Jennifer Abbott, a music teacher at Sandowne Elementary School, shares a musical literacy activity with her students over a Facebook video. She’s been sharing optional music activities for students to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sandowne Elementary School/ Facebook

Jennifer Abbott, a music teacher at Sandowne Elementary School, shares a musical literacy activity with her students over a Facebook video. She’s been sharing optional music activities for students to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sandowne Elementary School/ Facebook

Music education remains important, especially during pandemic

‘Music really does lift people up in times of trial,’ says Island music teacher

On a sunny spring day, Jennifer Abbott sits on her deck with a trio of plush toys.

Kitty, Owl and Teddy Bear are on loan from her kids and today they have an important role. The stuffies are helping Abbott teach musical literacy to her students from afar.

“It’s kind of a nonsense song about fishes in the sea and it’s about taking partners,” she says by way of introduction. Then she begins. “Ickle, ockle blue bottle fishes in the sea…”

It’s a song her students know well, having sung the parts and tapped the rhythm with their friends in Abbott’s music classroom at Campbell River’s Sandowne Elementary. It’s part of Abbott’s trusty repertoire of music games that help children learn music literacy while having fun.

The Ickle Ockle video is just one of many that Abbott has posted to Sandowne’s Facebook page as an option for students and their families to try out during the COVID-19 pandemic’s in-class learning suspension. There was the Busy Buzzy Bee song and activities, the Engine #9 with a stand-in race car instead of the usual train and even a couple sing-alongs to familiar songs.

But sometimes posting videos for her students can be a challenge with her own school-aged kids at home. It requires their own support.

“There’s always time when my kids go to bed,” she says with a laugh.

From Italians serenading off their apartment balconies to virtual concerts with orchestras 50 members deep, to collaborative Internet songs, music’s importance has certainly been amplified during the pandemic.

“It’s very easy to dismiss music as a less important subject during something like a pandemic,” says Abbott. “Music really does lift people up in times of trial, in times when things are uncertain and where the global feeling can be of unrest, music can help everyone feel better.”

Music is healing and it’s as important as ever.

So when the dust settled a bit after the province’s announcement of the in-class teaching suspension, Campbell River School District’s music teachers got together and brainstormed how best to support their students even if they couldn’t see them face-to-face. In the beginning, they opted to just reach out to families, let them know how much they missed them and what the plan would be moving forward. Each music teacher chose a different platform to reach out on. Some chose the district’s Microsoft Teams software, akin to a social network, but with more protections for kids, others, like Abbott chose Facebook or YouTube.

In her first video, she’s just getting in touch with students, then came her rendition of You Are My Sunshine and even Sarah McLachlan’s Angel.

The goal was to be familiar. There’s comfort in that. Even with her own kids, the familiarity wins.

“As soon as we started singing some of our familiar songs, my own children would come and peek around the corner,” she says. “They’d want to sing too because it just makes us feel better.”

Before too long, it became clear her students wanted more.

“Quickly I realized that posting inspirational music was wonderful, but kids wanted more meat, more content and more actual music curriculum.”

She issued an instrument challenge. It’s an activity she’s done before and a favourite. Often parents get involved as well and over the years, the results have been impressive. This time, the goal was to make either a melodic or rhythmic instrument but using materials found around the house. Elastic bands placed over custom-cut cardboard boxes or rice in Tupperware.

“I got a lot of shakers,” says Abbott.

Students sent her emails of themselves playing their hand-made instruments. Then, she challenged them to play their instrument along to their favourite song.

“In that case, I got to not only see them and their siblings and often their parents in the videos, but I got to hear what they would choose for their favourite song to sing to or to play to,” says Abbott. “You get to see the family pet wandering in and out of the frame.”

One boy in Grade 3 assembled an entire drum-set out of his family’s recyclables. He pressed play and pounded along to his favourite tune.

The videos offer another layer of intimacy between teacher and student. Teachers are getting a glimpse into their students’ lives, while students are seeing their teachers outside of school.

“You end up connecting in a way you wouldn’t normally connect at school, which is really neat and unexpected especially during a pandemic.”

But it’s also made Abbott realize just how much she misses her students.

“You end up realizing wow, I really miss these guys when you don’t see their little faces,” she says. “Some of them I couldn’t believe how much they changed in the last two months.”

Like a librarian, Abbott doesn’t just have one class of students that changes year after year. “I have 260 students that are mine from kindergarten all the way to Grade 5.”

She misses seeing them in the hallways and in her music room.

“I miss interacting with them face-to-face,” she says. “Nothing can beat that.”

On June 1, some students will return to school for instruction twice a week until summer break.

While many uncertainties remain, the undying optimism of music teachers will endure. They’ll continue to inspire future generations whether music is in their career path or not. And they’ll spark meaningful connections at every age.


@marissatiel
marissa.tiel@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Campbell RiverCampbell River School District 72Coronavirus

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

Terry Fong embraces his best friend Princeton at Incinerator Rock, which became the travelling companions’ favourite spot during five years of exploring. (Cam Shaw photo)
Tofino played key role in inspirational dog’s journey

Terry Fong explains his recently published book, ‘Princeton - A Love Story’

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests: Greater Victoria teacher union

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Myla Bui holds up one of the paper cranes she made which have raised $31,031 for the Help Fill A Dream Foundation. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Cut out for this: sister of Leila Bui helps sick kids with 1,001 cranes each

Young Saanich philanthropist raises $31,031 for sick kids, folds thousands of paper cranes

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: Island man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

A fire sparked at an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue early Thursday morning. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Residents of Pat Bay Highway encampment to be relocated after early morning fire, site secured for clean up

Eviction notice issued in 2020, not enforced to allow BC Housing to connect with campers

Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub will soon be the eighth Craft Beer Market location in Canada. (Google Maps)
Craft Beer Market buys Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub

Craft Beer Market operates nine locations across Canada

The Neighbourhood Market at Saanich Baptist Church is one of 10 that provide fresh produce to people in need across Greater Victoria. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Daily free food markets offer fresh produce to Greater Victorians in need

Ten Neighbourhood Markets operate across the region

AnimalKind, the BC SPCA’s animal welfare accreditation and referral program, has granted accreditation to Courtenay’s K9 Kind Dog Training & Behaviour Consulting, owned and operated by Carrie Lumsden. Photo supplied
Comox Valley dog trainer joins select club

Carrie Lumsden receives special BC SPCA accreditation

Victoria artist Noah Layne is conducting online workshops on portrait drawing as part of the Metchosin ArtPod’s About Face portrait show. (Photo courtesy of Noah Layne)
Metchosin Art Pod doing an about-face

Renowned artist Noah Layne hosting online classes in portrait drawing

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker in Nanaimo fails at fraud attempt, slams door on business owner’s foot

VIDEO: Suspect causes pain and damage in incident downtown Friday morning

Most Read