Tiny instruments make big differences for students

In just three years, the promise Ukes in the Classroom offered has made a significant, positive impact on students.

 

TUESDAY MAY 21, 2019 12:04 PM - Reading Eagle Newspaper

WRITTEN BY BY PAULA TAYLOR

 

When Meadowood Music first spoke with the Reading Musical Foundation and Berks Country Fest about a collaboration to place ukuleles in Berks County's public schools, we were all excited by the promise that these tiny instruments would make big differences for the students.

In just three years, the promise Ukes in the Classroom offered has made a significant, positive impact on students.

Last spring, Exeter's Elementary school students performed publicly as part of Berks Country Fest. This spring, Reading middle school students gave an in-school concert which included outside guests in the audience. Fleetwood School District is placing 90 ukuleles in three of its schools for the 2019-20 school year. Those are the most visible results of having ukes in our schools.

Photo by Susan Angstadt:

Ciara Delapaz, 7th Grade, holds her ukulele at the start of music class at Northwest Middle School

After the initial grant from the Ukes in the Classroom collaboration, Exeter saw such encouraging results that the district added ukuleles to its fleet, more than doubling the number of ukes in its classrooms and tripling the number of teachers who work with ukes with students. Initially, two of Exeter's teachers registered for professional development training on ukes at Meadowood as part of the Ukes in the Classroom collaboration. This spring, the school is discussing more advanced instruction for six of its teachers with Meadowood instructor Donna Lang.

In a recent conversation with Berks Country Fest's Dave Kline, music educator Holly Keown summarized how well Ukes in the Classroom is delivering on its promise. Students are more engaged, even those who are typically harder to reach. By actively participating in making music with one another, the students learn more than music. They support and encourage one another. They have fun, and they learn without realizing that a little brown soprano Makala ukulele is setting them up to succeed.

Wrapped up in the fun is a host of benefits: new neural pathways that enhance problem-solving and academic performance in all subjects, social skills that come from mutual encouragement and better retention to graduation in schools that have uke and guitar programs. Not bad for a little brown instrument with just four strings!

Paula Taylor performs in a two-piece acoustic band, “Mike and Paula,” with her husband, Mike Andrews and is a co-owner with Mike at Meadowood Music, Maidencreek Township, www.meadowoodmusic.com.