The Art of Rockademix
When kids are participating in their learning through music, art, technology, singing, and dance, they are learning on a deeper level. That’s what Rockademix is about: multimodal, experiential learning. There are so many ways to engage students, but perhaps it is the visuals that manage to hit home for so many young people. For this post I’m going to focus on the artistic and visual aspects of the Rockdemix program.
As a seasoned teacher, I know visually stimulating materials like art, maps, and diagrams are a must. Choosing which visuals to use is crucial. In my experience, teachers are often provided with visual materials that are boring, generic, and outdated. That stuff may have worked 50 years ago, but kids today have access to HDTV, 3D video games, and the Internet. To get their attention, they need visually appealing material that can compete with everything else. Enter Rockademix!
When I taught, I frequently felt I lacked the ability to effectively incorporate art into my daily lessons. However, when I began using music as a teaching tool, I realized how powerful the arts – all of the arts – are to learning.
For example, to teach the Social Studies standards about transportation and comparing the past and present, I’d get images of Ben Hur style chariots, horse-drawn wagons, Model T cars, steam and electric trains, Greyhound busses, prop and jet planes, and rocketships. I’d then simplify these drawings into blackline masters so the kids could draw them, free hand!
To do this, I’d project the drawings onto the whiteboard and I’d trace over the lines that were being projected. This was key for me, as I have almost no ability to draw things by hand. While projecting, I would pause often and my students followed along on a blank piece of paper. I quickly realized this method invited creativity and required a lot of concentration.
The results were amazing! Each child’s work was unique, and was far above what they’d have done without a guide. Because they were trying to approximate what I was slowly tracing on the board, they were learning a lot of skills beyond cut and paste, glue, and connect the dots.
The only downside was I spent hours searching for the appropriate images and simplifying them so kids could attempt them freehand. So, when I began to create Rockademix and original music for the program, I realized the same attention needed to be given on the art end. I hired an artist to create custom images based on the song’s content. Now, each piece of artwork is road tested by the Rockademix class, ensuring its high-interest value and effectiveness.
Because all of our visuals are designed to complement the songs and are custom-created, students no longer need to weed out any superfluous information or hunt for something that isn’t there. Instead, they are better able to become involved in the art – for example, we frequently provide students with custom art depicting a certain event, such as the writing of the US Constitution. Take a look at some of these examples regarding the writing of the Constitution:
Step-by-step drawings walk students through the process.
Students are easily able to follow along with the process to create more complex drawings.
As they follow along, students are amazed at the results they can achieve!
Through this unique learning process, students are truly becoming immersed in the subject at hand, simultaneously hitting on content and art standards, including gaining a sense of space and dimension and putting things into perspective.
When we were learning the Constitution song, I also had my artist create a custom map to my specs that would facilitate the teaching of everything mentioned in the song. Having been a teacher, I can appreciate what kids need to know, what they want to know, and what background knowledge is needed. This, combined with our artist’s talent, allows students to incorporate art in a way that ties concepts together in a more meaningful manner.
Listen to a sample of The Constitution Song:
[zoomsounds id=”The Constitution Song”]
Now, when we’re learning a song, the kids not only have dance movements and a book to complement the lesson, but also they get to pull up their sleeves and recreate a map, the Liberty Bell, a steam locomotive, or whatever else we thought of to further illustrate my songs.
Perhaps what is most impressive about all of our artwork is how we’re implementing it – rather than having numerous adults glance at the images, we’re test driving it with the kids. From the moment they lay eyes on each piece, I am able to gain a solid sense of how successful it will be – when they say it appears “too hard”, back it goes to the artist. If they were intimidated by the level of detail, I have our artist reduce it by 40% and then we bring it back again. When it’s “boring”, back it goes to be spruced up. Finally, we actually try the activity it was designed to complement, and I create “How to Draw” videos for the kids when they recreate the images, and also verify that the time frame to complete the work is reasonable.
Initially, many students have a predetermined attitude regarding art. Often, many have the attitude that the art end of Rockademix is too difficult. However, after showing some examples and encouraging them to try, they’re actually excited to do more. Almost everything they create is well beyond their independent ability level and it all looks amazing. As a teacher, you just have to do the fun part – give them a high five and keep on teaching!.