I love introducing my students to music from different parts of the world. As kids, they don’t have the years and years of experience in one musical tradition to make music from other traditions sound “weird” or “unnatural” as is sometimes the first reaction that adults feel. Last year, our spring concert theme was “Music Around the World,” and each grade focused on a different continent, singing at least one song in a foreign language. I think it was easier for them to learn the songs than it was for me!
This year, I’ll have a different theme for the spring concert, but I still want to expose my students to different musical cultures, especially when our school does have several students who are not from the mainstream culture of that area. So we’re going on musical “field trips”! Over the last couple of weeks, first graders went to New Zealand!
My students LOVE the Okee Dokee Brothers, so I started this field trip by listening to their song, “Can You Caone?” This sparked a conversation about boats in other cultures, leading to the waka of New Zealand. The kids were excited to point out the differences and similarities between the Okee Dokee Brothers’ canoe and a picture of a waka.
The kids studied the geography of New Zealand (they can all located it on a world map and can give the definition of an island), and why the geography made boats important there. I read and we discussed the Maori legend “How the Kiwi Lost His Wings,” and then talked about other national and state birds. We listened to some songs in Maori language, and then learned a Maori song about a canoe (however, due to snow days interrupting our weeks, we only had time to learn it in English).
From what I know of the traditional Maori songs (which is not as much as I would like), the music is often accompanied by rhythmic movement and body percussion. These concepts fit very well into first grade music curriculum. By the time we finished this “trip,” the kids were able to do a pat-pat-clap-clap pattern on the beat, a stamp on the strong beats, AND sing all at the same time!
This lesson was such a success that I think we’ll have to do some more musical field trips. Any destination recommendations are welcome!