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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 4 , 2002 - Issue 60


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Tribal Head Start Students Study Music

by Melanie Brubaker Mazur Durango Herald Staff Writer
IGNACIO, CO - Preschoolers in the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Head Start program were all smiles as Zoey the Frog, a large hand puppet, visited and sang a song.

As a matter of fact, the children smiled through their entire music lesson as Fort Lewis College music majors led them through songs like "Peas Porridge Hot" and "The Seesaw Song."

For the first time this year, the tribal Head Start program – a federally funded preschool program – has a separate music class in its curriculum. Last fall, Rochelle Mann, a music professor at FLC, instructed the Head Start staff members in teaching music.

This semester, 10 FLC students in Mann’s "Music in the Elementary School" course put their studies into action by teaching a weekly music class to the Ignacio children.

"It’s been so awesome," said Amber Henke, an FLC student. "At first, it was a challenge for the children to sit down with us."

The children, ages 3 to 5, also were shy about singing. "There was so much improvement," Henke said.

The FLC students focused on vocal exploration, or getting their young students accustomed to singing, rather than talking or yelling. The teachers also tried to instill the concepts of beat and rhythm.

"It has been so much fun," said Bill LaShell, another FLC student. "The highlight was when they came running up to us with hugs. We were able to watch the kids develop musically."

As the Head Start students wrapped up their music classes, some were even singing solo in front of their peers, no small feat for a preschooler.

Both Henke and LaShell said the hands-on teaching reinforced their decisions to become music teachers.

The experience also benefited the Head Start students, said Christine Pamrow, a Head Start teacher and 2001 graduate of FLC.

"They thoroughly enjoy it," she said. "Just to see them light up and the expressions on their faces – they just glow." It’s also good to see FLC students giving their time to help children, Pamrow said.

Mann, who does consulting work for Silver Burdett, a music publishing company, hopes the Head Start students’ achievements can continue next year. She arranged for the company to donate music education materials, including a life-size music book and compact discs for teachers to use.

By expressing themselves musically, the Head Start students have learned personal interaction and boosted their self-esteem, Henke said.

Although the children weren’t so concerned about the concepts they were learning, Head Start teachers said the children enjoy learning the songs about stars and ladybugs.

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