Seeds of Culture – Overview Part 1

CultureCultureI have pushed myself this year to truly integrate the International Baccalaureate (IB) Units of Inquiry while focusing on individual musicians. In this set of posts, I plan to reflect upon the journey of the fifth grade musicians as well as my own. I would also like to challenge you to think more about the nature of the experience and less on the content area. I am framing this in the context of music, but how might this project look in social studies, science, language arts, or art?

The idea of this project came about after a long conversation with my friend and choir colleague Eve Pierre. Eve is an amazing musician, educator, facilitator, consultant, and friend. She has been my mentor and springboard regarding all things IB and Standards Based Grading.

The unit we are currently exploring is Where we are in place and time: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.


We began inquiring about the migration of music and what impact that may have on people in the past, present, and future. This kindled a conversation about aural traditions,  how music has been past down from generation to generation, and cultural contexts of music in different cultures. Through talking to the musicians about music, culture, migration, and bouncing ideas off of Eve, Seeds of Culture began.

Project Overview (Part 1):

  • Musicians choose a song that connects them to their culture (Part 2)
  • Create a short digital presentation of the music’s affects from the past, present, and future
  • Teach the class a portion of your song
  • Create a Seed Rhythm on a looper e.g. Looseque or DM1 (Part 3)
  • Find other musicians that share the same or similar Seed Rhythm
  • Compose and perform the original pieces at an Exhibition style concert (Part 4)

I will write posts as the musicians share each part of their projects. So far, this has been an incredible way to get to know individual learner’s personal histories, cultures and journeys. I am learning so much about their music, but most of all, strengthening relationships.

Musician’s Statements

Fifth grade learners are beginning to plan their Primary Years Program (PYP) Exhibition. The overarching theme is “How are you positively effecting your community?” I have been thinking about how I can connect the musical experiences we are having in my room to other ways of knowing.

Chalk Talk

Outside music room at West Hills Middle School, Michigan

Outside music room at West Hills Middle School, Michigan

Chalk Talk is a Visible Thinking Routine developed by Ron Ritchhart. This particular routine is designed as a written conversation used to uncover prior knowledge and questions. It is an open-ended discussion on paper. This routine ensures all voices are heard and allows individual thinking time. Originally designed as a silent written conversation, I have altered the use for our unique situation. I posted the question “How does music play a role in community?”  outside of my classroom on a large bulletin board. The chalk talk is open to everyone in the school and is attracting students that are not in my classes. We are discussing the effects of music on culture in class and using the chalk talk as a springboard into these conversations.

Musician’s Statements and Technology

Thank you Tricia Fuglestad (@fuglefun)

Thank you Tricia Fuglestad (@fuglefun)

Each musician is going to make a Musician’s Statement, then create and share them using the apps CamWow and Pic Collage. These two apps are free and work in tandem to create the image above. Musicians will make these next week



Step 1: Open CamWow and select the effect you would like to use. I chose the fuzzy b&w to keep the focus on the statement and name of the musician.

Step 2: Take the picture and share the picture to Photo Album.

Taken with CamWow

Taken with CamWow

Step 3: Open PicCollage and Tap to create a new collage



Step 4: Add your photo from Camera Roll and double-tap to edit

Step 5: Choose Clip Photo and draw around your face with your finger and click Done. This step will allow you to clip out the CamWow watermark.

Step 6: Drag your clipped background to the garbage can in the upper right hand corner.

Step 7: Pinch the clipped picture to size and rotate. Be sure to leave room for the statement text and musician’s name.

Step 8: Tap the Layout button on the lower left of the screen and Change Background. I set the background to black to keep the focus on the statement and musician’s name.

Step 9: Tap the Plus button on the bottom of the screen to add text. Type the musician’s statement and name in separate text boxes to ensure separate movement and sizing. I put my statement on top and name on the bottom, but I would suggest to stage the test where it fits best with the picture. In the app, the capital “T” allows you to change the font, the pen changes the text color, the paint bucket changes the background color of the font, and the three dots adjusts the justification and text outline.

Step 10: Tap the share button on the lower right of the screen. I do not post to PicCollage. Save your PicCollage to Library.

Step 11: To collect the images, I have created a DropBox folder. Open DropBox, select your folder, and tap the three dots on the upper right corner of the screen. Choose your image and Upload.

I saw my friend Brandy Carlson, elementary art teacher in Walled Lake, Michigan, today and talked through this statement project. We made her image in 5 min. on the couch.

Brandy Carlson (@carlson_brandy) check her out at

Brandy Carlson (@carlson_brandy) check her out at

We are creating cover songs, green screen videos, and musician’s statements to prepare for Exhibition. On April 30th, the 5th grade learners will present their PYP projects and I can’t wait to see what they will contribute to their community.