Big hugs at Birkdale

Today I met with Elizabeth prior to class to locate the Jam Bag, which is now stored in her office. As we caught up, I heard a staff member make an announcement over the residence P.A system to all mothers and children that Rainbow Songs music class would start in approximately 15 minutes. Well within 3 mins, the door burst open and familiar faces began pouring into the room. The little girl who told me she would miss me last week literally RAN into my arms and gave me a big hug which lasted for several minutes. To be honest, it was the warmest welcome I have ever experienced in an RSF environment on only the second week of class! Elizabeth looked quite moved and excused herself, and I completely understood why. She has worked very hard to create a wonderful program for the children living in the residence and it mustn't have been easy to hear the closure of Children's Services at Birkdale. However, today she saw FIRST HAND how her hard work is affecting the lives of the residents here and I think she was simply overwhelmed in seeing how open and resilient these children really are to new people and the experiences that come along. I took a moment to set up my CD player, and saw that even the shyest participants from last week were talking a mile a minute, asking me TONS of questions. The shelter staff who participate week to week have quickly become my favourite people in the room because they seem to take on the task of disciplining the children when need. Not only are they are funny and talented when it comes to making animal sounds, they seem to have a profound amount of respect for each other and their residents. This affects the way in which the children engage with their own mothers, and I find the children to be very well behaved.

We sang the Hello Song and almost everyone stood up, turned around and sat back down. I asked the group "what day of the week is it?". After much deliberation, we sang through the days of the week activity, which incorporates various aspects of both rhythm and melody. "I Wake Up Hands" continues work on these areas of music-making and so we woke up each body part one at a time. Singing about opposites is a great way to engage young children and so I asked them "what is the opposite of BIG?", "what is opposite of UP?" and "what is the opposite of FAST?". Using their answers, we sang Roly Poly and Hands Together, Hands Apart. Afterwards, we sang a funny animal song called Johnny Didn't Have Any Breakfast. Each child had the opportunity to become an animal, suggesting to the group either a sound or action we could do all together. One boy who was new to class today hid his face in his hands and so I took a risk when I asked the group "what animal like to HIDE?". One little girl yelled out TURTLES! The boy looked up in surprise and laughed, singing along on the verse. I quickly realized that no one had chosen to be a spider, so we sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider. We stood all the way up and flew around the room singing Shoo Fly. The group seemed to love exploring the space and I decided last minute to Shake Our Sillies Out taking cues from the children (yawn our sleepies, clap our sillies, stomp our sillies, stretch our strechies etc).

IOTW this week was the Darabouka. I showed them how the drum sounds when played on the floor versus when played on the lap. I enlisted the grownups help in keeping a specific beat on the floor while I played a more complex pattern on the drum. When played together at the same time, the rhythm sounds reminiscent of belly dancing, and some grownups even got up and danced around the room! It was awesome. I brought out the big bag of instruments, and with some help from the shy boy I previously mentioned, we handed out instruments to all participants. We reviewed Jamaica Farewell from last week and sang a new jam song called De-Oh. The shy boy grabbed a tambourine for himself and was very talented, playing on beat. I could see him being a teacher one day because he kept encouraging other children to play and sing as loudly as possible. It was incredible to see! After we put away the Jam Bag, I took out the parachute and took a moment to explain the rules for the first time (i.e., no pushing under the parachute). The first track was slow and so I laid down under the parachute looking up, and soon enough, all the children were underneath with me. There was lots of laughter and giggles when I instructed them to stand up and dance around during the fast track and we finished the third slow track by lying down on our bellies. Singing goodbye went really well and I got four hugs AT THE SAME TIME at the end! Overall, an amazing second week.