Rain Rain Go Away

The weather outside was quite dreary and many of the people who normally drop in to the Massey Centre were not around. I was joined by one expectant mother who had not been to the program before. She entered quietly and asked if anyone else was going to come, then sat in a rocker in the corner. The two present staff members and I sat around her and started singing. We sang through a few songs which were unfamiliar and talked about how they might be useful in connecting with her baby. Our sing along session quickly evolved into a full on jam session with instruments for all. The one participant who was present suggested some of her favourite songs and we sang through them as she taught me some new melodies for some old classics. There was one expectant mother and two staff members. At first she was quite timid but soon came out of her shell by singing and suggesting songs to sing. She said she hadn't been singing to her unborn baby yet and I encouraged her to do so while teaching her a bunch of songs.

I brought snack with me to the program which is being stored in the RSF locker at Massey. The new intake social worker came by to sing with us as well as Alina who has been assigned to the RSF sessions. They tell me that they had received excellent feedback about the program from the previous week, but that due to the weather, none of those participants were around this week. They also were very excited about the snack program saying that it would be an added incentive to attend the sessions.

A new session begins at Massey Centre

A brand new session with RSF began today at Massey Centre. Although somewhat small, the group showed great enthusiasm. It took a little while to get the group started, but once everyone realized what they were in for they were eager to participate and we made it through a variety of songs, ranging from action songs to popular melodies. We finished off with a great jam session in which everyone was playing along and singing. There were four participants in total with two staff in attendance. One woman with her baby and two expectant mothers – one due this month and the other seven months pregnant. Normally I would have everyone sit in a circle on the floor, but under the circumstances we sat in chairs arranged in a circle. We sang to the one baby as the prenatal mothers held their bellies and commented that their babies were kicking a lot throughout the session.

Alina was there to meet me at 2:05 and brought the instrument bag with her. I was asked to go to the room and wait while she got the participants. At first, I was not too optimistic, since the last couple of weeks had been problematic, but the group came in right on time and the session went off without a hitch.

Josh visits Jessie's Centre

Most of the group was made up of newcomers to the RSF music program. We started with a quick explanation of what to expect and how to participate. Then we jumped right in with some singing and moving. I brought out my turtle puppet as well as the wooden frog which was passed around and accompanied by frog songs. We finished off with a rockin' jam session and sang You are my sunshine as the great snow fell outside.

Dance Party: Going out with a Bang

We had an action packed end to our fall session. Beginning on time and with a full house, we sang through many of the children's favourites. We stood and moved and danced until I finally brought out the Djembe, a hand drum from West Africa. We played several movement games to the sound of the drum, and the children took turns making sounds on the instrument. The grown-ups also seemed to really enjoy the rhythmic beats, as many of them were dancing enthusiastically. We had 20 children and 11 mothers as well as 1 staff on hand. The Shelter worker, who took attendance for me, left me a note saying "I swear I did not put up any flyers this week". The kids were participating wonderfully. The class started on time and everyone was geared up and ready from the very first Hello to the last Goodbye.

After class, another supervisor mentioned that people had been calling the office since 5 o’clock to ask whether there would be Rainbow Songs this evening. It is clear that these kids love the program. Most of the mothers love the program and more and more are participating each week. I feel like we have made some important breakthroughs despite any difficulties this term. While there have been some ups and downs, it is clear that this program is a success and that they do not have any other programs that encourage mother-child bonding in the way that we do. M asked me about the new year and said that she would try to find a student to come in to facilitate. I would love to continue with it in the New Year.

Who wants to play a Sruti Box?

We had a great group this evening. We started off singing some familiar songs and I had the children wiggling their toes and putting their fingers in the air. Some songs were requested and we made sure to get the kids jumping to “Five Little Monkeys” and “Sleeping Bunnies”. We even made up a quick ditty about cheetahs running around the room. Then I brought out the instrument of the week. This week we learned about the Sruti Box from South India. We sang a song together as a group to demonstrate the droning chord and then the children took turns experimenting with different sounds. There were 15 children this week with 9 mothers and 1 staff member. I have been arriving just before 6:30 and planning on starting a bit late if necessary. However, this week we had 6 children in the room at 6:30, so I started on time and the others trickled in over the next 10 minutes or so. This term I have really been working on trying to involve the grown ups which I have found to be a real challenge for some of them. But I found it absolutely imperative with the Sruti box to have the children sit with the grown up that brought them there. The nature of the instrument is quite delicate and when 10 children are all turning knobs and grabbing at the same time it doesn't quite work. So, I brought the instrument around to children who were sitting with their caregivers and it seemed to help not only to get the grown ups more involved but also to get the children to try the instrument one at a time.

More Rain

The children came together on another rainy November evening to sing some of their favourite songs. Many of those who have been coming for some time wanted to sing particular songs, so we sang their suggestions, including “Sleeping Bunnies”, “Do the Monkey”, “Boom Chicka Boom” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. I brought out a rainstick near the end of the class and we made our own rain sounds. We had 16 children with 8 mothers and 1 staff. Apparently, there were no posters put up to promote the class and some people had asked Miriam about it. Nevertheless, the room was full!

I Hear Thunder

The group started off quietly with "Put your Finger in the Air" and "Sticky, Sticky Bubble Gum," and before long the carpet was filled with very energetic participants. Some were calling out their favourite songs and others were rolling around on the carpet. When we stood up to move around, participation was high as the children danced around the room. Then I brought out the Thunder Tube. To my amazement, Miriam also pulled one out and the children took turns making thunderous sounds and singing "I Hear Thunder".

I Ain't 'friaid of no Frankenstorm!

It was a dark and stormy night...The week leading up to Halloween is always one of my favourite times. When we started off our 'Hello' song this week we had a pretty small group, but as the time passed many familiar faces came to join in with the Halloween festivities. We sang songs about dressing up, Jack-o-lantern pumpkins, and even made a scary witch's brew made up of suggestions from the group. The kids took turns playing the Darabuka before shaking the rainbow ghost...er...parachute. We also did quite a bit of howling, as it was a full moon.

No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!

It is always refreshing when one can return week after week to the same place and still have a completely new experience each time. This week we sang through a wide assortment of songs, some new and some familiar. During the songs we explored body percussion, lots of actions and high energy dancing and jumping – especially as monkeys jumping on the bed. We also explored the recorder, the second wind instrument we have looked at this session. At the end of it all we had a rousing jam session with all of the instruments.

A New Beginning

This week was a bit of a fresh start for us all. We worked on some basics like sitting in a circle, clapping hands, stomping feet, and call and response. The children really impressed me when they shared some of their favourite songs with me. What a beautiful sound it was to hear the whole room singing together loudly in unison! The group came in pretty slowly. As the class began, there were only two children in the room with me, but many of the children entered while we were up on our feet jumping and dancing, and we ended up with 11 kids. They were very excited by the Jaw Harp, an instrument which many of them had never seen before. We ran out of time before getting to the instruments or the parachute, but despite that, I can honestly say that this was one of the best classes I have taught at this location in terms of parent and child involvement!