All aspects of education have found their new normal, but for music educators, the pandemic has been particularly challenging. At Samuel Staples Elementary School and Helen Keller Middle School, music teachers have found new ways to teach music under Covid-19 restrictions. 

To limit hallway traffic and exposure, students at Staples no longer head down to the music room. Instead the surplus of instruments and musical tools have been condensed to a small cart on wheels. 

Music cart that Karen Mattera uses.

Karen Mattera co-teaches music at Staples and shared her experience through this past year. She said she missed being able to watch students experiment with the different instruments in the room.

“It took a lot of time to adapt to that new norm, but it has kept everyone safe,” said Mattera. “We’re moving into their classroom, so it’s a big sacrifice for them too to give us their planning time and have to find a different place in the building but the students stay safe that way.” 

Unlike Staples, students at Keller are able to continue switching classrooms throughout the school day. However, the original music room did not have proper ventilation that was up to Covid protocol, so it was moved to a room with proper ventilation.

“Even with the move, we are unable to play wind instruments and sing indoors due to the lack of distancing space,” said music teacher Eric Dolecki. “It was clear that our approach to teaching our programs needed to shift quickly,”

Students and teachers at both Staples and Keller have had to adapt to some type of online learning platform. An online program called “Quaver” has been a “godsend,” according to Mattera.

“The graphics are beautiful, it’s interactive, it’s exciting,” she said. “There are really great quality music videos and recordings from all different music genres. We have to provide this music experience without singing, or dancing, or playing instruments,”

Website Karen Mattera and her students use.

She said the curriculum has focused more on listening and reflecting to music than hands-on learning.

For students who are distance learning, she and her co-teacher have used online platforms to send lessons. They created bitmojis — animated icons of themselves — to interact with the students. 

“I’ve been really impressed with how the students have adapted,” said Mattera

Sarah Gidley, another music teacher at Keller, said they have also been using online software to enhance the distance learning education.

Programs like Soundtrap and Noteflight have allowed students to continue to build upon their music knowledge without physically playing an instrument.

“Students can write a song using music notation in Noteflight, then export it to SoundTrap and make a remix by adding drums and loops,” said Gidley.  “One great thing about SoundTrap is that it offers a lot of opportunities for students to work together, whether or not they are physically together.”

“It hasn’t been easy to develop lessons and activities for the school day that will transfer to at-home work, but our school administration, as well as parents and families, have been supportive throughout the whole process,” said Dolecki.

Thanks to the support of families, teachers, and staff, music education in Easton hasn’t skipped a beat.

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