pcrabbe
Tuesday 27th , 2015
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Kidspace is opening the new Pepper Tree Music Jam exhibit on November 7th. It is exciting to have more experiences at the museum to give children opportunities to explore such a rich and fulfilling art form as music.

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Most of us enjoy playing and listening to music. I spend many happy hours, at home or driving, listening to my favorite artists and songs. Some bring peace, some energy; others bring back memories. Music’s fundamental relationship with the human experience seems timeless. Confucius succinctly summarized its joyful aspects somewhere around 500 BC when he stated that “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” In addition to enjoyment, music also has the power to stir us to strong feelings.  Leo Tolstoy describes music as “… the shorthand of emotion.” Joy, beauty, and the power to emote are reasons enough to value music. However, there are added benefits attached to our intrinsic enjoyment of playing and listening to music. Learning and skill development is happening when we engage music even if we are not necessarily conscious of it at the time. These benefits are especially valuable for children’s learning and development. What’s more, these skills and abilities are transferable, resulting in a potential spring boarding effect in excelling at multiple disciplines. For example, music is full of mathematics.

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Arts Education Partnership outlines three areas in which music education helps children learn. Preparation of young children for learning, academic achievement, and the development of creative capacities. The first and last areas (preparedness for learning and developing creative capacities) are full of possibilities in a place where children follow their interests while learning at their pace and in their way. Carefully developed children’s museum exhibits and programs provide flexibility for children to transition effortlessly back and forth from individual music exploration to working in collaboration with peers or caregivers. Music making in the context of the child-driven framework of children’s museums offers limitless opportunities for fun and learning.

The new Pepper Tree Music Exhibit is a nature-inspired setting for child-driven, music play. Children experiment and make sounds with instruments made mostly from natural materials such as wood, shells, husks, and stone. Some instruments are small with lots of different sounds to be made in close proximity, while others, such as the wooden marimbas are quite large. Children can play by themselves to hear how the different instruments sound and discover how their music is affected when played with along with the music of others. They can also spend time refining to get sounds they like, using trial and error until they reach their desired result. There are several programs planned to augment the exhibit such as The Nature of Music, during which children will be lead on a “pied-piper” journey through the gardens, playing instruments made from natural materials and singing songs related to the plants, animals and sights in the Gardens. Also, children fabricate simple hand-made instruments in Kidspace’s Imagination Workshop maker space then use the exhibit as a place to test them out.

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An outdoor setting allows children to hear the sounds of nature inherent all around them, near, far, loud, soft, up, down, fast, slow, constant, intermittent. They can hear the wind rustling the leaves in the trees, or birds singing. Listening to the natural world we inhabit and making sense and order of it is a part of what inspires us to create music. Sometimes the sounds are calm and tranquil, other times they are screechy and raucous. Contemporary writer and poet Dejan Stojanović’s contention that “there is no competition of sounds between a nightingale and a violin” captures the spirit of the most exquisite sounds of nature. Making music outdoors is a rich experience for children

Learning and development are often non-linear, and complex. A free-choice, creative, natural setting provides a simple, accessible, and multi-dimensional backdrop for supporting children’s creativity as they discover and play.

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Dr. Peter Crabbe, Director of Education and Exhibits, has been at Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2014. Previous work includes DuPage Children’s Museum, Brookfield Zoo, and The Field Museum of Natural History, after earning an MFA in Studio Art. Attained an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Change before joining Kidspace.