Archive for October 21st, 2011


Music at MAMLE: Sugarloaf

October 21, 2011

Maine Association for Middle Level Education (MAMLE) conference

Leonard Middle School music teacher Shianne Priest

I left my home before daylight yesterday to arrive at Sugarloaf Mountain for the annual MAMLE conference. One of the morning sessions I attended was called “Sevice Learning Through Music: Students Tell Their Story”. It is a great example of giving young adolescents enough space to take the lead with their learning. Leonard Middle School music educator Shianne Priest, provided the stage for the work after she took a graduate course where her learning included service learning. At first Shianne couldn’t imagine how service learning could work in the music classroom. After many questions, thinking, and soul searching she was forced to change the way she taught that provided the groundwork for the student and project success. It wasn’t a teacher centered learning experience for this music appreciation class, that is mandatory for all 7th graders who do not take another performing arts class (band or chorus). Shianne’s part was setting the stage, guiding the work, giving up power, and trusting that kids will take the lead. She is just thrilled at the outcome and wishes she had discovered service learning 14 years ago!

You might be asking or wondering what is Service Learning? In a nutshell it combines community with classroom curriculum. The key components of service learning are:

  1. Academic integrity – Project has clearly defined learning objectives that relate to state learning standards and local curricula.
  2. Apprentice Citizenship – student learn about civic engagement through  partnerships with active community members working on local needs.
  3. Student ownership – students share in decision-making with teacher, and teacher shares in learning with students. Teacher is a partner and coach, rather than an expert.

Singer/songwriter Lily and service learning project students presenting at MAMLE conference

Students in Shianne’s class brainstormed a list of over 100 ideas and narrowed down their choices to 4 causes before voting and determining that Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) would be their focus. Their mission was to raise awareness and educate others about AIDS. The challenge was how to connect music education to the idea. After much work they determined a pathway for that as well. Students researched AIDS and how to let others know about it. They found quotes by individuals with AIDS and decided to use those quotes in a song to raise awareness. They enlisted the help of singer/songwriter 8th grader Lily Muscatell to create the song. The students and Lily found the quote that moved them the greatest: “we are not dying from the disease but we are dying from being become untouchable”. And “Untouchable” became the title of the song. Students raised money for recording time and the New England School of Communications (NESCom) at Husson University donated 2 hours of studio time. The IT classes at Leonard Middle School designed the CD label and students sat for hours at local businesses to raise money for the cause. They have copywrited the song and donated the money (over $800.00) to AIDS research and relief with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. They’ve offered the copyright to the foundation and are waiting to hear from them. The CD is available for $3 and you can contact Shianne about purchasing it. WABI TV5 did a story which includes Lily performing the song on the project so you can click here to listen and learn more.

There are service learning grants available and one of them is from State Farm. Available for K-12 schools, $1000.00, the due date is November 9th, called the Good Neighbor Service – Learning Grants.

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