Friday, September 25, 2015

Science with a Song –  Connecting Music to STEAM
Maryann "Mar." Harman
Founder of Music with Mar., LLC

STEAM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math. Music is part of the Art portion and very much belongs in the mix for all the wonderful enhancements it makes to learning.  For this blog, I am focusing on how the A  part of STEAM is weaved into the Science part.
Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. They beat the curiosity out of kids. They outnumber kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults. Neill deGrasse Tyson

While Neill changes the minds of adults, I will focus on children.   If he can get adults to understand, it will make teaching easier.  Thanks, Neill.   First keep in mind that our job isn’t to teach children to be scientists.  Our job is to awaken that little scientist, because he/she is already there. 

            Child Craft Education had me compose a series of songs to use in a science curriculum for early childhood - the "Celebrate Science Series".  I began researching, my head spinning with ideas.  I was to write five songs for each of the five strands of science : 
Physical Science
Life Science
Earth Science
Inquiry Science
Personal / Social Science

Knowing that music and movement get both hemispheres of the brain involved with the learning process, enhancing retention, I began to put together activities including music (songs, rhythm activities) / movement (dance, drama, games).

Nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in math, science, and technology (for high school students) play one or more musical instruments.  The Midland Chemist 05BRAIN FACT Music creates a positive state for learning because it helps to reduce stress levels, heighten attention, enhance concentration, reinforce memory and stimulate motivation. Campbell, 97; Jensen,00

Albert Einstein said he discovered his theory of relativity through music.

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a MUSICIAN. I often think in MUSIC. I live my daydreams in MUSIC. I see my life in terms of MUSIC

With all this proof, with so many great minds recognizing the role music plays in helping create a scientific mind, we MUST keep it in our education system.  Let’s explore some ways to do that with science.

Children often look at science as a ‘hard’ subject.  Let’s change that perspective.  Let’s get children to look at science as a very ‘interesting’ subject.  When I was younger, I was told magic was fun, interesting and science was hard.  But, wait.   Magic is science.  Looking at it that way, the subject became so much more appealing.

BRAIN FACT  Moving activates muscle memory, which is helpful for students who can only learn by moving .  Hannaford, 2005

Magnets  Using this brain fact, I asked myself "What does a magnet do?"  
It attracts or repels, much like swing dancing.  I taught the children to do what magnets do by swing dancing.  What better way to remember magnets then to have your whole body engaged in the activity of attracting and repelling?  With the appeal of such shows as "So, You Think You Can Dance", children actually enjoy learning this!
Check this song out on "Music Makes it Memorable".    Magnets

Onto using another BRAIN FACT ~ ~ ~ ~ 

BRAIN FACT When children act out stories, they are reviewing the organization of the story and putting things in sequence, a science process skill. Epstein & Trimis 02 
Songs like “Peanut Butter & Jelly” teach scientific process.   This can be such a fun lesson.   First is the conversation on what is needed, which could lead into who eats these sandwiches and who doesn't.  That of course could lend itself to graphing...  Oh my.....  My teacher Mind!!!!

      Sing the song and then have them tell you the ingredients - peanuts, grapes and bread.  (If you have a child with peanut allergies, you will have to modify the lesson.) The singing of the song itself teaches control of the voice as we sing "Peanut, peanut butter" and whisper "and jelly".  Acting out the words activate the motor cortex which aids in retention and comprehension.

Peanut Butter & Jelly
Peanut, peanut butter (sing) and jelly (whisper)
First you get some peanuts and you crack ‘em.  You crack 'em, crack 'em, crack 'em
Then you squash ‘em, squash ‘em, squash ‘em, squash ‘em, squash ‘em
Then you spread ‘em, spread ‘em, spread ‘em (peanut, peanut butter and jelly)
Then you get some grapes and you pick ‘em, pick 'em, pick 'em, pick 'em
And you smash ‘em, smash ‘em, smash ‘em
And you smear ‘em, smear ‘em, smear ‘em (peanut, peanut butter and jelly)
The you get some bread to make a sandwich
And then you bite it. You bite it. Bite it. Bite it.
And then you chew it. Chew it. Chew it.  Chew it (peanut, peanut butter and jelly)

After the song, make the sandwiches.   While eating the sandwiches, read a book to the children about it.  Perhaps Peanut Butter & Jelly. 

We think we’re just being silly;and all the while, the brain is learning scientific process.  Imagine that.   For other ideas for science songs, please visit :
Check out what's available at Songs for Teaching
Discovery Channel.  (This site does require a membership.)

Using music is a functional and necessary tool in the classroom.  It is getting more main stream acceptance.  A new show on TV has the lead star as a Music Teacher!  Yay!  Even better, this actor uses back beats/rhythm with music to help children learn.  I applaud the show because it displays how well music works in education.  We need more real life teachers doing this.  The number is growing.  Be a part of that number!

For more information, visit

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Kitchen Utensils and Paint Do Mix

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

I use all kinds of materials for purposes other than the intended ones. This happens frequently at my art table, especially when we're painting. I always say that you can paint with just about anything.

Recently we used kitchen items to paint and explore our creativity.

First we used a salad spinner to paint.

Salad Spinner Painting (Brick by Brick)

We cut paper to fit on our salad spinners. (We cut hearts this time but circles or other shapes would work, too.) We dropped paint on the paper, put the lid on our spinner, and then spun the paper to make cool designs.

Salad Spinner Painting (Brick by Brick)

We had another fun art exploration with paint and forks. Yes, ordinary plastic forks. 

Fork Painting (Brick by Brick)

We learned that you can use forks to make designs in all kinds of ways. You can swipe the fork, press the fork to make prints, drag the fork to make lines, or do all of these to create cool shapes. We even learned that placing different colors of paint on top of one another creates new colors!

Fork Painting (Brick by Brick)

You could use other kitchen items to paint.
  • Use rolling pins to create wide designs. Or drop paint on paper, fold it, and then roll over it with the rolling pin.
  • Make prints with potato mashers, whisks, or cookie cutters.
  • Paint the bottom of muffin pans and create dot or circle designs.
  • Lay out many different kitchen items and paint. Let the kids experiment and explore.
What things from the kitchen have you used to paint? Experiment today!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pennies, Nickels, Dimes, Quarters . . . and Dance!

Hello Autumn, and Hello EC Community!

We all know that children learn in different ways.  Movement can help to teach and reinforce numbers, counting, and early math skills. Try this quick and easy movement activity about coins and their values.  The activity, presented in two parts, can help young children to learn to identify pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, and then to recognize that each coin has a different value and what those values are.

Coin Dance

Time:  Approximately 20 minutes
Materials:  Separate representations of each of the four coins, on paper or cardboard, large enough for all of the children to see and identify 

Part 1:  Identifying the Coins
    Place the children in home spots evenly spaced throughout the room, or standing in a circle with plenty of room between each child, or standing by tables or desks.

    Show the coin pictures one by one.  Identify them for the children.   Repeat as needed. 

    Now tell the children:  I will hold one of the coins up, and instead of telling me what it is, I would like for you to show me in movement:

If I hold up a penny, I would like you to sit down and stand back up.  

If I hold up the nickel, I would like you to go up on your tiptoes and then come back down.  

If I hold up the dime, I would like you to bounce (bending your knees) or jump.  

If I hold up the quarter, I would like you to march in place.
    Repeat the game as long as the children are engaged and until they can identify the coins.

Part 2:  Identifying the Value of the Coins

    Expand the game by having the children identify the value of the coin (again when you hold up the pictures one by one) by doing the following number of movements assigned to each coin (the same number of movements as the value of each coin).  This is a surprisingly lively activity, even though they will be staying in one spot throughout.

    Penny: The children will go down to the floor and back up once.  

    Nickel:  The children will balance on their tiptoes for five counts.  

    Dime:  The children will do ten small bounces or jumps in place

    Quarter:  The children will march in place for twenty-five counts 

    Encourage the children to count along with you as they are doing the movements.  Repeat the activity another day, and have the children make up their own movements!

Do 10 small jumps when I hold up the dime!

Keep on dancin',



Friday, September 18, 2015


Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago. Thank you for joining me.

Cover Art: Kim Arden,
 Graphic Alchemy
Drum roll, please for two announcements:
1. The Fall 2015 issue of PIO! (Pass It On!) is now live and available! As the new editor, I’m especially proud. Members have access to all the amazing content. The digital format makes navigation a breeze! 
Non-members – never fear.  
Much of the content is available for you to read for free, including A Conversation with Stuart Stotts by Pre-K and K Sharing’s own Carole Stephens! Find out more about CMN’s amazing resources through Lisa Heintz’s Sharing Our Strengths, The CMN Song Library. If you work with babies, Gari Stein’s In Tune with Babies will delight you. 

All Reports are open content, as is New Sounds, which features CDs released by Children’s Music Network (CMN) members. I’ve already had the pleasure of listening to Kristin Lems You, Me, and All of the Above, Barb Tilsen’s Take the Seed, and Patricia Shih’s Lovabies – and my vote is “fabulous!” Three CDs down and ten more to go! I hope you’ll be excited about all CMN has to offer – and become a member!

2. The annual Children’s Music Network Conference, is being held in Zion, Illinois, from October 16-18. This year’s theme is Open the Circle. Musicians, teachers, songwriters, librarians, families, and friends from all over the U.S. and Canada will come together to raise their voices in song, share resources, celebrate the life of Pete Seeger, and attend engaging and relevant workshops on the shores of Lake Michigan. Lots of special events are going to be offered, including nature walks, yoga, a barn dance, and more. If you’re new to CMN, we’ll even match you up with a “buddy” for instant connection! Come for the music – and stay for the laugher and fellowship.

Sing, Sing a Song…and Dance a Dance
Last month’s post, Starting the Year With a Song – and CMN, presented two engaging hello songs to start the year off with: Mary Wore Her Red Dress and Time to Say Hello. Here are two more of my favorites – which also incorporate movement.

Clap Your Hands
Jessica (and daughter) from Intellidance!
Clap Your Hands is an adaptation of Old Joe Clark, an American heritage song, and shares the same melody. The beauty of this song is its versatility. It can be sung while seated or standing, is easily adapted for instrument play, and works as a circle dance by holding hands and dancing in one direction during the interlude. Depending on the abilities of your class, if you want to get fancy, change directions midway! The repetition, labeling, and singing what you do is helpful for young children and English language learners. NOTE: It is perfectly fine to sing the song without the interlude, but I love the plaintive, Mixolydian melody, and the extended option for movement.  

Clap, clap, clap your hands,                        Clap your hands together.
Clap, clap, clap your hands,                        Clap your hands together.
                     Musical Interlude: Sing interlude on “la.” 
2. Stamp, stamp, stamp your feet…
3. Tap, tap, tap your toes…

Turn this into a welcome song by adding names of the kiddos of your class.
Sing, sing, sing hello,                         Sing hello to Briana…
Clap, clap, clap hello,                         Clap hello to Frannie…
Stomp, stomp, stomp hello,                 Stomp your feet to Will…
Reach, reach, reach hello,                  Reach up high to Gari…

Instrument Play ideas:
Rub, rub, rub your sticks, rub your sticks together…
Walk, walk, walk your sticks…
Fly, fly, fly your sticks…
Shake, shake, shake your bells…
Beat, beat, beat the drum…

If you want to learn more about Old Joe Clark, Aubrey Atwater, performer and teacher, presents a deeper look at the song. Her version starts with the dance “interlude.” 

And I can’t resist including this amazing YouTube flashback from 1964 which features the amazing “Stringbean” playing an uptempo version of the song. Enjoy!

Hello, Friends!
CMN friends Fran McKinney and Candy Heitner brought related versions of this partner song to a Midwest Regional Gathering many years ago. It has since become a favorite with my kiddos, who especially love the “boogie on down.” The words are “piggybacked” onto the melody, Good Night, Ladies. NOTE: In the spirit of “everything I know I learned from YouTube,” I was surprised that most of the videos' melodies went directly from Good Night Ladies to Merrily We Roll Along – which I’ve always thought of as a distinct and separate song. Something more to research!

Dance Directions:
Introduce the song, asking students to listen and rock side to side with the beat. I model rocking with “windshield wiper hands,” which makes the transition to the partner dance smoother.

  • On the second repetition, the class stands in a circle, and echoes while rocking. At this point, it is still an individual activity. Add actions.
  •  Invite a child to be your partner, and demonstrate the dance. Pointing out that all movements are performed gently is never wasted…though sometimes ignored!
  • Ask children to turn to their neighbor – the person standing next to them. It’s important to minimize chaos while teaching the dance. In 3-5 year old classroom, consider matching older students with younger, since shaking hands can be tricky. NOTE: Take time to talk about shaking hands. Demonstrate that arms cross the body. I ask the children to make an “X” with their hands, then tap the hands that need to be dropped.
  •  Dance!
  •  Find a new partner and dance again. Then again!
  • Add other language, e.g., Shalom, neighbor; Bonjour, neighbor; Hola, neighbor; Joon san, neighbor; Merhaba, neighbor, etc.
Hello, neighbor! / What do you say?                         (Both hands are placed flat on partner’s hands.
It's going to be / A happy day.                                    Rock side to side)
Greet your neighbor.                                                  (Shake hands with partner)  
Boogie on down. / Give a bump & turn around.        (Wiggle body  / Bump hips / Turn around once)

This is a great parent/child activity – for a dedicated music class, family gathering or Informance. BONUS: This song can also be used for a goodbye song!

Goodbye friends. (x3)
We’ll see you all next week. (Cha Cha Cha!)

Happy Singing!

Merit School of Music, Chicago
Call on Merit School of Music! Our onsite school is in the West Loop. We work in the schools throughout the area providing band, orchestra, percussion, choir, early childhood, and general music instruction with project based units including Recorder, Music and Storytelling and Songwriting. We do great work! YoYo Ma is a supporter!

Chicago Families
Please come to Merit’s Storytime sessions It’s free, fun, and facilitated by singers and storytellers Amy Lowe, Irica Baurer & Brigid Finucane. Stories and songs start at 11am, and we end with instrument exploration and family networking. The next session is August 24. Starting in September, Storytime is going to be offered once a month on the 2nd Monday.

I am continually inspired by the Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2015 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *

Blog History
June 2015. Summer Songs

Aug. 2014. Educators Who Care, Share. Singers, Sites & Songs – Part II: Midwest & Great Lakes (Listening Locally)          

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"GROWING!" A Nutrient-Packed Tidbit Kids Love!

Hi – I’m Miss Carole from Macaroni Soup: Active Music for Active Learners. Sometimes good things really do come in quite small packages. A diamond ring. A newborn. A truffle.  Today I’m sharing a small rhyme. When I first heard it, it had just three lines. I added one more (the carrot), and the “ta-dah!” I call it “GROWING!” I’ve even recorded it on my Polka Dots” cd. Click on Track #21 to hear my Macaroni Soup Singers doing it!

It’s just a little thing, this rhyme, but it is jam-packed with learning opportunities.

First, I show the children my reading board with my not-so-perfect drawings in each of four quadrants.  We identify each picture together, starting with the flower, then the tree, then the carrot – and ME!  Aha!
More flowers!

Learning Opportunity #1:  we read from left to right (tracking), then go down to the next line and read left to right again.

I invite everyone to stand, and make a flower-face, cupping their hands around their smiling faces, leaning first right, then left with the cadence of the line:

A flower grows like this.

Then we shoot both arms straight overhead and stand tall.


Learning Opportunity #2:  extend from the shoulder to the biggest stretch we can. I learned from a handwriting expert that good penmanship comes from our shoulder, and being able to detach our arms from our bodies is good practice for early- and pre-writers.

Next, put the tips of your fingers overhead together, then dive your hands to the floor – because carrots grow underground.


Learning Opportunity #3:  folding in our middle to reach for the floor gives us a chance to stretch from one extreme – high – to the other – low.  Physical exercise increases the flow of adrenaline and serotonin in the brain – keeping it firing on all pistons!

Slowly come to an upright position, then strike a pose for the big finish!

And I grow like this!
Learning Opportunity #4:  encourage creativity and originality – what does “ta-dah” look like? Does it always look the same? Does Susie’s “ta-dah” look like Edward’s? Sometimes we hold the pose and I snap a picture that we can analyze.
Now, do it again – please!

A flower grows like this.             
Yes, good things can come in little packages – just like the children I teach!  Enjoy!

Yours for a Little Song!
Carole Stephens
Macaroni Soup! Active Music for Active Learners
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...