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Donors Choose enables Ukuleles to be Teaching Tools

Did you know that ukulele means “jumping flea” in Hawaiian? Well, thanks to music teacher Jeremy Ryder and Donors Choose, it means more than that to students at Waxhaw Elementary.

Ryder recently created a project at DonorsChoose.org to obtain a supply of ukuleles to teach students at Waxhaw. Donors Choose is a not-for-profit web site where teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals choose projects to fund.

Lucky for Ryder and the students at Waxhaw, several anonymous donors funded his project. Now you can often hear the strumming of nine ukuleles in Ryder’s music classes.

Ryder chose ukuleles for his project for a variety of reasons. First and foremost he has noticed an increase in the interest of guitars and guitar lessons over the past 10 years.

“Guitar is now such a major part of modern music that it has edged out the piano as the leading instrument in most popular genres of music,” he said. “You can see it and hear it all around you and the bottom line is that kids want to learn guitar.”

Ryder feels the ukulele is the perfect instrument in response to children’s interests in guitars. The ukulele is an instrument in the guitar family that he can use with students from kindergarten to fifth grade because of its size and number of strings.

Ryder actually uses the ukuleles in various grade levels to teach goals and objectives set by the state. He can teach basic concepts like high and low, fast and slow, steady beat and unsteady beat with the ukuleles.

“I don’t know about most people, but I know I learn best by doing rather than just reading or hearing somebody talk,” Ryder said.  “By strumming a ukulele students are not only learning about what a steady beat is, but they are doing it.”

Ryder believes this gets students to a higher level of learning and it increases their spatial awareness skills as they learn to locate notes on the fret board.
Waxhaw Elementary principal Cheryl Lawrence said she is excited about the opportunity for students to learn with ukuleles in music class. “Anytime we have students actively engaged, we are affecting student learning in a positive way,” she said. “And ultimately, with the ukuleles, we may be developing the special talents of some students.”

While the Donors Choose project only funded nine ukuleles for his classroom, Ryder said he would eventually like to have 17 more ukuleles so everyone in a class can play at once. He even aspires to have two concert, two tenor and two baritone ukuleles so he can start a ukulele ensemble.


Written by: Kimberly Thomas
Posted: Sep 10, 2010 by Kimberly Thomas

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