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Children learn, and learn to apply knowledge, in a multiplicity of ways. Classrooms and curricula provide important contexts for learning, but Sabot at Stony Point students are also likely to be working outside – sketching in the garden, examining leaf types in the woods, or knee-deep in the stream as they test theories about the flow of water.

One other platform for learning is the Umbrella Project – a year-long, school-wide exploration of a single idea that takes place through a series of shared experiences. Each Umbrella Project offers avenues of inquiry for all students, from two-year-olds to middle schoolers. Two years ago we spent “A Year with Shakespeare”; last year, with the Preschool still on a separate campus, we explored the concept of “Place.”

Grades, groups, and individuals shape their own approaches to the central theme, with their work guided by faculty and the Studio Teacher. Each project generates creative energy that circulates throughout the school, and cross-grade collaboration is encouraged. For example, connecting “Place” to the upcoming Preschool move to the Stony Point campus, last year’s second graders mapped the school grounds and buildings and catalogued the forest animals, then welcomed the preschoolers for a visit and tour.

Music & Sound: Our Project for 2010-2011

Now that we are united on a single campus, we join forces under this year’s Umbrella Project of “Music and Sound” – a theme motivated in part by our search for endeavors that bring us together as a community. Singing draws everyone in, as we know from weekly song circles in the Preschool and several Lower School grades, and we are eager to have all of our students participating in similar experiences. Supported by parent musicians’ talent and expertise in the areas of choral, classical, popular, traditional, and improvisational music, we plan a series of experiences that will spark conversation, engagement, and inquiry.

Singing will be only the starting point, as this collective exploration extends into other areas. Experiences will foster appreciation of a wide range of music, expose students to experimentation with sound, and raise questions about the relationship between sound and music. In addition, students will investigate music as a “language,” thinking about what, and how, it communicates. They will consider the relationship between music and identity, and think about how music can be a vehicle for social change.

For Lower School students, the project will dovetail with the study of sound that is the focal point of scientific investigation for Kindergarten through Second Grade. For Middle School students, many experiences with music will be interwoven into the curriculum: they will consider popular songs in the context of memoir, jazz as they study American history, and math classes will use Bach compositions to understand the relationship between mathematics and music. As students and teachers develop their research questions related to the project, they will work in close consultation with our Studio Teacher, Anna Golden, who serves as a resource on conceptual and practical matters. She will post periodic updates on the progress of the Umbrella Project throughout the year.