It was a great first class today at Family Residence! I'd say there were about 8 kids and 8 adults participating. The children were of all ages, from new babies to around 6 or 7 years old. We sang a wide variety of songs, from "Open Them, Shut Them", to "Come On Everybody", to "Zoom Zoom Zoom!" "Clean-O", "Brown Cow Medley" and "Old MacDonald Had a Band" were particularly big hits. Everyone seemed to have a great time and participated really well. The group really got into "Shake it Baby Shake It" and "Old MacDonald Had A Band" during the jam session, playing all of the instruments right on queue and they also sang along for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", which I played as a parachute song. I was really happy to have folks from what seemed to be a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and ages participating in and enjoying all of the songs. Thanks to everybody who was there for making it a wonderful experience—I look forward to seeing my new friends again next week!
On Thursday, 3 February, we had a lively kick-off class at Family Residence. 12 children participated, ranging in age from under 1 to over 5 years old. Since some of the children were in the program last time and were familiar with the songs, I had some great help and there was much cheering for favourites such as "What are you wearing?" and "Sleeping bunnies". I look forward to having more of the parents participating in the weeks to come, as this adds an essential aspect to the Rainbow Songs method. Despite low adult turn-out, we were able to hold it together in the jam session, which was actually quite rockin'.
We had two new kids joining us today, which was great. To draw them in, I used highly participatory songs like "What are you wearing?", as well as "Listen to the water" which helped to include each child individually. We then did an extended movement section consisting of "Brown Cow Medley", including airplane and an extra addition of "She'd like to ride an elephant..." which led into the song "Elephants have wrinkles". By the time we were a few rounds into "Elephants", everyone was in full participation mode and I was pleased to see smiles and laughter from everyone. We rode that out for a good jam session, consisting of cowbell as instrument of the week which was a nice progression from the Brown Cow Medley.
The group seems have have reached a milestone and turned a corner. There were more parents today and some of the children who initially had a difficult time participating—some very quiet, some distracted by the toys in the room—have become much more engaged in the class—singing, smiling, making eye contact, doing the actions, etc. The grown-ups are demonstrating similarly increased participation. One little girl who just sat and stared at me for the first two classes even came to say goodbye to me when I was leaving! It is definitely starting to feel more like a Rainbow Songs class, due mostly part to the increased attendance and participation of the grown-ups thanks to the ongoing encouragement and support of the staff. For the kids, the difference in the quality of their experience is like night and day.
Our 5th session at Family residence was by far our best to date! There is an excitement in the air now when I arrive and several of the children jump up and announce my arrival—"Travis is HEEERE! Travis is BAAACK!". The level of participation of children and adults reached a new level and it seems like we have hit our stride. Several of the parents are now coming with their children, singing with them, encouraging them to participate. There are many more smiles all around and everyone seems to be really enjoying themselves. The children are remembering more and more of the words and the actions to the songs and are becoming well-versed in the structure of the class. This week, I showed them the ocean drum everyone seemed fascinated. We sang "Four White Horses" while they passed it around, and almost everyone joined in with slapping and clapping to keep the beat.
As this was our last class together for this session, I decided to follow Rainbow Songs tradition and make it a request class. Each child had a favourite song to sing and they all seemed enthusiastic about the opportunity to contribute in that way. Some of the children had made a card for me with their little handprints in different colours of paint and were excited to present it to me at the end of class. One of the children, who had been the most reserved at the beginning of the session (the one who sat and stared at me for the first 3 classes) was the one who engaged me the most about the card and it seemed as though her mother had been instrumental in helping the kids to prepare it. I know this may seem like a little thing, but it really had a big impact on me. Here was a very young child who had succeeded not only in coming out of her own shell, but who was also able to engage her mother in the class and make something with the other children to show her gratitude. Even after the class, when I was packing up, she came up to me on her own to make sure that I didn't forget the card! I was really, deeply touched.