While hiking, students hike learn to identify local tree species and to select an appropriate location for a wicwam. They cut saplings, strip the bark, and lash them together to create a frame and then cover it to complete the structure. The class also may imagine and/or role-play a piece of the life of a Wappinger tribe member. This lesson can be done on school grounds if hiking trips are not possible.
Interested students signed up to create the soundtrack for an original student script. They gathered with a visiting composer to read through the script and compiled a list of where sounds or music would be desirable. Then, each signed up to be responsible for one or two pieces. They gathered other students as they deemed necessary, and assigned them to play instruments or other sound-making objects.
They composed, collaborated, rehearsed, fine-tuned, and shared their creations with the teacher, the visiting artist, and others in the class for input. Finally, pieces were digitally recorded by a group of peers (recording is an optional part of this project). Students were excited by the opportunity to use old musical skills and explore new ones in this project that heavily tapped their imaginations.
Creativity, improvisation, and collaboration were given as much attention as conventional music notation, instrumentation, and technique. Pieces changed often as they were rehearsed and new ideas were suggested. The process was very rich for those unaccustomed to it. A team of students used digital recording skills learned earlier in the year to record the pieces, which added another layer of valuable exposure to a useful skill.
The end product was a truly unique recording full of pieces that fully captured students' musical interpretations of the accompanying theatrical action. Note that the process of composing original pieces to fit a scene, dance, mood, or action can stand on its own, and does not need an original writ, or major production, or recording component attached.
Students hike to the headwater of a backyard creek and learn of its voyage to the river and eventually the ocean. Students observe and experiment with the process of erosion and discuss the problems of pollution in a water system. Students will understand the connections and importance of caring for all our water sources and will understand the process of erosion.
This is an ongoing activity, woven into other "Dancing with the Hudson" unit activities. The objective is to create a 4' by 14' felted mural of the Hudson River to share with the school and local community. Our students worked on the mural three or four mornings a week for several months.
They drew inspiration and ideas from a number of seining visits, time exploring the school grounds, and trips described in the other lessons in this unit, as well as a visit to the Norwalk (CT) Aquarium. They were also inspired by pictures from books about the Hudson.
We presented our mural at the Beacon Sloop Club's Strawberry Festival in June and an even larger river community at Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival in Croton on Hudson.
Students work with visiting mural artist Nestor Madalengoitia as a culminating activity for a study of Hudson River School painters.