In honor of Black History Month, students at Waverly Park Elementary School dove into the African American roots of Jazz. A collaborative unit was developed by music teacher Kristen Scalice and school librarian Meghan Ceglie where the students traveled through the styles of Jazz. This included bebop, blues, Dixieland, ragtime, spirituals and swing.
During music class, students explored the world of jazz through listening activities, movement games and improvisation sessions. Fourth and fifth grade students utilized rhythm sticks and body/vocal percussion skills to improvise their own rhythms and rhymes over the 12-bar blues. They engaged in extensive discussions about the African American roots of Jazz to fully understand the depths of the genre, the stylistic differences and key figures within each era such as Benny Goodman, Scott Joplin and Bessie Smith.
Third grade students utilized glockenspiels to explore improvisation over the 12-bar blues. Students were asked to channel their inner Jazz artist to improvise melodies for their peers. First and second grade students used their movement skills to feel the Jazz in their bodies. Students were moving and grooving to the songs of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.
These musical explorations were supported by the time spent in the school library. The students practiced researching and note-taking skills while exploring the history of Jazz and learning about several important figures. Students showcased their learning with culminating projects of informational posters and mini biography magazines.
“Giving our students the opportunity to participate in an immersive unit such as this was special,” said Mrs. Ceglie. “They not only gained an appreciation for a musical genre many had never heard of, but they also gained an understanding that Jazz is a reflection of the Black experience in America – the struggle, the perseverance and the overcoming of adversity.”