Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Innovative Breakthrough in Instructional Media!

An Audio visual presentation (DVD) that promotes expression through interactive and multi-sensory songs and games for the Primary Grades.

Carefully orchestrated background music sets the mood, directs the activity, and is designed to evoke a kinesthetic response from the students.  Cross curricular activities are easily connected to the stories and content presented in each video song.  Students of diverse learning abilities and ages can participate at relative levels of interaction and skill development as students are guided to take turns, play roles, assume leadership positions, and follow directions.
These innovative stories can be implemented into any educational program and provide a background for infusing the arts and humanities with rigorous skill development in basic disciplines.  Retelling and reenactment of the stories can serve as a base on which educational standards may be applied.  The video songs provide connecting opportunities for analytical and gestalt brain processing while children play and express emotions in a purposeful manner. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Adventures in Integrative Learning - An Introduction

Tells WHY and shows HOW to connect multiple subjects to promote both whole child and accelerated academic learning with A/V platforms called video songs.

multi-sensory learning for the primary grades

 ©Arts of the Spirit 2013


Children acquire and retain more information when emotional and physical expression are included in the learning process. They discover how to practice essential skills such as listening, speaking, reading, writing, following directions, and cooperative efforts when engaged in experiential study that connects content to real life circumstances.

Teachers and students deserve support materials that provide innovative modes of instruction. The challenge is how to communicate these “new” ways of doing things through “old” information channels. This book aims to explain why a more consistent and reliable form of content presentation is essential for today’s classroom. Blogging is the new river for transmitting this kind of information.

The book is presented through the blog and serves to explain the value of the process of integrated learning by providing notable research findings and outcomes by leaders in the fields of neuro psychology, educational theory, and the behavior sciences. It is intended to provide support for those educators who are both courageous and willing to experiment with this innovative structure for the classroom. It is hoped that you will join in the dialogue and contribute to the future for education through sharing your experiences and creativity with all who are interested in the future for our children and their development. Hopefully we will be able to promote awareness for the value of multi-sensory input and interactive learning for all students and abilities.

You will be invited to read true stories of how students in an after-school program responded to the evolution of the video songs as their learning structures and guides. You will also read how these students from the “under-served” part of the community came to gain renewed enthusiasm and hope for their identity and achievement.

Learning is life long. It is ultimately what allows you to participate in meaningful relationships in school and community. It is vital. It is essential. Let’s work together to make it enjoyable!

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is a testament and guide for the leaders who determine the goals and design of educational curriculum and settings. It is directed to the primary grades, 1 - 4, but contains information that is important to the assimilation of knowledge at all levels. Integrated learning is a fulfilling way to connect mind, body, and
spirit as it applies to meeting the needs of the whole child, the special child, the typical child, the child of the world as well as the world of the child. It is based on the idea that you begin at the level of understanding the learner demonstrates and move on at an appropriate pace to appreciate the greatest accomplishment for
all concerned.

This book is for administrators who are searching for an approach to classroom organization and management that meets the demands of all concerned. It is also for independent teachers who are searching for support materials that promote social skill development along with the required academic content.

Learning is fun if we allow for playtime within the process. Using audio-visual platforms to set the scene and establish the story-line, characters, and challenges of the activity allows for freedom for the teacher to step back and observe the students as to how they perceive and interpret information. This change of position
is compared to that of a mentor or coach and permits the teacher to gain invaluable knowledge about individual students and their unique talents and personalities.

The Book Format:


Part I

Chapter 1. Out Of The Box for Innovation
Chapter 2. Readiness
Chapter 3. The Whole Child
Chapter 4. The Special Child
Chapter 5. Multi-Sensory Input
Chapter 6. Resonance
Chapter 7. Implementation
Chapter 8. Socialization
Chapter 9. Integrative Learning
Chapter 10. Impetus for the Future

Part II

Suggested Lesson Plans and Activities for The Blue Alligator Blues and Other Video Songs for Integrative Learning. (DVD available at web site)

Stormy Weather
When Cats Get Up in the Morning
Engine Engine Number Nine
The Blue Alligator Blues
When Cats Get Up - Jungle Version
The Teddy Bear Circus
Bow Wow Wow

The companion web site at provides ongoing developments, pictures, video clips, demonstration classes, and store for the video songs which can be downloaded individually or ordered in the DVD. Since these short videos are meant for presentation purposes there is no related training program for teachers. It is understood that each teacher will create and adapt their individual related learning projects to their unique environment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation

“Please , please, please Br’er Fox don’t fling me in the Briar Patch! Anywhere but the briar patch. Please please please please any place but the briar patch...”

When Walt Disney made the movie “The Song of the South” based on the folk tales told by Joel Chandler Harris, he made history through the innovative use of professional actors with animation. Today, we take this form of artistic expression for granted.

Moving out of the box sounds like a daring and frightening thing to do but we need to be able to realize that all great “new” ways of doing things are really just recreations of what we already know. My favorite childhood stories where those of Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. Walt Disney captured and enhanced the essence of these characters through animation and made them totally believable through the voices of the actors. The challenge in modern educational reform is similar because we are in need of innovation in how stories are made accessible and understandable to all and ultimately how they are used to promote educational achievement.

Richard Branson quotes Joseph Schumpeter’s definition of an entrepreneur as “Innovators who use a process of shattering the status quo of the existing products and services, to set up new products, new service.” (Branson, R., “There is no such Thing as Failure, The European (6/05/2013), retrieved 2/12/2014. Branson also refers to Peter Drucker’s explanation as “An entrepreneur searches for change, responds to it and exploits opportunities. Innovation is a specific tool of an entrepreneur hence an effective entrepreneur converts a source into a resource.” I believe that just as Walt Disney changed the movie industry, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation will bring positive changes and improvements to the field of education.

Reinvention is a wonderful word. It does mean to recreate the wheel but we do so with the goal to have greater efficiency in the industry and to discover technology to support the future. What teacher would not want to have a better job description, improved working conditions, and higher salary? What administrator would not want to be able to go to the school board or even the legislature and explain that he or she had discovered a way to increase the productivity of the school system while reducing the overhead? This is the need and this is the time for such revolutionary discovery and innovation. The technology is available, but it is the new way of designing, producing, and presenting the information that is the challenge for today’s educational system. Oh yes, and adapting to these reinventions is the challenge for those in the industry!

Click to Read Part  2 of Chapter One

© Arts of the Spirit 2013

Monday, March 10, 2014

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation (Part 2)

This book is both a support for and an explanation of how and why I was compelled to create such a tool, called the Blue Alligator Blues and Other Video Songs for Integrative Learning, as a way to reinvent and incorporate my past experiences as a teacher with a “new” way of presentation in order to meet the needs of students in an inner city after-school program.

I was a retired teacher, minister, and business owner and sixty-five years old when the phone call occurred. I was being invited to come “down to the club” and take advantage of an opportunity to share my love for music with their children. I said that I would think about it . I actually did think about it for more than two weeks and then I made the decision that I was too young to be done (with working) and old enough to not worry (about my personal fears) - so, I entered the world of Midtown. It changed my life!

This was the inner city. It was a part of town that I had never even driven through. I was both anxious and filled with anticipation as I hiked up the steep front steps to enter the unique building set on a busy street and surrounded by shops like “Lorene’s Fried Fish”. I had taken the path less travelled and was about to embark on an adventure beyond anything that I could imagine.

The building was teeming with children of all ages and there was an incessant booming of deep electronic sounds and vibrations (ostensibly from a music recording studio) that reverberated off the cement walls. Girls in leotards and ballet shoes dipped in and out of the one girl’s bathroom and older children literally ‘hung’ out in the dark recesses of this strange physical structure which was a renovated Quonset Hurt, complete with corrugated steel semi-circular roof set upon a cement block foundation. There were no windows even though one million dollars had been spent in renovation to convert this building for the children’s program. During the 1940’s the facility had been a historically significant theater that featured famous traveling musicians and actors for the black community. There was one cavernous space which had originally served as the performance venue and now resembled a dark cafeteria with a wall of stairs that served as seats along one wall and a small stage on the opposite side. There was a dance studio with mirrors and movable bars, the recording studio, and two other smaller rooms. The smallest was referred to as “the music studio” and there was a broken drum set residing in the middle and an old upright piano against one wall. The cavernous room in the rear was connected to the front entrance by long hallways that ran the length of the building. It was not an accommodating environment.

Click to Read Part 1 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 3 of Chapter One

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation (Part 3)

The students were accustomed to managing their own space as this was their theater, their  home after school, and their place to be with friends. They were suspicious of anyone who  might impose new rules. They were not about to be told where to sit or how to act. I realized that if I was going to gain their confidence I would have to be patient and observe their mode of  behavior in order to communicate at any level. In addition, although I had arrived with the  intention of being able to teach music it is important to explain that there was no prior example  as to what that might mean. There was no curriculum guide, no organized groups like choirs or  ensembles, nor did the students have any experience with private music lessons. It was a  daunting situation.

Richard Branson states that “an entrepreneur is someone who wants to make a difference in  other people’s lives, not just their own bank balances. The desire to change things for the better is the motivation for taking risks and pursuing seemingly impossible business ideas.” (Branson, R., “Comments on Becoming an Entrepreneur”,, 8/12/2013;retrieved 8/06/2013,

If Branson is right, I was about to become an entrepreneur as it is obvious that my motivation had nothing to do with money - as there was none. It certainly had nothing to do with status, position, or recognition as there was none of that either. There was just one thing: the challenge to channel the energy and raw talent that oozed from these children into something organized  and meaningful. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children.

I did not set out to design a new way to manage groups of multiple aged children. I did not imagine that this attempt to motivate and engage children who had diverse learning challenges and abilities would develop into something that would be shared with other schools or  programs. I just wanted to be able to find a purposeful way to interact that was both safe and  meaningful and that made a difference in the lives of these particular children. \

The first three months were fairly unproductive. I had entered this world in mid March and by the time school was out I had taught a few students how to play some easy tunes on the piano and how to play some rhythmic games. Before I realized it, the twice a week after-school sessions had changed to summer school and a full day of classes and responsibilities. I would be  teaching mornings and actually have students on a daily basis. Groups of approximately twelve  students ranging in age from 5 to 7, 8 to 10, and 11 and over would pour into that little 12 by 12  room ( with the drum set in the middle) and I would entice them into my world of musical knowledge while utilizing their taste in musical style and expression. Think Mary Had A Little Lamb in rap and you get the idea. Let me share how this came about.

Click to Read Part 2 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 4 of Chapter One

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation (Part 4)

The first day of that first year of summer school was in itself a turning point. When the door to the music studio opened and the 5 to 7 year olds entered, I realized that they were not happy about being in this place. They had been instructed to behave in a proper and respectful  manner, but they obviously didn’t think that going to music class with some old white lady was going to be fun. They marched in and took their seats all right, but each child had determined to show their disdain by exhibiting distinctive facial contortions. One face stood out in particular because the beautiful eyes, skin, and lips had been transformed into the most frightening and bizarre expression. Their message to me was clear - no old white haired honkey lady was gonna teach them anything!

Please please please Br’er Fox don’t fling me into that briar patch! Unwittingly, the children had thrown me into the briar patch of improvisation which was my favorite place in the whole world. I love to make music in the moment and my idea of cooking is how to make something wonderful out of leftovers. Of course, the carefully designed lesson plan was discarded as I joined the students in their game - just like Br’er Rabbit does with Br’er Fox. Summoning the students to guess who my pretend character was - with my own facial expressions of fear and sadness- while I played mysterious rumbling sounds on the piano became their challenge. A little lost bear with a furry body, soft growls, and an empty tummy was irresistible. We took turns making lost bear sounds and then big scary bear sounds as well as mommy and daddy bear sounds until we broke into hysterical bear laughter. Before long, I was sitting at the rickety piano and playing the tune to “When Cats (or bears) Get Up in the Morning” with the lilting 6/8 dance rhythm and everyone was happily responding to making the four “bear” growls at the explicit place called for in the music. We had taken the leap of trust necessary to become a new community with shared fears and common goals.

Click to Read Part 3 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 5 of Chapter One

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation (Part 5)

There were still challenges to overcome as there were always disruptions due to noise and conflicts with other activities and time lines. There were also cultural attitudes that resisted concepts and ideas that persisted even within the leaders. There was a resolve to not expect too much from life. One example was when I suggested to the director that we should plan a field trip to take students to the real Broadway musical version of the Lion King that was playing across the river in Tampa. Oh, he said, we can’t afford that! Well, I said what if money was not the problem - could we go? Oh, sure, he replied - you get the money and we’ll all go. 

Not being one to be told that something is not possible, I did the necessary planning and after visiting a few of my professional friends - with whom I have business affiliations - I raised the money and we took several car loads of students to see the live performance. Believe it or not, this experience actually made a huge change in the way many of the students perceived the creative process of performance. They had all seen the movie - but they did not have any idea what it was like to see the huge recreated animal shapes, painted faces and costumes on the actors, and to hear real singers perform on stage. It was life changing. It also impacted on how we imagined that we could be and what we could do. I say we, because I had been assimilated into the community. I became “Miss” Jan. The title of Miss is bestowed respectfully on the elder women in the black community and it was a title to own and be proud of. 

It became feasible to imagine that ‘we’ could be actors, singers, and dancers in our own theater and we could bring joy to the Midtown community. We had a purpose and direction. I once read in a book on  spirituality that it is a well established understanding that people can live without money or sex, but one thing that they cannot exist without is purpose. We now had our purpose. But, how to train, prepare, practice and gain competence in our challenging environment. How could I prepare materials that could be presented and then practiced by individuals and small groups even when I was not present to lead or teach. How could we learn songs and actions that could be practiced at home and on the bus?

Click to Read Part 4 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 6 of Chapter One

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation (Part 6)

There needed to be something to rely on and there was no money to buy formal published musicals or plays  and the students were not ready to learn at such a sophisticated level. I determined to simply record  background tracks so that I could be free to observe the students and be able to work with them on their  interpretations and practice sessions while playing the recorded music. That is how the project began. Of  course there was nothing simple about making the recorded music as it necessitated hours of orchestrating  quality sounds on a synthesizer/keyboard and then transferring the created soundscapes to a computer and  finally making a successful music track that could support the whole concept. Oh yes, and then there were the private lessons with the sound engineer so that I could learn how to do such a project. There was nothing simple about this at all! 

I chose songs from traditional children’s music that included evocative movement, sung calls with purposeful responses, and lyrics that directed the activities to provide the engagement. The original background tracks  utilized fully orchestrated sounds to enhance the character of the song as well as to set the parameters for  interaction. The songs all included some kind of game or action that established the rules for the students in   taking turns, playing roles, assuming leadership positions, and following directions. This was a successful  answer to managing the situation and everyone felt secure about the expectations and objectives of the  activities while having fun. Having fun really was an essential ingredient as this was an after-school and summer camp program and not school!

There still were no videos as that was an idea yet to be imagined. We were still focused on creating some  kind of performance based on a musical support track. The students enjoyed creating their own versions of  moving to (choreographing) and presenting the story line to the basic tune and developing a short play to  share with other students and parents. These interactive endeavors promoted practice in social skills as well  as providing physical activity which is a much needed element for after-school programs.

Click to Read Part 5 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 7 of Chapter One