I've just finished a busy but rewarding week in which, with other artists, I accompanied a bunch of kids to Wells-next-the-Sea. Two groups, two consecutive days. The main thrust of the visit was to introduce the concept of land art, as made famous by Andy Goldsworthy, and provide a great location in which to try it out. While half the children were given a start on this in the pine woods, the other half were taken off to a sand dune for a short game of adjective charades, using the dune as their stage culminating in a descent in the manner of the adjective they had chosen for us to guess. The adjectives were along the lines of happy, angry, sad etc. After this they went back into the woods to learn all about land art.
Friday, back at school, was a taster day in which each of four artists gave a session to a quarter of the year group in turn so all the kids got to do some movement, some music, some book making and some kite making. Time was very short and of the two afternoon sessions, fifty minutes long in theory, the first was cut short by fifteen minutes because of registration. It felt a rush to get through to some meaningful work with instruments but I wanted to build on the adjective charades by adapting a game of Colour to five emotional states: excited, happy, sad, irritated and angry. We went through a round of names then played Hide and Listen (a big hit and May's Game of the Month) and a couple of games of Detective for familiarisation with the instruments I had provided.
Finally I could split them into four groups of three or four children and flash them the name of an emotion written on a card. Then they could choose their instruments, compose their piece and finally perform to the others, who had to guess which emotion was being portrayed. As expected, one or two children had to play a particular instrument at all cost, even asking to change the emotion to make it easier to incorporate their vehicle of choice. (Imagine trying to convey anger on a delicate (non hammer-) dulcimer.) But in general I was impressed by how many children preferred a mundane instrument, like a stick tambourine or coconut shells, over something more exotic because it was better suited to the mood they were expressing.
I have mentioned the sweet shop syndrome in the past and I think that had all the children had better exposure to the instruments in the past all their choices would have been driven by the requirements of the sound they were trying to create. But that's the nature of a taster session - and a taste is no substitute for a full meal.