We invite you to attend this year’s STEM plenary session on Day 3 of the ISSRDC 2020 Online Series. During this virtual session on Thursday, October 22, we celebrate 20 years of students doing experiments on the ISS. Discussion will focus on the impact these experiences have on students and on the future of student experiments in space. The session is free to attend, but registration is required.
What happens when you combine two contrasting subjects like space exploration and music sight reading on the recorder? You embark on a cosmic journey of epic proportion while you develop skills in both disciplines.
In 2017, I had the out-of-the-box idea to bring space exploration into my middle school music classroom. I am a space enthusiast, and my students were Star Wars fans. In an effort to meet my students where they were and liven up these classes, I created original recorder music and songs about space exploration. Of course, I think space and rockets are super cool. Soon, my students did as well.
What started as a single lesson about SpaceX Falcon 9 grid fins and a 16-measure recorder piece suddenly turned in to a weekly endeavor. Each week, I wrote new recorder music for my students. They quickly became enthralled in the innovative material and were ready to learn their music lesson because of it. They wanted to learn more about the space concepts we discussed in class, and they were eager to research them online. They practiced more at home so they could progress to the next song, see the next picture, and learn more about space. Their music sight reading improved enormously, and they became space fans too.
We used colorful images of rocket launches, the International Space Station (ISS), spacewalks (called EVAs), and dwarf planets, to name a few. My students were excited to create rhyming lyrics for songs about the Moon and what happens when you vomit in space. They were curious to learn what Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly had to say on the subject of adjusting to life in the microgravity environment on the ISS.
My middle school students engaged 110% in music class. All of them practiced their recorders and researched space exploration topics at home. They explored multiple disciplines, including astronomy, geometry, current spaceflight events, and space transportation. The class sang songs about black holes and Pegasus barges ferrying rocket sections along the Mississippi River to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The weekly music class had become an emotional investment for everyone. The students and I had so much fun!!! We were in the zone.
My students took charge of their own education by actively participating in it. We learned innumerable new things that year. We embraced organic, interdisciplinary, “across the curriculum” science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) learning and sparked unexpected reserves of creativity. This shows that the arts and the sciences can and should coexist to develop creative people. What a year we had in music class. It was out of this world!