HB Faculty Design Unique History-Music Collaboration

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HB Faculty Design Unique History-Music Collaboration

Authored by Upper School History Teacher Libby Seidel Stineman ’03 and Upper School Vocal Arts Teacher Laura Main Webster ’91

“We learn not for school, but for life” is a motto that has defined not only our high school careers, but our professional ones as well. We – Libby Seidel Stineman ’03 and Laura Main Webster ’91 – learned at an early age that academics are not confined to the four walls of a classroom. Rather, it is the experiences in which we can connect what we are learning in the classroom to the world around us where students become engaged and inquisitive learners. This is what drove us to begin the history-music collaboration more than 11 years ago.

Applying knowledge in action

The history-music collaboration provides students with the opportunity to connect history, politics, and culture and apply that understanding to the world around them in student-centered activities. Today, the increasingly important role of culture in the political climate is becoming even more apparent. Unfortunately, the importance of culture is often overlooked in traditional history courses, where the primary focus is memorizing facts, figures, and dates. 

In the history-music collaboration, weaving in culture to our historical studies is the norm, not the exception. One student reflected at the end of the collaboration that “one positive thing I took away from this collaboration was the learning through music instead of traditional [ways]. Music and history are inherently intertwined and an interesting take on learning. It also shows the impact of art on those who cannot always speak.” Rote memorization is proven as ineffective in captivating students. We attempt to spark a natural curiosity to learn that extends beyond the classroom and into the students’ everyday lives.

Our yearly investigations of Apartheid, the Armenian Genocide, Stalin and Shostakovich, and the Holocaust continue to invigorate students while asking them to wrestle with the political, economic, and ethical crises of these time periods through an analysis of music, dance, art, and other cultural elements. 

Learning more from lectures

“Libby and Laura have designed inquiry-based units that compel students to personally connect with the material in order to become engaged and inquisitive learners,” said Dean of Faculty Marty Frazier. “As a culmination to each unit, they invite culture-bearers into the classroom to provide authentic moments of exchange between students and experts in the field in order to become change-makers in the future.” 

The culture-bearers help to bring the content we examine to life as students are often asked to not only learn from their lectures, but are invited to participate through dance, song, or food. At the end of the collaboration, one student wrote “I really enjoyed having firsthand experiences. These discussions made the overall units come to life and gave me even more drive to study and apply the lectures and knowledge [I learned] to my test taking.” 

The ultimate goal of this collaboration is to help students understand the relevance of history and culture to their everyday lives. The current social, political, and cultural crises we face today have historical roots in the past and by inviting students to be guests in cultures we want to instill the skills in them to ask inquisitive questions, listen to others’ stories, learn different points of view that might challenge their own thinking and enter into conversations of discourse rather than debate.

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