by Julia Hanauer-Milne
The rainforest and Maine’s forests have more in common than you might think. That’s what third and fourth graders at Williams Elementary School are learning through an integrated music and art project called Rainforest—Maine Forest.
In art class, students in grades 3,4 and 5 are creating art about rainforest and Maine forest creatures, while in music class children in grade 3 and 4 are singing about rainforest and Maine forest flora and fauna. Students will share their work during a Rainforest-Maine Forest Art Show and Concert on Nov. 7 at the high school’s Performing Arts Center beginning at 5 p.m.
Students in grades three and four are working on a variety of rainforest and Maine forest-related art: plaster and clay sculptures of hummingbirds, rainforest birds, and Maine birds and frogs from both Maine and the rainforest. Fourth graders are drawing with oil pastels: toucans, macaws, and snakes from both Maine and the rainforest.
Comparing and contrasting, important critical thinking skills, are woven throughout both music and art classes.
“Making comparisons connects them more to their world and makes them curious about another place,” said Williams art teacher Ellen Gronlie. Students might learn about rainforest snakes, for example, and want to know more.“They ask, ‘Do we have snakes? Do we have poisonous snakes?’ “ Gronlie said. “I think to teach them about another part of the world and (work with) the idea of comparison—you can come up with questions and learn more.”
Music teacher Amy Peterson was thinking about her grade three-four concert when she hit upon the rainforest theme. Another teacher, Julia Hanauer-Milne, had just returned from a Fund for Teachers-sponsored rainforest trip and shared pictures. Peterson wrote a script for the concert and researched songs that would fit one or both of the forests. When Peterson mentioned her idea to Gronlie, the two decided to team up.
“Concerts give students an opportunity to demonstrate to their families what we’re learning in music class. We do activities that include instrument playing, singing, movement, speaking and rhythms that enhance the music. This allows the student an opportunity to perform on a stage and enhance their appreciation of being in a musical ensemble,” Peterson said.
The evening will begin with the art show from 5 to 6 p.m. Slides from Hanauer-Milne’s trip to the Amazon will be shown while students head backstage to prepare for the concert. Then, at 6:30, students will take the stage to share their musical skills.
“The three teachers have really enjoyed brainstorming together, sharing their ideas and experiences for this exciting unit,” Peterson said. “Through art and music, the Rainforest and Maine forest come to life for our students, enhancing their learning and making it fun for everyone.”