(There is an update on this story here.)
The word came down today. It’s the end of an era. There will be no more Pod at the Key Learning Community. No pod means that I will no longer have a ukulele program at my school.
The loss of our pod time can be blamed on a number of things. The long and short of it is that our students are under-performing and we are being required to spend more time on Language Arts and Math.
I came to the Key Learning Community, an Indianapolis Public School, from affluent Carmel-Clay Schools. I believed (and still do) that in order to educate children that thrive and love learning we must care for and nurture their creative selves.
The Key Learning Community focuses on the whole child. We were the first school to implement Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (M.I.). We worked directly with Dr., Gardener and are still considered the model for M.I. schools. We also worked with Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and his Flow Theory. Flow is an important concept, especially in understanding highly motivated and creative people. We have two Flow teachers on staff that teach Flow Theory and teach children to seek experiences that produce Flow.
Pod class themes include everything imaginable: dance, gardening, boatbuilding, paper arts, puppetry, violin, choir, sculpting, school newspaper, model trains — You name it!
Most years I used this time to teach ukulele.
My first Pod, a ukulele pop, grew into the Key Strummers. The Key Strummers exploded onto a new ukulele scene. We had 16 adorable kids that performed funny songs on well played ukuleles. For eight great years we performed at national ukulele events (as far away as San Antonio), the National Governors’ Conference and with Garrison Keillor at the Indiana State Fair. In addition to this we hosted three large successful ukulele festival in Indianapolis that drew crowds (yes, crowds) from Europe and Hawaii.
The Key Strummers performed with many of the world’s greatest ukulele performers and brought them to Indianapolis: Pops Bayless, Jim Beloff, Joel Eckhaus, Bryan Tolentino, Byron Yasui, James Hill and the great Jake Shimabukuro.
But I’m writing about pods in general. Pods make school important. Pods make school bearable. Pods make school relevant.
Every student (and teacher), with every ability level, with every motivational level, with every degree of school success could count on spending 40 minutes (on most days) spending time with like minded folks that were excited about learning something special.
My pods were filled with geeks, jocks, gangsters and misfits. When we began to play this wasn’t important. The arguments with teachers and lost homework were forgotten as these children spent time doing something relevant.
This morning (after I learned that Pods would be no more, but the students had not yet learned.) a student came to class with Jim Beloff’s Book, The Ukulele: A Visual History. The book was well above his reading level, but he was reading it! He struggled with most words, but was reading it because he wants to learn everything he can about ukulele. When he learned about the people in the book that had a relationship with our group and our history he was even more motivated to digest it all. That’s authentic learning. That’s how we really learn. That’s what schools, everywhere, should be doing.
We are teaching the creativity and love of learning from our children — It’s a crying shame!
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