As part of a district-wide improvement initiative targeting math and science, the Stamford, CT public school system is providing teachers from each specialty area with professional development that addresses methods for supporting math and science. ETM was hired to work with the district's music teachers during April and May.
After an introductory meeting, ETM Director of Programs Stephen Herx and Field Supervisor Chris Marolf facilitated three, two-hour sessions for music specialists who serve children in grades K-5. Mr. Herx and Mr. Marolf discussed ideas such as the need for a common language across the disciplines and for integration to incorporate skills, and provided teachers with a variety of suggested activities.
Says Mr. Marolf, "Often, similar concepts are taught through different subjects, but because of different vocabulary used within each subject, the connections are lost to the students. We stressed using words such as sequence, sum, factor, and other math-related words to clue students in to the cross-curricular connections. Becoming familiar with the vocabulary used in math will help students better utilize the skills learned in math in new and varied ways."
Mr. Herx and Mr. Marolf emphasized that, in order for integration to take hold and work, the strategies must truly enhance the subjects involved, and not just make reference to them. For example, singing a song with math-related words is not enough; a more successful integration strategy would involve using math skills in music class. One example Mr. Herx and Mr. Marolf gave the teachers was a music listening map in graph form that students have to interpret in order to answer questions about a piece of music they hear.
George Vollano, Director of Fine Arts for the Stamford public schools, praised ETM's work: "Workshops have been expertly handled…The ETM personnel are professional, knowledgeable, and wonderful to work with." One music teacher called the seminar that she participated in "the best professional development I've attended in a long time."
Based on the success of the workshops this spring, ETM will be addressing all Stamford K-12 music teachers at the end of August.