Equal access to arts education, adequate support for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, and the fostering of sustainable practices are three pressing issues facing the global learning community. The EcoSonic (Ecology/Sound) Playground ™ aims to address these challenges through hands-on learning and fostering of cross-disciplinary knowledge. It focuses on working with children of all ages to design, build, and play large-scale, multi-player musical instrument structures made from reusable materials. This project incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) skills, musical exploration, and wild creativity into an immersion learning curriculum. Each EcoSonic Playground Project ™ will be unique to the school community and children using it. Focused, differentiated, and developmentally appropriate teaching practice inform all aspects of this project.
What makes the EcoSonic Playground Project ™ unique is its adaptability.
It includes a four-pronged, accompanying curriculum based on state educational standards separated into grade level groups. The curriculum applies foundational STEAM skills to experiential learning. Teachers can tailor the curriculum to their school or educational program, local community culture, and grade level. The curriculum comprises:
- STEAM: An architectural process where children build scaffolding from blueprints. The scaffolding acts as an open structure on which to hang instruments.
- Environmental education: Includes a school and community outreach campaign to collect clean reusable materials, lessening the local carbon footprint.
- Design thinking: A process through which children design and build the instruments from the reusable materials they collect.
- Music education: Playing the instruments as part of a music curriculum focused on improvisation and composition.
The practice and application of knowledge throughout the project are also intended to foster adaptive skills such as critical thinking, communication, positive social interaction, and creative problem solving.
Indoor and Outdoor Structures
The instruments may take the form of either portable, indoor structures of various sizes or permanent outdoor play installations. Children, teachers, and members of the EcoSonic Playground Project ™ team will co-design and build the indoor structures, which may then be used for a wide range of musical activities. As an extension of the EcoSonic Playground Project ™ curriculum, children will work with professional architects and engineers to co-design and build outdoor installations for interested schools. The outdoor installations have the potential not only to revitalize neglected spaces but also to become a catalyst and model for transforming public areas that are underused and/or attract illicit behaviors. They may also have great potential for community interaction through musical play.
Equal Access to Musical Play
Open access to the EcoSonic Playground Project ™ materials and curriculum lies at the heart of this project. The curriculum and basic structural materials will be made available to economically disadvantaged communities through grants and corporate partnerships. So far, the project has garnered several grants and fellowships, which have made possible the prototype building and pilot research.
The EcoSonic Playground Project ™ will provide an effective and multifaceted vehicle for teachers to develop in their students a rich variety of skills and aptitudes to facilitate their growth as creative, collaborative, culturally aware and socially responsible individuals. It also has the potential to demonstrate the interconnectedness of socio-cultural aptitudes with learning in STEAM areas. The EcoSonic Playground Project ™ may lead to positive learning outcomes in the areas of general musicianship skills, improvisation, collaborative music making, and STEAM education, as well as foster creativity, ecological awareness and cross-cultural understanding.