Music, Drama, Dance and Graduation Day in Sunrise Kindergarten, Finland
by Didi Ananda Krpa
Once I was asked by a little boy in our kindergarten during the morning circle, “Didi, can you play guitar like a rock star?” When he asked me this question, he had a big smile on his face and showed so much excitement in his eyes. I laughed and said, “Just a tiny bit”, and he looked at me and smiled. I could sense that he was satisfied with my answer and mentioned that he has a pretend guitar at home (Guitar Hero) that he loves so much but it got broken.
Here in Sunrise Kindergarten (Finland), aside from doing creative arts and academic activities, the children learn and sing lots of songs, do movements and dramatizations, yoga and of course sing kiirtan while I play guitar for them. Many of the children imitate me playing the guitar by strumming their tummy with their fingers as they chant the mantra before the meditation.
As the children love to sing and learn new songs with fingerplays they also love to listen to the guitar playing. I believe that due to this, the children develop love for music. I can see that as soon as I come to the morning circle they compete among themselves who is going to pick up the guitar to hand it to me for the kiirtan and meditation. This has been going on for some years now and finally in March early this year, I decided to teach ukulele to the 5 and 6 year old children. I thought, it resembles a guitar, it is small and light and it would be easy for them to hold it. Besides, it was also the first instrument I learnt to play at the age of seven. I brought this matter to the parents meeting and they were happy to hear about it.
So I bought a ukulele and brought it to the school. The children were so excited when they saw it. They were all eager to hold it. I let them hold and strum it and then after a week I started teaching the children how to strum and use 1 – 3 finger chords at least 15 – 30 minutes a day. The children were learning very fast and in 4 weeks time they could already play some of the Circle of Love songs with 3 chords by heart.
I find that music and songs affect children in many ways in their development. Since most of our children come from different ethnicities, they speak different languages. Some of these children learn their first words in English through songs and poems and some through stories depicted in books, drawings or flannel characters. The movements in rhythmic songs also help the children develop their fine and gross motor skills and their sense of rhythm. Shy children also come out of their shells when they hear rhythmic and joyful songs during morning circle time. At first they would just watch while the other children were singing, then slowly each day they would move their little fingers and then their lips to sing the words. Mantra music played after the yoga session while they lie down helps the children to relax and be peaceful while their minds float in the imaginary world during the visualization.
We also do a lot of dramatizations and role plays in the classroom. Just like music, it supports the children in their learning and development. We have a lot of beautiful and colorful props that I sewed for them. The children are proud and happy to wear them. Even months before their summer party, they are already anticipating who or what they going to be in the drama and what costumes they are going to wear. In the many dramatic plays we have, the children express themselves joyously. They get to choose which characters they want to be. They could be anyone or anything. They can be an animal in need and understand the pain animals are undergoing or a child helping the animal while unconsciously learning about the spirit of service. Or they could be a talking tree and experience what it is to be a tree and what a tree thinks. In dramatic plays, the children learn about science, values and the world around them. It also supports children to develop their abstract thinking, literacy, math skills and much more. But most of all, it is fun for them. It is their place where they can be who they want to be where they share their laughter and joy with each other while they learn at the same time.
We also teach dance to the children. Dance, according to Shrii P. R. Sarkar, the propounder of Neohumanist Education, should be another part of early childhood education. Dance also supports the children in their learning and development. It helps the children develop rhythm, discipline, memory, flexibility, grace, posture, balance and coordination. Through aboriginal or folk dances, the children are also able to learn about the cultural heritage of a particular tribe or country and in that way learn their history.
In June this year, we ended the school year with a summer party and graduation day. We had songs, dance, drama, ukulele performance and we also had a visitor, Dr. Marcus Bussey, who gave an inspiring talk to the parents and visitors about the essence of Neohumanism. The children performed drama, ukulele and Native American Indian dances to their parents’ delight. Everyone was happy and satisfied with the show.
And lastly, I have been meaning to give a talk about Neohumanism to all the parents for many years now, but I never could find time. Hearing Marcus’s talk, the parents got inspired about our philosophy and curriculum. Some expressed after the party that they would want to hear more about it without any children around. Marcus also was the guest to hand-over the preschool diplomas to the graduating children.