In tune with the world

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
At a small school in Fife, music is being used to teach every area of the curriculum, creating a positive learning experience

in st Paul's RC Primary in Glenrothes, the P5 children have been learning about faraway places as part of a world music project. Posters of the countries in Asia adorn the wall of Eileen Lumsden's classroom. Last term, her class learned about Indonesia. This term, the Fife children are exploring China.

The Youth Music Initiative, the Scottish Executive-backed programme, has been instrumental in delivering the project, and Mrs Lumsden's P5s, who have been discovering the music of Indonesia, performed at the opening concert of the Fife Festival of Music.

The children played a range of percussion instruments, including gongs, drums, rain sticks, xylophones, bells, sticks, and a small harp, forming a traditional gamelan orchestra to accompany their shadow puppet theatre production. Their art and craftwork formed a backdrop, while they spoke lines and controlled puppets they made in class.

YMI project leaders Olwen Balfour and Olivia Gray, Fife instrumental instructors released to run the project, played examples of Indonesian music and gave rhythm workshops before teaching the class how to play the instruments.

Ms Balfour, the YMI project leader, says the idea came after seeing an Indonesian shadow puppet theatre performed by Aberdeen University music group Gamelan: "We immediately saw the potential for a creative music project for primary pupils and decided to pilot it.

"We looked at the background of shadow puppet theatre and its importance as part of Indonesian culture. The class made up the story, created the music, made puppets and scenery and did a great deal of research and writing, art work and crafts."

They created Sinta's Adventure, about a girl who goes to fetch water for her grandmother but wanders off and encounters animals of the rainforest - a lizard, snake, tiger, monkey, frogs, cricket and dragonfly. "It's been invaluable," says Mrs Lumsden. "The children have learned lots of social skills. It's globally effective. It builds self-confidence, they gel together better, they encourage each other."

Karen Doherty, the principal teacher who has overseen the project, says:

"For me, this has been the perfect vehicle towards A Curriculum for Excellence, as the focus is music but it spreads to all areas of the curriculum."

Last year, the YMI team and St Paul's worked together on a project looking at African culture through singing, chants, dance, drumming and crafts. Its success led to this year's focus on Asia.

"These projects are using music to teach every area of the curriculum,"

says Sandra Taylor, YMI development officer. "It's about a positive learning experience. We have year groups learning guitar; we've got a rock band at a school in Kirkcaldy. Many of our projects are looking at developing social and co-ordination skills.

"In all our projects, the teacher is present. If funding dries up, a staff member will still be in the school. Our aim is to offer similar projects to all schools, given available staffing."

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