Monthly Archives: September 2021

Key Issues in Early Childhood Education: Approaches to Children’s Music Curriculum and Lessons

Over the past several weeks, we have been delving into several key discussion topics or issues that early childhood educators face in the classroom. Much of this content is based on the observations and writings of neuroscience educator Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. The last installment explores how children’s music teachers can provide nourishment to children through soul, body, and mind, while feeding their developing and amazing frontal lobes. This next post will address the validity of two discussion issues related to children’s music curriculum and the role of lesson plans and content.

Discussion Topic One: The driving force behind music must be an elaborate curriculum with clear objectives and activities, for which content is the critical element.

Rudolf Steiner, Austrian scientist, thinker and founder of Waldorf Education, suggested in the early 1920s that parenting was quickly evolving from natural instinct to a more formal and conscious understanding. With all of the subsequent literature and available instruction available to parents today, it is plain to see that this prediction came to pass. This same evolution can be seen in the development of education, where carefully developed curricula with well-planned objectives and timelines of activities offer benefits to music educators and students alike.

However, it is important to understand that children are the critical element in the classroom, not the lesson plan. It is up to teachers to adapt and shift focus as needed based on each moment with students to provide the nourishment of mind, body, and spirit. Content and form represent only ten percent of the learning experience, whereas the “magic of the moment” represents ninety.

Discussion Issue Two: It is important to cover all the lesson plans in a timely manner or children will “fall behind.”

This is a longstanding conflict in the field of education – Do teachers educate or instruct? Do children unfold, or do they acquire knowledge? The root for the word educate is educare, and mean “to draw forth,” whereas the root word for instruct is instruere, meaning “to pile upon. While educating children, especially in music, there is a building process where we are adding knowledge and skills on top of one another. So, within reason we do tend to “pile upon them” rules and ways as they enculturate and prepare themselves to be new members of our culture.

However, if we are focused too completely on the time lines of learning particular content, children can quickly be overwhelmed. Staying attuned with what students are hungry for and offering them nutritionally sound material helps music teachers understand the next developmentally appropriate steps in the learning process. As early childhood music teachers, we want to leave children more inspired than exhausted.

As educators, we are often asked to place and emphasis on organization and metrics in the classroom. This is often done not for the purpose of the students or for education itself, but for outside stakeholders to have something to measure. We will tackle that discussion issue in our next and final installment. Many children’s music teachers already understand the lessons learned from the two issues discussed above. While well-designed curriculum and lesson plans have their benefits in children’s music education, teachers should stay attuned to the natural progression of each student and inspire them with nutritional offerings that feed mind, body, and spirit.

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/   

Issues in Early Childhood Education:

Understanding Music Nourishment in Children

In our recent blog, we began a series to explore some key issues facing teachers of childhood music education. This installment will continue the series by first shining light on some false assumptions often made about how children’s music teachers can measure whether their students are getting musical nourishment from their class. These falsehoods include statements such as Music is about performing, and You can’t tell what a child is taking in, or You can only measure what the child produces or puts out. The observations and conclusions concerning these assumptions are based on an article by renowned neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D.

When considering nourishment for the human body, we do not need to measure food as it comes out to understand what went in. It seems silly then, that a child’s music nourishment can only be measured through performance. Dr. Coulter suggests that teaching music nourishes children in three ways: Their souls are nourished by the music itself, their bodies are nourished by the graceful movement, and their minds are nourished by the rhythm.

  1. Music feeds the soul of Children – It is important to choose the right kind of music to feed children’s souls. Music that lives in a culture has been loved for generations and makes one want to sing it over and over. Such music provides an opportunity to invite the soul to rise up and lift hearts, and music educators should embody those feelings when offering them to their students.
  • Music nourishes children’s bodies – Inviting children to move, but not just any movement, is important to nourishing their bodies. It is well known that rhythmic movement through music can help with anxiety and learning in children. When showing movement to children, music teachers should resist the urge to divide it into a series of frozen poses, which kills the graceful flow of the movement and creates a self-consciousness that may cause the child to lose their innocent wholeness.
  • Music feeds the minds of children – To nourish the minds of children, music educators need to offer rhythm, whether it’s through the steady beat of movement or syncopated beat of words. This pulse that gives life to the music is vital nourishment for a child’s brain, inspiring their hearts while stimulating growth of the frontal lobes.

The amazing gifts music offers children’s frontal lobes

We know that the frontal lobe in children’s brains is undergoing its main growth spurt between the ages of two and six, and does not surge again until almost 20 years of age. The frontal lobe thrives on rhythm and establishes a kind of “executive headquarters” for children who have been given a measure of rhythmicity, grace, and motor flow during that important growth period. The importance of this stage of nourishment is highlighted by just a few of the other amazing things the frontal lobe allows children to do:

  • Work with patterns and designs
  • Handle complexity and tap into higher order thinking skills
  • Plan ahead
  • Think about the consequences of actions before doing them
  • Developing “inner speech”
  • Develop impulse control
  • Have empathy for others
  • Maintain alertness
  • Sustain concentration
  • Develop a sense of initiative
  • Handle confusion and chaos without panicking
  • Work cooperatively in groups.

It’s easy to see how important development of the frontal cortex is during early childhood, and children’s music teachers can provide important nourishment to soul, body, and mind by lifting the hearts of children though modeling the love of music themselves.  

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/