World Beat

By Marisha Goldhamer — August 17, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students in Lisa Arnold’s classes learn firsthand that music is a universal language. Each year, through her “Multicultural Musical Instrument Factory,” Arnold teaches Sioux City, Iowa, students about a foreign culture, then has them use household items to construct traditional instruments from that part of the world. Gleaning ideas from a percussionist friend and magazines for teachers, the Riverview Elementary music teacher has come up with lessons that really resonate: Arnold has taught her students to make Australian didgeridoos (tubular wind instruments) from PVC pipes, Japanese den-dens (fan drums on sticks) out of oatmeal boxes, and South American rainsticks (percussion instruments that mimic the sound of rain) from cardboard mailing tubes and toothpicks, among other instruments. Each project culminates in an upbeat—if somewhat unusual looking—concert performed for the entire school.

Finding a common mode of communication is particularly important for kids at Riverview, an area magnet school for ESL students. The school’s roughly 480 pupils hail from 18 countries, including China, Guatemala, and Senegal, and speak at least 15 languages. Faced with teaching such a diverse population, Arnold decided about six years ago to develop a series of programs to help students understand each other better through music.

Besides the instrument factory, Arnold’s other multicultural units include “Riverstomp,” a troupe patterned after the professional percussion/dance show Stomp; the Science of Steel Drums, in which students learn about sound, vibration, and Caribbean culture through steel drum lessons; and the International Chorus, a group of 3rd and 4th graders that learns and performs non-English songs.

Arnold, 44, is passionate about the power music has to motivate and inspire students. “When somebody has problems at home and they get involved in the music program, it helps them hang on,” she says. She also notes that in music programs, “people who don’t know English can succeed right away.”

Arnold tells the story of one student from a past year’s International Chorus, a Vietnamese boy named Minh. Having recently immigrated to the United States, he spoke only a few words of English and seemed constantly frustrated with school. Then Arnold decided to teach the group a song in Vietnamese. Arnold recalls Minh’s eyes widening as she switched on the rehearsal CD. He jumped up and sang the entire song solo in front of the chorus, and the other students clapped and cheered. Says Arnold: “It was the first time he felt like he did something right.”


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week