The fellowship hall of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (MS) was turned into a concert hall of sorts Friday, as 23 Muscogee County elementary school teachers took part in "Orff Schulwerk Level I" training. The 60-hour continuing education course began April 30 and ends Saturday.
The pastor of Bethlehem, the Rev. Brad Arnholt, offered the space and is completing his first year of teaching at Lonnie Jackson Academy (formerly Eastway) and Dawson Elementary School.
Orff Schulwerk is an approach to music teaching and learning, combined with and supported by movement, based on things children like to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance, and keep a beat or play a rhythm on anything near at hand. These natural behaviors are directed first into responding to and making music; reading and writing music are a later natural outgrowth of these experiences. Composer Carl Orff, originator of the approach, called this music and movement activity “elemental” – basic, unsophisticated, concerned with the fundamental building blocks of both art forms, according to AOSA: the American Orff Schulwerk Association.
In one session Friday morning, teachers in groups balanced on their knees on the floor and, to music, tapped one another with instruments called puili sticks made of bamboo.
Their instructor has been Deanna Stark, a freelance educator from Memphis.
"In addition to teaching music, the crossover is literature, social studies and English language skills," Arnholt said. "As we teach inflection, there is a correlation between inflection and reading skills."
The Orff approach is non-competitive; it includes all children in the creation of music in an active way. It engages children, and they are motivated by their desire to participate. In addition, the Orff instruments (designed by Orff and his collaborator, Gunild Keetman) allow students to accompany themselves almost immediately in a musically satisfying way. These instruments not only provide opportunities for playing melodies, ostinato patterns, and accompaniments; but also for exploration and improvisation ? higher levels of musical thinking.
The educational opportunity was made possible by a Teacher Quality Sub-Grant.
The participating teachers and schools arranged for substitutes while taking the course.