“Music is the art of thinking with sounds.” – Jules Combarieu
Many years ago, I had a boy in my program who loved to dump out the toys in the bins, turn the bins over, and drum to his heart’s content. He would use paintbrushes, pencils or his hands to make his rhythmic patterns. He had amazing tempo and rhythm and would get lost in his music. Often there would be a path of overturned bins across the classroom as he experimented with different sounds on different containers. I decided it was time to buy a classroom drum to enhance his natural talent.
Howard Gardner would classify this child as having high musical intelligence in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. If you are strong in musical intelligence, you have a high ability to compose and perform music. Patterns, rhythm, and the ability to manipulate sounds into beautiful arrangements come naturally to people with musical intelligence. They also have a high appreciation for music.
Musical opportunities benefit children by providing an emotional release, encouraging cultural sharing, increasing listening skills, and helping to develop a sense of music appreciation. (Moomaw, 2002) Enhancing music in an early childhood classroom, however, can sometimes be difficult because when children experiment with music, they tend to be very loud. While we want the children to explore music in their own way, the noise level in an enclosed classroom can often be overstimulating for both the teachers and children. The solution: take the music outside.
Exploring musical components outside allows for children and adults to experience music at different volume levels without the burden of being in an enclosed space.
Enhancing Musical Intelligence Outdoors:
- Experiment with sound: Musical composition involves arranging different sounds and patterns into a format. Provide opportunities outside for children to experiment with the elements of sound and music. Place different “mallets” for the children to use to tap on things around the playground. A metal spoon, for example, will sound different tapped on the chain link fence than a wooden rhythm stick. How does the slide sound when you tap on it? Which tool makes the best noise when tapped on the wall? Allowing the children to use different tools to make sound will help them to understand how to manipulate sound to make different types of music.
- Partake in a musical parade: Musical parades around the classroom were one of the children’s favorite things to do in my classroom. Taking it outside allows the children to express themselves musically in ways they usually cannot indoors. Tempo, volume, and pitch are wonderful musical elements the children can explore hands-on during the parade. Have the children shake their instruments fast or slow (tempo). Decide which instruments sound low and which instruments sound high (pitch). Encourage the children to make a loud noise then change it to a soft noise (volume). Because the children are outside, they can feel free to fully express their musical abilities during the parade.
- Create a music wall: Music walls are a wonderful way for children to explore musical sounds either alone or in a group. The different sounds the children will produce will help engage their senses. What should you put on a music wall? Anything that makes a great sound, the possibilities are endless. Items such as pie plates, tin cans, PVC pipes, and big metal spoons add engaging sound elements. The fun thing about a sound wall is all the creative items that can be explored, added, and changed as inspiration takes hold.
- Add musical instruments to your playground: Adding musical instruments to your outdoor classroom allows children the opportunity to explore music every day. Something as simple as a windchime provides music that changes from a soft melody in a gentle breeze to loud chimes on a windy day. Interested in more musical instruments for your playground? Check out these exciting playground musical instruments:
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Moomaw, S. (2002) More than Singing: Discovering Music for Preschool and Kindergarten. United States: Redleaf Press.