Curriculum

Music and STEM Merge in Wash. Elementary School

By Jordan Moeny — December 05, 2014 1 min read

At Stevens Elementary in Spokane, Wash., two dozen 5th and 6th grade students are using their STEM skills in an unexpected way. Led by music teacher Shawn Tolley, students write and create electronic music as part of the school’s Electronic Music Club.

In the video below, produced by Spokane Public Schools, Tolley says he wanted to connect his students to a subject he loves—he composes electronic music outside of the classroom as well—and that the kids found it “fascinating.” The students learn about mixing tracks, recording sounds, burning CDs, and more: “We’ll talk about every aspect of electronic music we can,” says Tolley.

Stevens Elementary is a public school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to a fundraising campaign from earlier this year. Tolley says that because of their backgrounds, many of his students “do not have the resources available to provide them with rich and unique experiences,” making the club an even more significant opportunity for them.

According to The Spokesman-Review, many of the club’s members hope to use these skills later in life, with dreams of becoming “a disc jockey, a video game designer, a sound technician or audio engineer.” Because of the techniques used in electronic music creation, the students draw on the information learned in their math classes as well as on their computer skills.

Tolley plans on working with other teachers to bring electronic music to the rest of the district’s elementary schools as well. His students will present the results of their efforts to their family and friends in a concert, accompanied by the choir, at the end of the year.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.