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Grade 6: The Sounds of History

In Mr. Mitch Masters’ history class, Grade 6 students spend the year learning about different world religions. This month, they have been learning about the life of the Buddha and practicing how to take notes effectively. To give his lesson an unexpected twist, Mr. Masters introduced a project for his students where they could imagine and create sound effects to go along with the story of the Buddha.
In filmmaking, when sounds cannot be properly captured on camera, such as footsteps on gravel, individuals called “Foley artists” recreate them in a special studio using sensitive microphones and various props. Mr. Masters wanted to apply this kind of creative thinking to one of his units, and Buddhism was the best fit. “Buddhism just seemed like the topic that had the most interesting noises,” Mr. Masters said. While his students were learning about the life of the Buddha, Mr. Masters encouraged them to think about what parts of the history could be turned into interesting sounds, which kept them connected to the purpose of the assignment and motivated them to take detailed notes throughout class. “There’s a really big value in taking notes and paying attention, but taking notes just to take notes is a drag,” Mr. Masters said. “The Foley part was the hook.”
The students loved the project. They could be found tapping old CDs on the concrete to mimic horse hooves, or in classrooms splashing their fingers in bowls full of water to sound like streams and rainfall. Two students even created the sound of an arrow hitting its target by swinging a lacrosse stick above a recording iPad and then throwing a deflated volleyball against the ground. Mr. Masters loved the project, too, because it gave the students a lot of room to explore. “They know they can take as many risks as they want; they can do as many crazy things as possible,” he said. “You don’t see anybody sitting still.” Projects that help students get excited about their lessons are what make Graland so special. “This might not work everywhere,” Mr. Masters said, “but I’m really glad it works here.”

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.