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Teachers enhance learning with Guitars in the Classroom

By Staff | Jan 6, 2011

West Maui teachers learned about taro patch guitar and music integration during a workshop at King Kamehameha III Elementary School last month. Matt Lane coordinated the Maui training through a grant from the Johnson ‘Ohana Charitable Foundation. Photo by Catherine Duncan.

LAHAINA — At schools in West Maui and around Hawaii, teachers are learning to integrate music-making in their daily instruction of students.

Last month, teachers from Pomaikai Elementary, King Kamehameha III Elementary, Paia Elementary, Maui Preparatory Academy and Sacred Hearts School took part in their first lessons with Guitars in the Classroom (GITC).

Implemented in 30 states, GITC has been providing teachers with free guitars, educational materials, lessons and children’s song books.

GITC founder and Executive Director Jessica Baron visited Maui the week of Dec. 6-12 to help the interested teachers — including “absolute beginners” — pick up the skills they need to lead music and singing with students, with the goal of enriched learning across the curriculum.

“We are blessed by the aloha spirit of the Hawaiian people, who are embracing this opportunity to integrate traditional Hawaiian music, slack key guitar, along with other arts into education through this work,” said Baron.

“We hope GITC will become not just a way to make learning more meaningful, engaging and effective for students, but a vehicle for Hawaiian musicians and kupunas to help the next generation embrace their beautiful musical past in the present as a part of preparing children to carry it forward into the future.”

The Lahaina workshop’s emphasis on Dec. 8 was on teaching eco-sustainability. GITC noted that sustainability is important to the people of Hawaii, and the workshops helped teachers find ways to relate green learning to K-5 curriculum in science, language arts and all other subject areas.

Teachers integrate simple techniques and songs in the classroom to improve learning.

Maui teachers received 20 guitars from the GITC program. With the help of the Arts Education for Children Group here on Maui, Director Bryant Neal arranged for the teachers to receive free lessons for an extended six-week period.

Special guests like Uncle George Kahumoku, Moanalani Beamer and Marsha Schweitzer support the program and participated in Maui’s GITC effort.

The collaborative work of four foundations, four sponsoring companies, arts organizations, artists, individuals and Hawaiian Airlines has empowered Guitars in the Classroom to bring free musical teacher training to the Hawaiian Islands.

According to GITC, general music education programs in most Hawaii elementary schools have been depleted, if not entirely eliminated.

As a result, many general classroom teachers have been informed that they must now teach music in addition to academics. Few have ever received basic musical training or instruction in teaching music, and many find themselves unprepared.

“Music education is a core subject that builds critical aptitudes and skills along with creativity in students, and loss of these programs is tragic,” said Baron.

“The arrival of GITC cannot make up for this loss, but giving classroom teachers skills and coaching that empowers them to include music as a tool for teaching can help keep children’s musicality growing as part of learning everything from science to English,” she continued.

“It’s a win/win proposition for the schools, the teachers, the children and for preserving Hawaiian musical traditions. Hawaii’s new governor has expressed support for the arts and education. We look forward to spreading GITC through communities in Hawaii in the years ahead.”

The NAMM Foundation, Hawaiian Airlines, Jack Johnson’s Johnson ‘Ohana Charitable Foundation, guitarist Muriel Anderson’s Music for Life Alliance and Keola and Moanalani Beamer’s Mohala Hou Foundation all contributed to making the first four training programs possible in Hawaii.

Teachers have received guitars and supplies courtesy of KMC Music, D’Addario & Co., Levy’s Leathers and Dunlop Manufacturing.

Regular weekly classes for teachers, continuing throughout the school year, will begin in early 2011.

For more information about GITC in Hawaii, call (760) 452-6123 or visit www.guitarsintheclassroom.org.