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Cool Schools: Pierre Moran Middle School program mixes math and music

Cool Schools: Pierre Moran Middle School program mixes math and music

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ELKHART, Ind. –Students and staff in Elkhart are bringing a new beat to mathematics. An after school program at Roosevelt STEAM Elementary and a new class at Pierre Moran Middle School has students building their own instruments and writing their own music.

It’s an incentive combining STEM education with the arts, and it’s leading up to a concert the students will put on with a Grammy Award-winning quartet from Chicago.

“We’re actually creating our music and we’re learning about type of scales we can use for real life,” said Emily Garcia Reyes, an eighth-grade student at Pierre Moran Middle School.

The class at the middle school just started in January, and teachers say they’re impressed with the progress of the students so far.

“We did a lot of looking at graphs and how different instrument pitches correlate and have relationships with the length of the instrument and stuff like that,” said Jennifer Henry, a math teacher at Pierre Moran.

She says this out-of-the-box approach to math is keeping students excited.

“I think that this experience has allowed them to look at math in a real world situation,” said Henry. “I think the best part that I’ve got to experience is just seeing the connection from math into music because that’s something I never got to see before.”

The students made a variety of instruments, including whistles, chimes and wooden drums.

“I personally love music,” said Demi Brown, an eight-grade student at Pierre Moran. “So when I got to make the instrument it made me think like I could do this at home to make more of a variety of music instead of the same thing over and over.”

The program is thanks to collaboration between the school district and multiple other departments, including the Debartolo Performing Arts Center at Notre Dame and the Notre Dame Center for Civic Innovation where Jay Brockman is director.

“This class has really been great,” said Brockman. “I think they’ve stepped up to every challenge we’ve put in front of them, they’ve been really supportive of each other. It’s really been a great experience.”

Brockman comes out a couple times a week to work with the middle school students. Juan-Carlos Alarcon, a current music education student at IUSB and former Pierre Moran student is also helping out with the initiative, as is Wendy Daly with The Music Village in South Bend.

Students are now prepping for a concert with the Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion. That includes 25 students from the STEAM Class at Pierre Moran, and 11 from Roosevelt STEAM Elementary’s Common Denominator program who will participate in the concert to show off their hard work.

“To do something that’s really going to benefit their community, do a concert that’s going to bring a lot of people into the school and show the great work that they’re doing together is a great opportunity for these kids,” said Brockman.

The concert is free and open to the public. It will take place on Friday, May 3 at Pierre Moran Middle School. The concert is set to start at 6 p.m. but doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

A reception will follow the performance.

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