Teaching to Your Passions

Music always has a connection. Traditional dulcimer traces its roots to the southern Appalachian Mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains is a beautiful part of this range and is noted as one of the great temperate rainforests of our country. And there is the connection.

My fourth graders were studying tropical rainforests, learning about the climate, ecology and indigenous people there. But what designates a rainforest is rainfall, and I thought I’d bring the curriculum a little closer to home.

In introducing the lap dulcimer to my students, there was US geography to impart, distances to calculate, and of course the basics of the dulcimer. In a short period, everyone learned to hold and strum the instrument, play a tune and even invent harmony to go along with it. And then they surprised me. They asked if they could write their own music. I was struck at that moment that we all want to incorporate our passions into the curriculum.

With that realization, I decided to offer a workshop at the 2014 Capital Area Progressive Schools Conference entitled, “Incorporating Your Passions.” Before recreating my lesson for participants, I had them record their own passions. Once we began, participants loved working with the instrument, making music together and sharing their skills. Their final reflections noted connections to social studies, math and the arts and they were able to express ways they, too, could take their own passions and weave them into the work at their own schools.

And so the ability to make connections continues…