Elementary school music teachers in the Fort Worth ISD were busy over the weekend. They want their kids who are learning at home now or in the classroom later to still have music, and they found a way to get it to all 37,000 of their students.
“Music is medicine. Kids need it. It engages them socially and emotionally. It keeps them engaged in their typical day to day lessons,” said Dinah Menger, the district's director of choral and elementary music. “And I call my teachers the heroes of Fort Worth ISD because we don't take no for an answer and we just get it done.”
Twenty music teachers got together and came up with homemade instruments so their students can make music. All elementary students will get a musical bag of goodies including pool noodle scrapers, egg shakers, corndog "drum" sticks and plastic cymbal plates.
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Plastic plates can be drum pads with corn dog sticks or bang two together to mimic a cymbal. Dry rice or corn in a plastic egg turns into a shaker.
"Because of COVID and because of safety, which FWISD is being so meticulously careful about, we cannot share instruments. No mallets. No nothing. So, every child needs to have their very own set of manipulatives and instruments and sound-making devices and things of that nature,” Menger said.
“We want to make sure their music-making continues, and they stay engaged and are able to be creative and work with the teacher. So, every single student, whether they be face to face come October or staying at home virtually, we'll deliver to each student their own music kit.”
Teachers streamed into Natha Howell Elementary School Saturday morning to gather the items for the music kits. Principal Monica Granados opened her building to give the teachers space to collect and create.
Menger also credits Chris Walk, executive director of visual and performing art; Chrissie Seligson, elementary music specialist; Don Devous, secondary choral specialist; and Tuesday Smith, administrative associate for their roles in taking an idea and making it a reality.
Smith and Dawn Jones, music teacher at Natha Howell, spent months buying and collecting all the supplies to make the kits. Jones started buying up plastic eggs back in March as the pandemic hit, realizing they might be useful later.
Meador Jeep stepped up as well with a financial contribution. Menger says when it was all said and done, the cost for each music kit was $1.07.
"All of our teachers are aligning all of our students to receive the same musical experience across the district," Menger said.
"We do it for the kids, whatever it takes. No job too big, too small,” she said.