Making Music Together

By Lannette Peterson, Casa River Guide – 

It’s important to have music in some form or another every day in a children’s house environment. Rhythm, music and songs are a part of the Casa child’s experience from the first days, through materials, activities and play. We sing often–in small groups, individually, collectively and sometimes as a way to bring children’s attention to a special message. Simple little songs can be made up on the spot – “it’s clean up time, come join us now”; or “if you’re wearing blue, clap your hands.” We might sing or clap the rhythm of their names as a part of the transition process to join us in another space.

Walking on the Line is a group activity presented early in a child’s experience. With the use of a small drum, the adult introduces some signals for how to step on to the line, position oneself in the group and how to turn their body to face one direction. With a steady beat of the drum, a parade of children to walk together along an ellipse in unison, following the beat, stopping when the drum stops, waiting for it to start again – then continuing their walk together.

This activity is then available for the children to practice independently–using the drum to create the signals, practice making a steady beat and working together in collaboration, whether leading or following to experience the joy of movement. Another way to have music as part of the daily routine is through the bell material. The Guide as a trained adult presents this material and the children are free to choose, explore and practice daily. There are initial presentations on how to use the materials, alongside specific language lessons and several games that utilize memory, movement, pairing, matching, grading, listening and singing.

The bell material and activities give the children lots of opportunity to sing and experience pitch. They also gain understanding of the C major scale, to compose their own music and to know the names of the notes. The bell work is important preparation for the tone bar work that is done in Elementary. Through presentations, exploration and practice with the bell material, children gain a basic understanding of the diatonic scale and an introduction to the chromatic scale.

The bells help refine the children’s auditory sense. They learn to discriminate pitch and understand the language of music. We can use the bells for Walking on the Line, teaching songs and sensory exploration.

Casa Guides have the opportunity to bring classical and instrumental music into the children’s experience by listening together or individually with the use of a CD player. Rhythm cards are a material that combines movement with sounds such as clapping, foot tapping or vocal sound. They can be a fun collective activity led by an adult, or the children can choose to practice with them independently or in a small group together.

Sharing rhythm, music and songs brings us together as a community. There is order and pattern in music, which is mathematical; and the children naturally and effortlessly recognize rhythm in the language of poetry or rhyming. The children get an understanding of music as a universal language with healing and expressive aspects. This brings light to their spirit while enriching their overall sense of connection with each other and with the world.