One of the activities that I love doing with the kids at work is Music and Art. I lay down tablecloths and fill the tables with markers, crayons, colored and standard pencils. Each child gets one sheet of drawing paper. Usually, I play instrumental songs from one artist or one genre of music. In the past we’ve listened to Leo Kottke, 1920s jazz, and The Meters, to name a few. The idea is to see how various styles of music effect what kids will create.
It generally goes down like this: kids find a seat at the table, we breathe mindfully together for 3 or 4 breaths, we quietly listen to music for 30-45 seconds, and then we art while listening. The drawing part of the activity lasts for about 15 minutes. At the end, I give them a few quiet moments to put the finishing touches on their picture. Sometimes I tell them about the music before we begin and sometimes not until afterwards. Either way, we talk about what we heard and what kind of emotions or thoughts the music evoked. Then we talk about our pictures and how the music inspired it.
Yesterday, I changed it up a bit by playing songs with lyrics. The unifying element was that all three songs spoke of positive change, peace, and the beauty of the world. Here was my playlist- “Got What it Takes (acoustic)” by Sizzla, “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” by Jimmy Cliff, and “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens.
And here are a few examples of what they created! Some are about what you would expect:
Some had elements of what you’d expect with some odd twists:
And I just don’t even know with these:
Fifth grader Sydney asked me a good question as I was taking pictures of the artwork, “What do you think would happen if you did this activity with adults?” I told her that I wouldn’t expect as many creative responses, but that it also depended on the kind of adults who participated. This lead us into a discussion about self-doubt and how often people allow their doubt of their ability/their fear of failure to hold them back from trying things. I told her about a Robert Fulghum essay I read long ago. The gist of it was that when you ask a group of kindergarteners “who here can sing/draw/dance?” All hands will fly in the air. As we get older, the amount of people who will answer in the affirmative lessen and start to be accompanied by a quantifying statement such as “I sing, but I don’t sing well” or “I can draw, but only stick figures.” While in some scenarios it is needful that we recognize our limitations (I am not a strong swimmer, thus I should not volunteer to be a lifeguard at the beach), more often than not we use them as a crutch to stave off possible failure and, unfortunately, our personal growth. Being mindful of our choices and the true reason behind them offers us a world of insight into ourselves and the world around us. Mindfulness is exactly how we will make this world a better place.
If you’re curious, the Sizzla song was the favorite of the three, but the kids said that they really liked all of them. Also, there are links below to the songs if you are interested in listening to them.