Screams of joy this summer often arise from room 305 at Woodcrest Elementary School.
And so do the low, thumping sounds of a bass drum with an intermittent jangling of bells.
Monday mornings about 10 infants through age six gather for Jammin’ with Ms. Jessica as part of Spring Lake Park District 16’s Early Childhood Family Education summer programs. The children dance, sing and play rhythm instruments.
This is the first year the class has been offered and from the looks and sounds emanating from the toddlers, the start of a tradition may very well have been born.
“It gives them a chance to listen and move to new music from different composers,” said Early Childhood Family Education teacher Jessica Fabb, the Ms. Jessica referred to in the class title. “They get to develop their listening skills through games and activities.”
For the first half-hour of the class, it’s circle time. Kids in free-play fashion grab whatever instruments pique their fancy. Drums, plastic mini keyboards, tambourines. They pound out rhythms as the spirit moves them.
The second part of the class is a structured 30-minute music lesson. The kids learn about fast and slow tempos, long and short sounds and high and low notes. Case in point, when the children, to the tune of composer Saint Saens’ “Kangaroo” from his “Carnival of Animals,” turn into joeys (baby kangaroos) and jump, jump, jump to the short staccato tones. For contrast, in the more subdued and slower sections with longer tones, they morph into mama kangaroos, stopping and searching for their babies.
Not only are the kids jumping, but the parents who accompany their kids to class find themselves hopping along with their children.
Next, the kids grab tambourines, bells and drums and they form a band. They sing and play to a parody of “Old MacDonald.” The idea is when Ms. Jessica names the instruments in the song, the kids chime in on their instruments. The activity increases their instrument recognition and vocabulary skills.
As a grand finale to the music portion of class, the kids grab onto a colorful parachute. They sing and move in a large circle. Whoosh. They fly the parachute up and down. They march to the left and to the right. They sing about a man in town who went for a walk one day, but the wind blew so hard, he turned and hopped away. The man also tip-toed, walked and ran as the kids act out the words of the song, all the time holding onto the large parachute.
And the old standard “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round” still holds intrigue for kids as they stepped and skipped to the music.
“I take them to summer classes to keep them in a routine,” said parent Stacie Katra, who has enrolled her kids in Early Childhood Family Education programs for about five years.
She’s already signed her child up for the next summer ECFE Let’s Get Messy class, a program to explore the arts.
The 90-minute Jammin’ class ran for four weeks and ended July 15. The class fee was $30 for the first child and $10 for each additional child.
District 16 offers a variety of summer program classes.
For more information, visit www.springlakeparkschools.org/ce or call 763-600-5900.
Elyse Kaner is at