Some people’s brains are just music minded and some schools are embracing this fact to teach other core subjects. These schools, like Crestwood Elementary are rapping math to make it stick!
When a first-grader at Crestwood Elementary School had a hard time with his math facts last year, art teacher and local musician Luke Bassuener was enlisted to lay down some rhymes to make the lessons stick.
He performed the math rap with the help of some students, and before long, he had kids asking if they could write songs of their own. Many of them were fourth- and fifth-graders, who were learning basic guitar chords from music teacher Shawn McMahon.
McMahon had already opened her music room for a particularly enthusiastic bunch of students to practice their instruments before school — and now, the aspiring songwriters started to pile into Bassuener’s art room during his lunch hour, carrying guitars, ukuleles, hand drums and notepads.
“The art room became like rock ‘n’ roll camp every lunch period,” Bassuener said.
Eventually, Bassuener offered to record the completed songs on his laptop. By the time they’d recorded two or three songs, Bassuener said, he could tell there would be enough to fill an entire CD.
From there, “All I Hear Is Crickets” was born: a CD featuring songs written entirely by Crestwood elementary school students, recorded, produced and mixed by Bassuener, featuring instruction from McMahon and beatboxing from behavior specialist and local musician Anthony Lamarr Brown.
Neither Bassuener nor McMahon planned on making a CD — but with “All I Hear Is Crickets” under their belt, they have plans to continue and expand the project “until the kids get bored of it.”
“I feel like part of it was, I gave them a space to do it and time to do it,” McMahon said. “I really stayed out of it in the mornings and let them do their own thing. It was pretty cool to see what they came up with by just having time to be creative.”
The kids were allowed to write about anything they wanted, as long as it was school-appropriate. The result is a 19-track CD that encompasses love, loss, avoiding bullies, instructions for making maple syrup, lunchroom protocol, math, grammar and Madison geography.
“They don’t have expectations about what a studio is supposed to be like, or how a song is supposed to be written,” Bassuener said. “They have a fresh take on the whole thing. They’re not jaded about it. They just do it. They’re not encumbered by other stuff.”
In other words, McMahon added, they’re not afraid of imperfection.
Leah Metzger, who was in fifth grade at the time, had been writing songs since she started learning the ukulele at age seven. Her song, “So Beautiful,” a ukulele duet, was the first song recorded for the CD. She collaborated with classmates on two other songs, including one called “Sunshine on a Rainy Day,” which she recorded with a group of friends she dubbed the “Ukuladies.”