Your Voice is Power: Music and Coding for Racial Justice
Grandview Elementary’s learning commons continues to be the place for learning the skills of the future. A hub for students to follow their curiosity that empowers them to take risks and challenges with innovative project-based activities.
The latest project Grandview students have embarked on is “Your Voice is Power”; an experience that encourages students to use music and computer science as tools to advance racial equity. This project involves Amazon, Georgia Tech, and recording artist Pharrell Williams’ philanthropic organization, YELLOW. The project includes 5 teaching modules with lesson plans that teach Coding while kick-starting meaningful conversations among middle and high school students and their teachers about the importance of racial justice. This collaboration concluded with a competition for students to share their own voices through remixing Pharrell’s new song “Entrepreneur” using computer code on Georgia Tech’s learn-to-code-through-music platform, EarSketch.
When teachers Robyn and Stephanie learned about this opportunity in the FuturePLAY TEAMS’s channel, they jumped out of their seats! For Stephanie, the project was a personal endeavour, “I am passionate about black history and music. I am raising a child of colour who is a beat producer, so I care about making education inclusive and non-biased.” For Robyn, it was an important and exciting chance to highlight inclusivity through innovation. “With Black Lives Matter being such an important moment for inclusivity, this project was a perfect fit for teaching our students future-ready skills like coding in a fun, artistic, and socially conscious way. Using all the new resources from the FuturePLAY room, we are preparing the next generation of innovators and expanding computer science education to more students from underserved communities”.
Under Robyn, Stephanie and Claire's guidance, 25 students from grades 6 and 7 decided to take on the task of finding their own voices. According to Stephanie “The length of the project (3 months) gave purpose and a good rhythm. Everyone was very involved in it and worked on it every day. We also knew we could trust the content and pedagogy”
The project also presented elements to educate young students the value of hands-on learning where students understand, talk, and question real-world problems and demonstrate mastery. The importance of learning to draw on academic content from multiple disciplines to solve a problem, learning to work in teams as well as a solo was also key. As Stephanie stated, “The project is so rich, it is not only about Math (coding and tempo counting), Arts or Music. We were able to connect it with our module on social studies, examining the role of activists and allies, it opened the door for students to talk about other forms of equity and explore subjects like slavery and different forms of oppression. We also connected the project with our poetry unit, as there was a deep emphasis on analyzing and interpreting lyrics”. Stephanie also mentioned that “The project is celebrating success through adversity and diversity. Our focus has been empowerment, inspiration, and collaboration. Oppression does not define people. We are learning as we go, and we are learning together”
At the end of the 3 months, Grandview Elementary chose two winning songs out of the school submissions, Chloe Division 7, Grade 6, and Isabella Division 8, Grade 7. Their songs were then entered into the overall competition that included all of Canada and the US. Read more about Chloe and Isabella’s experience HERE.
Your Voice is Power took a lot of effort and time from both the teachers and the students and was a resounding success for multidisciplinary and STEAM education. Grandview is an incredible example of embracing new learning initiatives and what students are capable of when given the proper resources and opportunities.