It’s Parent-Teacher conference time for many folks (myself included) and so I thought I’d share something that I did last year for one of our parent teacher conferences. At my school it seems like I spend the whole time alone in my room since only about 10 or so students (of my 485) drag their parents into my room to talk with me about what’s coming up and how they’re doing. I usually don’t get much parent contact and I was trying to come up with a way to bring families in and get them some experience in the music room. I was trying to think of an activity that would get them excited about music and feel comfortable in my room.
I stole the idea of the Instrument Petting Zoo from the Kansas City Symphony. The Symphony will travel out to schools to do demonstrations and bring out instrument to show students. A few musicians with a variety of instruments will visit and talk with students and demonstrate. It’s a really cool program that the Symphony does, but it’s also costly (and since I have no budget…). Find out a little more about what they do here (KC Symphony Outreach – Petting Zoo).
For my version of the petting zoo I hauled out percussion instruments. For the non-pitched percussion I separated instruments into the categories scrapers, shakers, metals, woods, and skins and then let kids try out the different instruments and their sounds. For the pitched percussion I pulled out a variety of instruments with different timbres and talked with kids about proper technique. Most of all, I talked about how high and low sounds corresponded with the size of the instrument. We had just done a unit on percussion in some of the grades so this was a fun extension.
I talked up the zoo with all my students the week before conferences. I didn’t tell them much but said to all of them, “You know what a petting zoo is like, where you see all sorts of animals and get to pet them and learn about them and have fun with them? Well, at PT conferences I’m going to have an INSTRUMENT petting zoo. Once you have your conference with your classroom teacher come down to my room to see what I mean!” They were intrigued and excited and lots came back!
I’ll tell you that if you’re going to do this it’s going to be fun and a cool experience for the kids and will definitely bring people into your room. Parents loved it, students who had previously graduated wanted to try instruments again, and older students enjoying showing their younger siblings what they could do. You might want to bring some extra asprin because you’ll be hearing clanging and banging and booming all day... Overall, totally fun and worth the experience!