St. Andrews Consolidated School Students Enhancing Their Cultural Diversity and Appreciation Musical Experiences Through an Innovative School Project

Grade Primary students at St. Andrews Consolidated School
are very excited to perform using the new instruments!

Congratulations to Jackie Dunn MacIsaac, Music Teacher at St. Andrews Consolidated School who was awarded a Program Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) Grant of $4,948 for a school project, Drumming Up Nova Scotian Culture.  The grant has enabled Ms. Dunn MacIsaac to purchase new Mi’kmaq, Celtic, Acadian and African drums as well as percussion instruments that will be used to enhance classroom performances, monthly assemblies, cultural events and public concerts.  As a result of this support, Grades Primary to Six students have been engaged in new music instruction that is enhancing their cultural learning and experiences.

Ms. Dunn MacIsaac explains that this project is a cultural and instructional initiative that will allow all students to learn about the music, the historical meaning and use of the instruments, as well as perform pieces of music from various cultures in Nova Scotia.

“Cultural drumming is a perfect fit to immerse children in local cultures since instrumental performance is an immediate ‘hands-on’ experiences where students actively participate in making music, while raising their awareness for the rich multicultural diversity within our school, community and Province. Student experiences will be heightened by learning about and through culture as they perform various genres of music,” added Ms. Dunn MacIsaac.

Ms. Dunn MacIsaac further explains that the art of drumming is not only a powerful music skill, it is a great form of exercise, self-expression, intellectual stimulation, communication, acceptance of others and a powerful and cherished form of cultural music making. “Drum circles have the power to unite mind, body and spirit and leave participants with a healthy sense of self. It is a very accessible form of instrumental music for all students and will be an enjoyable and enriching experience for all students at St. Andrews Consolidated School,” said Ms. Dunn MacIsaac.

The goals of the project include:

1.  To supply all students with new cultural learning and experiences through the use of new African and Mi’kmaq drums as well as Celtic and Acadian percussion instruments.

2. To provide all students, especially those with developmental and intellectual challenges with the opportunity to experience the power of culture and rhythm have to unite while offering students a supportive and cooperative community setting in which to create, share and learn.

3. To provide all students with new cultural performance opportunities while developing their team building skills, creativity, musicianship and cultural knowledge.

If the smiles on the students’ faces are any indication, this project has well exceeded expectations.  Students look forward to the next time they will use the instruments and some of their comments have included:

- “This was the best music class ever!”

- Following a turn as drum circle leader, one student said “I have never ever been a leader in school.”

- “Do we get to use the drums again today?”

- Following a Grade 6 class performance, a Grade 1 student said “The music the Grade 6 students performed was awesome!” and another said “I wish their piece lasted longer.  I wish they played it 100 times.”

So, what’s next for these budding musicians?  Upcoming performances and celebrations, to name a few, will include:

- African Heritage Month;
- A drumming showcase at the school's Spring Concert;
- International Dance Day;
- Acadian culture; and
- Gaelic Awareness Month.

The project will be evaluated through student engagement and participation, assessment and observation during in-class and formal performances, student self- and peer- evaluation and teacher self-reflection.

The PDAF Grant is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. The PDAF is intended to encourage innovative ideas at the local school level which significantly and directly enhance the delivery of programs and services to students. The Fund provides teachers with financial support to initiate creative and innovative teaching practices.