn’t have to be all at once. They should slowly and naturally add to their lesson plans.
For example, a music teacher could add a math activity with one song and increase discussions on story and characters with another song. The key is that having STEM and other subjects formally added to the lessons helps show music’s place alongside other subjects and most importantly music’s place within our society.
Featured image provided by author Kim Milai.