Here’s How a Playground Can Be an Investment in Early Music Education

For many parents, the first time their children sign up for music class is a scary experience. But, if you’re ready to get started, the process can be eased by incorporating a few simple steps. Creating a safe and inviting learning environment for young preschoolers to start formal music lessons is a great way to make sure they’re on the right track towards developing a lifelong passion for music.

The National Endowment for the Arts estimates that in 2012, the United States spent $3.5 billion on music programs. But, to put this in perspective, a toddler with perfect pitch can recognize a tune as well as any professional musician. With such an extensive and expensive music program, you may be wondering how valuable a “true” music education is. After all, it’s hard to argue with a program that spends $3.5 billion per year.

Not all children like to exercise. To teach our youngest pupils the joy of musical expression, we are now installing instruments outside in our playground. When choosing resources, I focused on facilities that would attract the greatest number of students and be dedicated to nature to give our school a new look in the heart of downtown Saint Louis.

At Lift for Life Academy, many of our students do not have the opportunity to play a musical instrument at home. Giving them the opportunity to practice music at school contributes to their musical, intellectual and social development. Exposure to music at an early age has been shown to promote teamwork, improve memory, self-confidence and empathy, and stimulate communication skills and intellectual curiosity. The basics of playing musical instruments also contribute to the development of dexterity and motor skills.

It was clear that outdoor musical instruments can change the culture of a playground and, by extension, the whole school.

I wanted the instrument installation to serve as an introduction to music for our young students while bringing new energy to the playground. I needed colorful, life-size outdoor musical instruments that would be durable enough to withstand the year-round weather and the enthusiastic use of our students. I also wanted the instruments to be inclusive, so that every student, regardless of physical or musical ability, would be rewarded with beautiful sounds that contribute to their love of music.

Whether the child is a musician or not, the outdoor musical instruments we have selected are not intimidating. Many of them use a pentatonic scale. This means that no matter how many people play an instrument, they will always produce a beautiful and harmonious musical sound.  The simplicity of the performance prevents minimal musical understanding on the part of the students, preventing them from enjoying the music.

The percussion instruments we have selected are suitable for everyone, regardless of size or mobility. Our open space allows students to experience musical instruments in a positive way, which increases their self-confidence.

We now have a totally engaging and creative open space with cavatina xylophones, rainbow bells, rainbow bongos and harmonic bells. With the diverse range of outdoor musical instruments, you can bring harmony and accessibility.

With these outdoor instruments students can get acquainted with music at a young age. Our students were able to communicate with each other through their instruments, playing them in unison to create a more powerful sound. This experience not only deepens their understanding of sound, but also shows how music can bring them together. Playing these instruments in the open air strengthens the sense of community in the academy.

The teachers are already noticing that this new experience is generating enthusiasm and a sense of community among the students. Words of appreciation and jokes about who played the instrument first were the order of the day on the playground. A teacher said: The first grader ran up to me and hugged me to say thank you: This is great!

I also work with our music teacher to better incorporate these instruments into the curriculum. We also plan to include these instruments in future orchestra concerts so that our students in grades 3-12 can become familiar with percussion instruments.

The foundation of our program is learning through discovery, play and exploration. Our program aims to develop musicians capable of participating creatively and professionally in the musical process.

Our students are often underserved and do not have the same musical experiences as others. With these instruments they can not only make music, but also beautiful music, which may help them to become musicians in the future. Our outdoor musical instruments help our students create their own voice and creative space, which encourages them to achieve higher goals.

Right now our biggest problem is getting the kids out of recess! For children who had to stay at home for a long time because of the pandemic, this novelty was a great success.

Photos reproduced with kind permission of the author.

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About the Author: Prateek

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