By Chance Chamberlain
Music class at Harrisonville Elementary School will have a new sound this year as Lisa Hern adapts her curriculum to meet COVID-19 safety protocols to keep her students safe.
Hern posted on Facebook Aug. 5 asking her friends for supplies donations for handmade, individual music instrument kits for each of the approximate 550 students at HES.
She said, “I want to give credit where it’s due because the idea isn’t originally mine. A Canadian teacher named Denise Gagne did a webinar that I followed each week about how to overcome the unique circumstances that we are facing this school year. She suggested making individual bags for students so that each student only touches their bag and the stuff inside so there is less of a panic about germs.
“To give some context, Gagne is a well-known music education teacher who runs a website called musicplayonline.com. I used it last year when school shut down so that students and parents could still participate in music education,” Hern said. “It was offered for free last year, but I’m not sure how it will be this year. It is a really valuable resource for families who will be learning from home because it offers music games, lessons about singing and even instrument lessons.”
She added, “I am even going to use it in the classroom so that kids can follow along easier and so students who are learning from home can use it.”
Hern developed a new curriculum for HES students this year that focuses on four groups of percussion using the individual instrument kits. Her curriculum is typically centered around using the voice as an instrument, but she said that COVID-19 prevents much singing from happening at all.
“Our primary instrument this year will be percussion and there are four types of percussion instruments: shakers and scrapers, wood, metal and membrane. The kits we make will incorporate all but the metal because it is too expensive,” she said. “I bought a bulk package of pool noodles and cut them down to make scrapers for class and then I bought plastic Easter eggs and filled them with corn kernels to make shakers.
“I also bought some wooden sticks to add to the bag. They can be used to tap along to the beat or as drum sticks for their drums, which I am making out of coffee tins, oatmeal containers and really any cylinder-shaped object that I can find,” Hern said.
The drums are the centerpiece to the new individual instrument kits that Hern plans for students to decorate to make their own.
“I want to provide students with an opportunity to be creative in multiple aspects. Music is a form of expression and their drums should kind of reflect that. I am going to encourage students to decorate their kits to express their personalities a little bit,” she said.
Hern said instrument kits will be stored in each student’s homeroom to begin, but will be sent home with students if the school issues a closure. The classroom will look different for music class this year with a new interior layout and specified areas for students to participate from.
Hern said, “This year, in some ways, feels like my first-year teaching again because there’s so much to continue to learn as we face new obstacles. One thing that we did this year is space out all of the chairs in the classroom to accommodate for social distancing.
“My curriculum was movement heavy prior to COVID, but now students are going to be required to stay within their designated area. The instrument kits should help with this because it gives them something to tap with or drum on while they are listening to music,” she said. “I am lucky enough to have two doors to my classroom at HES and we
will be using one as an entrance and one as an exit to avoid contact with other classrooms. Classes are also spread out by 10-minute blocks to allow me to sanitize and disinfect the entire room before the next class arrives.”
The possibility of the school programs is still up in the air, but Hern said she is working on developing alternate forms of performance for her students.
“We typically do programs in December, February and April, but this year I don’t know how possible that is. I am looking at alternate possibilities for virtual performances right now. There’s just a lot to figure out still before school starts,” she said.
Hern is still accepting donations for supplies to complete the music kits for her students.
She said, “We still need donations for any kind of cylinder-shaped containers with a lid so that we can make the drums. I have accepted coffee cans, oatmeal containers, cottage cheese containers and even cool whip containers to use for the kits.”
Donations can be made by contacting Hern via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.