Diverse and Inclusive Educational Resources for the Music Classroom and Beyond | Smithsonian Voices


Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the non-profit label of the Smithsonian, dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increasing understanding between peoples through the documentation, preservation and dissemination of sound. In a new initiative, teachers of all subjects are encouraged to use Folkways Recordings’ music collections to provide a multidisciplinary approach to their classroom teaching.
Smithsonian Folk Recordings

While music has often been relegated to the fringes of the school curriculum in the United States, there are many inspiring examples of how learning, enjoying, playing, and creating music enhances children’s lives and helps them navigate the world. complex world around them. As a practicing K-8 music educator, I have personally witnessed how participatory experiences with music from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds can break down the barriers of otherness, creating bonds of humanity and cultivating cultural sensitivity and empathy. These outcomes are so important, yet often overlooked in formal education systems. Smithsonian Folkways Learning Journey (PMEDP) is a new educational resource initiative that seeks to capitalize on the transformative power of music, moving it from the periphery of our education system to the center.

What are Smithsonian Folkways Learning Journey?

Drawing on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings’ 70-year history of educational resources and recordings for children, Smithsonian Folkways Learning Pathways are in-depth, curated journeys of discovery that place music at the heart of the educational experience. Engaging, engagingly designed, authoritative, and free, these new resources provide a solid foundation for K-12 teachers to explore a wide range of cultural, historical, social, and musical themes with their students.

It is helpful to think of a Smithsonian Folkways Learning Pathways as a set of Matryoshka dolls (wooden dolls of decreasing sizes placed inside each other) – each SFLP is made up of three layers. At the outermost layer, the path has a broad and overarching theme (e.g., social movement, musical genre, major geographic region, cultural group). The next layer is maintained within 10-12 Classes which are based on specific subtopics (e.g., historical event/period/leader, social issue, musical ensemble/instrument, musician, smaller geographic region). At the final level, in each lesson, there are three options for the learning approach, known as Components. Each component focuses on a different type of learning (listening to music, performing, creating, or culturally and historically contextualizing) with the aim of enabling the lesson to be taught in a variety of subject areas (e.g. music, social studies, language, etc). This multidisciplinary approach maximizes teaching time and helps teachers recognize the ways in which subject connections can deepen students’ understanding of complex topics.

SFLPs are designed with flexibility in mind. They can be used “as is” (all lessons in a path, in order) or customized to fit the specific needs of teachers and students (e.g. teaching only one or two lessons in a path, choose lessons/activities from several courses, etc.). Each individual lesson is accompanied by a teacher’s guide in pdf form, which includes a wealth of background information and a detailed teaching plan. Pilot teachers described the teacher guides as “well written”, “easy to follow”, “logical sequence” and “very informative”. The “ready to use” that accompanies it slideshow fosters high levels of engagement at multiple levels of the continuum from traditional classroom to online classroom. The slideshows use tracks from the fully digitized catalog of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and incorporate artifacts, images, video, artwork, documents, and educational resources from various other Smithsonian museums and centers. Because these primary sources are integrated directly into slideshows, they are easy to animate in a wide variety of learning environments, ranging from in-person, hybrid, and online models.

Why does our education system need Smithsonian Folkways Learning Journey?

This project was initiated in response to several current educational needs. First, despite various attempts to reform educational policies in the United States at the federal, state, and local levels, systemic inequalities persist. Success and opportunity gaps that exist along racial and poverty lines have not diminished, and financing models continue to favor white and affluent students. SFLPs will solve this problem by providing free, targeted, high-quality educational materials to the majority of the 80 million learners enrolled in all levels of formal education in the United States, with a specific focus on the 25 million students enrolled in Title I schools.

SFLPs also seek to counter long-standing Eurocentric curricular trends that exist in formal learning environments in the United States and beyond. In music education in particular, curriculum development is often guided by the Western Art Music (WAM) canon and related pedagogical approaches and performance standards. Musical outlook, both local and global, that fall outside this standard are often superficially included or not included at all. Although WAM is relevant and meaningful to some students, the predominant approach to music education in the United States leaves behind large numbers of students who do not have access to private instruction or personal instruments and alienates other students for whom the musical content seems irrelevant and exclusive. . However, when WAM is used in combination with other musical traditions, we can create a more ethical and meaningful space of inquiry and, at times, belonging for marginalized and underrepresented populations in classrooms. The Smithsonian Folkways Learning Pathways project accomplishes this by exploring music from around the world (for example, Music of the Asian Royal Courts, Music and dance in Puerto Rico) as well as home music (e.g., Music of the Chicano Movement, Women in the Blues, Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement, Cajun & Zydeco: The Flavors of Southwest Louisiana, Asia-Pacific Americans and Their Music).

From a pedagogical perspective, Smithsonian Folkways learning paths are based on the principles of World Music Pedagogy (WMP), an emerging pedagogical approach that emphasizes the ways in which mindful, engaged and participatory listening and music-making experiences can help to forge a deeper understanding music and the people who make and enjoy it. WMP encourages collaboration between culture bearers, ethnomusicologists, musicians and educators. Prior to release, each SFLP is written by a team of content and pedagogical experts and reviewed by members of the Society of Ethnomusicology (SEM) and the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) to ensure adequate contextualization, accuracy, rigor and pedagogical relevance. Pilot teachers expressed appreciation for this thorough vetting process, describing the content as “reliable,” “rich,” and “well-researched.” After piloting the Cajun and Zydeco course, a Louisiana-based music teacher recently remarked, “I was a little wary of finding misinformation about regional culture and identity in Louisiana, but I I found the content of this course precise and respectful.

Audio tracks and other resources from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings are embedded in the slideshows. In lesson 1 of The music of the chicano movement Along the way, students reflect on what the song “Chicano”, written by Doug Sahm and performed by Rumel Fuentes/Pingüinos del Norte (Arhoolie Records) can teach us about Chicano/a/x identity.
Smithsonian Folkways

Here, students listen to music and follow song lyrics while reflecting on what the Chicano movement was and why it was needed.
Smithsonian Folkways

Watching short video clips can help students forge a deeper connection with the music and the people who make it. Here, students watch a rendition of the song “Chicano”, which appeared in the Les Blank/Chris Strachwitz documentary Chulas Fronteras.
Smithsonian Folkways

Throughout the slideshows, artwork and artifacts from across the Smithsonian are used to help students better understand complex ideas. Here, a silkscreen from the Smithsonian American Art Museum sheds light on the complexities of cultural identity.
Smithsonian Folkways

Smithsonian Folk Recordings, with its fully digitized (and well-contextualized) archive of over 60,000 music, sound and spoken word recordings, is in a unique position to produce high-quality educational resources that celebrate the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States. United and beyond. Although the music is excellent, SFLPs don’t shy away from tackling difficult topics. Instead, they encourage students to directly confront issues such as race, class, gender, oppression, discrimination, exploitation, and intersectionality. Perhaps most importantly, SFLPs are based on the premise that all students deserve access to a meaningful music education that recognizes their culture as an integral part of American history.

We invite you to take a “taste” of our first SFLP, Estoy Aquí: Music of the Chicano Movement (currently in beta mode). Expect the official launch of this exciting new educational resource and the release of several other SFLPs, funded in part by the Smithsonian Youth Access Planning Grant, the Smithsonian Latino Center, and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Initiative Pools (Cajun & Zydeco Music: Flavors of Southwest Louisiana, Music from the Asian Royal Courts, Women and the Blues, Sounds of Civil Rights, Music and Dance in Puerto Rico, and Asian-Pacific Americans and their music), by the end of 2022.

If you are a teacher and would like to test the SFLP lessons before they are publicly launched on our website, please email us at [email protected].


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