Q&A on new professional development sessions

MIM’s professional development sessions, free for prekindergarten through high school educators, are designed to enhance teachers’ skills and strategies for integrating music and culture into their own classrooms. We spoke with Katherine Palmer, DMA, curator of education, and Nathan Botts, museum educator, about two new sessions focused on science, technology, engineering, and math—STEM for Early Childhood and STEM: Introduction to Musical Electronics.

What is your approach to education at MIM and what kind of teaching styles do you follow?
Katherine: From a philosophical standpoint, we orient our approach with best practices in music education, community music, ethnomusicology, and museum education. We believe in play- and project-based learning to facilitate socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical development in children. By providing a culturally diverse, arts-integrated learning environment, we hope to foster empathy and understanding as well.

We believe in play-based learning to facilitate socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical development in children.

—Katherine Palmer, DMA, MIM’s Curator of Education

What do you hope educators take away from professional development sessions at MIM?
Katherine: Professional development at MIM is really important because it extends MIM’s educational reach into classrooms through educators and allows us to share the world’s music with even more students. We want educators to know that MIM is a resource and they can use the beautiful collection we have on display in our galleries as a jumping-off point for their teaching.

What themes does STEM for Early Childhood cover and what does the course look like?
Nathan: After establishing an understanding of cognitive development in early childhood (birth through age 8), we review science standards and explore the scientific method. We then introduce fun and accessible games and activities that children could easily engage in such as singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” We may ask questions like, “Why does the spider go down the water spout when the rain comes?” Even with a 3-year-old singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” you can engage in sophisticated science principles in a playful way.

Can you give an overview of STEM: Introduction to Musical Electronics?
Nathan: This session, for educators of grades 3–12, introduces the basic concepts of electronics found in many musical instruments. We explore how we can build an electromagnet and discuss how regular magnets work. We then harness electromagnetic forces to build a small, functioning speaker and microphone using simple items like plastic cups, paper, and tape. The session reinforces how educators can engage students with complex natural phenomena in ways that we hope will inspire curiosity for these topics.

Why does music matter in education?
Katherine: Music matters because it has the power to transform people. Giving students the ability to travel the world and learn about various forms of human expression through music encourages everyone to have a more culturally sensitive lens—because at the end of the day, our similarities outweigh our differences.

Nathan: When you tour MIM’s galleries, one thing that becomes abundantly clear is that all humans lead inherently musical lives. When we learn about music, we learn about ourselves.

MIM is grateful to The Donald W. Collier Charitable Trust II and Elaine F. Stepanek Foundation for support of these sessions.