The only bad thing about being an organist is that you can’t take the King of Instruments with you. No cases, gig bags, or covers exist: you must travel to the instrument. That means you are in church a lot to practice, perform, or even to go on organ crawls.
Hook & Hastings organ at St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)
Organ crawls are tours through the insides of pipe organs to see how they work and to appreciate each instrument’s unique beauty. I learned to play on a tracker (meaning mechanical note action, as opposed to electronic) organ, the kind featured in organ crawls.
Note that organ pedalboards are arranged like keyboards. St. Anne Church, Lowell, MA (K. Nollet, 2012)
Going inside this organ was like going inside a unique house. Built in 1889 by Woodbury and Harris (not pictured), the organ had a huge, old-fashioned bellows that had since been electrified.
One day the power went out during a service, so a tenor ran inside the organ to hand pump the bellows as I played. Otherwise, there’d have been no air and no sound.
Science, technology, engineering, math teachers, unite! Get with the art and music teachers and take your students on an organ crawl—a free field trip that you can walk to if you’re lucky.
Have you tried the “walk and talk” approach to student discussions?
Walk and talk works wherever you are. (Nollet, 2009)
Pair up students to discuss a concept you’re teaching. Take them outdoors—into nature’s classroom—for a brief walk, during which they’ll discuss and analyze the topic, with the mission of increasing their depth of understanding.
Upon return, ask them to write a short piece evaluating what they learned from their partner.
Connecting with fresh air, sky, and earth have a way of tossing around our minds and mixing in a new perspective. When you teach students the benefits of refreshing themselves outdoors—walking, talking, listening, noticing—you introduce them to a new place to think, to reflect, and to be.
Public libraries have been around since Benjamin Franklin donated over a hundred books to the town of Franklin, MA, about forty minutes away from me. I grew up around libraries, even worked in one, studied in many, and built my classroom library through constant scrounging as well as donations from families.
One of my earliest memories is of my mother taking me to the library, a weekly pilgrimage to a squat brick building downtown. Inside, opaque glass block windows cast a creepy gray-green light that I’ve never forgotten.
Children weren’t allowed in the adult stacks back then, which presented a problem for fluent readers. I wasn’t the only child who reached a no-man’s-land when I finished reading the children’s books. But my mother, who’d been a teacher, spoke to the head librarian, who reluctantly granted permission for me to borrow from the adult collection. My love of reading blossomed from there.
What role have libraries played in your life?
In the mid-nineteenth century, Austrian botanist Ludwig von Köchel catalogued all of Mozart’s works, which the composer did not date or number consecutively. K. (Köchel) numbers are similar to Op. (opus) numbers. They help musicians distinguish one piece from another—for example, which Sonata in G is it?—and at what point in Mozart’s life the piece was composed.
Play this selection from Sonata in A, K. 331 for your students today. Many will recognize the melody of Rondo Alla Turca. What better way to start the day for your students than with 4 minutes of Mozart?
Lots of people watch hummingbirds at their backyard feeders. But watching their ½” eggs hatch is fascinating.
My local birding store turned me on to Bella and I can’t stop watching. Your students won’t either.
Here’s a science unit that will last a few weeks. Tune in to this site and your students will be immediately engaged.
Have students journal their observations and the questions they discover. That alone will teach them more than any science text could.
A good community story engages readers of all ages, especially when it’s about an escaped animal. Our area had one: the Lowell Goat who escaped slaughter by fleeing from its Tewksbury, MA farm. The goat went on the lam.
Photo by Frank Peabody, Lowell Sun, 12/29/14
The Lowell Sun started a hilarious Twitter feed from the goat. No kidding. A Go Fund Me campaign raised money for his life post-capture. A Facebook page appeared on the goat’s behalf and gained around 1,000 followers.
Throughout January, we read of his sightings. Puns and clever turns of phrase posted about the Lowell Goat ranged from “getting your goat” to “you goat what it takes.” Goat jokes, Photoshopped pictures, videos, and clever comments even attracted local CBS affiliate. Police and animal rescue from other towns teased local police about their abilities as goatbusters.
Even the Dorchester Coyote weighed in.
What strikes me is the wonderful humor people display during a story like this. It unites us into a family, a community, a gathering of imaginative souls. People of all ages smile and maintain a balance of concern for the goat (safely captured) and funny observations, which I believe shows the best of humanity.