Rhythm Programs for Children: Challenges and Opportunities.
I just started a new series, two Rhythm Programs for Children. I have two groups, one kindergarten age and the other is Grade School age. It is clear that working with small children is challenging. It also can be very rewarding. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to work with the kids. And I’m grateful for the challenges they present.
Background: SOS Kinderdorf, Kindergarten and Hort
The SOS Kinderdorf has an in-house Kindergarten and an after-school program called a Hort. The schools run just a half-day here. Many children really need a safe, wholesome place to be after school. They get a nice lunch, do their homework, and get special help as needed. Many in the Hort are first or second generation immigrants to Germany. Like me. That’s the first thing we have in common.
First big Surprise
There was a big adjustment to make, in between booking the gig and the first round. The large Seminar room was made not available. That left us with a small empty room that was equipped with a few mats, a round carpet, and a lot of echo. It actually worked great for the first round of the kindergarten kids. It seems that about half the children normally there were out sick.
The second group was much larger, about 20 kids, and way too many for that small space. But, we managed. We managed with an acceptable amount of chaos. The building has a large cellar, which we will use next time. It’s not as lovely as an upper story room with windows. But it has plenty of space for the kids t run around. We just need to make it as nice as possible. In warm weather, we will hold the Rhythm Program outdoors.
The Younger Group
We did a simple Start & Stop game with the kids taking turns to make the stop signal. I played solo on the djembe while they danced around in a circle. (We had sort of figured they would like the opportunity to move around.) I used a wind gong hanging in the window for the signal. Each child could stand on the red “stop” spot, strike the gong with a soft mallet. They then would hand a green “start” ball to the next one up.
The next level was to have the kids step into the middle and make a physical signal with the word. This wasn’t so clear. But, I think they liked it.
The next game was telling a sound story with the djembe. I explained that the djembe drum came from Africa. Then I made “Jungle and Savannah” sounds, to which the children made accompanying movements. They liked that. We ended with the Giraffe, who makes no sound… but…
The Giraffe has a long long neck you see. He can see all the way to England. That’s where “Ring Around the Rosie” comes from. Oh, they loved that! They all know “Hoppy Hoppy Reiter”, but “Ring Around the Rosie” was new. A new tune, but just about the same game. We did that until the teacher’s assistant couldn’t take it anymore!
We ended with a little bit on an Sea Drum. That is a nice way to bring the energy to a calm close. I asked the kids if they had fun. The answer was a thundering YES!!! Like my Mentor Arthur Hull says, you can’t fool the kids. If you can handle a rhythm program for children, you can handle any population. Well, this one may have been easy.
The older group
This group was about 20 kids in that same small room. It was far too crowded. They had all been outside to run around, so they came sort of “pre-amped” into the room. We did manage some good games, despite the chaos. Many knew “Alafia”, and we had a good time with that.
Generally it was hard though. We had a few times where the attention was slipping out of bounds. Learned a new phrase: “Pretzel Arms” (Hold your arms crossed in silence). I used this opportunity to introduce a 3/4 time round. “Hey, what goes well with Pretzels? A Waltz! It worked!
We also ended with a session on the Sea Drum. The kids did also vote for fun, and that we should do it again.
I got a big compliment a substitute teacher. She was amazed that I held their attention (more or less) for the full hour. She said that was something indeed, speaking as a music teacher. She said she can keep them engaged for about “two songs and a somersault”, about 15 minutes. Then they are simply gone. The fact that I kept them engaged for so long was in her estimation a great feat.
Well, I’ll take the compliment. Let’s see what we cook up next time!