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Mason Elementary Students Learning History through Ballads and Folksong
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 • Posted March 18, 2009

Janet Gilray Visits Classrooms to Pilot National “Voices~in Time Program

When a singing history teacher, Janet Gilray, arrived with her guitar at Mason Elementary School last week, the hospitality shown by the students and staff caused her to extend her visit an extra day. Before leaving town, she had visited not only Ms. Ann Lehmberg’s 4th grade on Tuesday, February 10th, but Ms. Deborah Baxter’s 5th grade social studies classes, Ms.B’s Pre-K Bunnies and Ms. Tiffany Ake’s After-the-Bell program on Wednesday, February 11th,

To pilot her new “Voices~in Time Sing-Along Sessions, Gilray chose Mason Elementary as one of 5 schools from across the United States, in large part due to the town’s solid, family values and patriotic attitudes she noted among citizen’s of historic town on previous visits. Other schools selected for pilot sessions of the innovative program are located in Indianapolis, IN, Chicago, IL, Charlotte, NC, and Santa Maria, CA.

Invitations extended via heartwarming letters written by students in Ms. Ann Lehmberg’s fourth grade, convinced Gilray that Mason’s students had something special to offer in terms of interest and enthusiasm. According to Gilray, that enthusiasm was best conveyed in the words of students like fourth grader, Brayden, who said, “I had more fun than a cow in a petal patch when you visited our class. Please come back.” Other comments included on from Savannah who said, “I never thought history could be that amazing.” And then there was Chase, who wrote, “ I would love to have all my school lessons include music. That history lesson relaxed me a lot!”

Not to be outdone, a student by the name, Ali, wrote in his letter, “That lesson made my day. It was the best thing I have ever seen in Social Studies. It made sense to the history. It was really, really good. If there were us kids and judges, you would win.”

Gilray’s program, called “Voices~in Time, is a supplement to U. S. History textbooks, designed to encourage a patriotic spirit, and love of U. S. History; as it helps define collective thoughts & emotion of the ancestors who shaped our Nation.

Along with a DVD of mini-lessons and CD of feature ballads and folksongs, there are lyrics, photographs, and fine art paintings on power point slides to make the sing-along sessions easy for teachers to present and interesting for students to learn.

Teachers apparently enjoyed the sing-along sessions almost as much as their students.

Ms. Ann Lehmberg, 4th grade teacher, marveled at how eagerly her fourth grades participated in the mini-lesson discussions, and the way joined in singing. She stated, “Voices~in Time, gave my students an opportunity to learn some historical concepts in a more personal and meaningful way than they are accustomed to.”

According to 5th grade social studies teacher, Deborah Baxter, students just ‘lit up’— as they actively participated. Baxter now recommends ‘Voices~in Time as “a wonderful way to reach students, especially those who have difficulty focusing and staying on task”.

Ms. Baxter continued, “Ms. Gilray inspired my students to learn their U.S. History lessons in a fun, energizing way. Think how wonderful it would be to walk into every classroom and hear others singing— and learning— history through ballad and folksong. I can’t imagine any better way.”

Ms. Gilray has been invited to return in May for the special history event planned by the 8th grade and hopes to attend.

Janet Gilray, BA, MAT, is an award winning composer and performer. She has been teaching since 1995 and holds professional clear credentials in Multiple Subjects, PK-8), Language Arts (PK-HS/Adult) and ENL with Cross-cultural, Language, and Academic Development emphasis (PK-Adult).

“Voices~in Time activities are funded through donations from individuals and corporate foundations to the Sutter Society, Inc. dba “American Ballad Conservators” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee Productions.” The Sutter Society, Inc, established as a not-for profit 501 (c ) (3) organization, was founded to:

• Demonstrates music’s ability to serve as a viable, fluid form of history that acquires new life in subsequent transmissions.

• Serves lower socio-economic, migrant, and special need children at little or no charge.

• Provides participants the opportunity to encounter history first-hand, interacte with friends and family who may have learned the song in other generations, and pass it on to youngsters.

• Encourages students to write their own ballads and folksongs that can preserve memories associated with incidents of historic importance occurring in their own lifetime.

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