ATTICA, Ind. (WLFI) - Most of the students are only six years old, but already know how to hold and play a violin.
It's called the Attica String Project, and it's teaching first grade students so much more than music. When Ann Harrison saw what was happening at an elementary school in Bloomington, she was determined to bring the project home.
First grade students begin their general music class at Attica Elementary with rhythmic clapping and stretching, preparing their voices and their fingers for the violin. Kasia Bugaj is working on her Ph.D. at Indiana University. She drives twice a week from Bloomington, to teach the school's violin program for first graders. For 40 minutes, students stand on a square of carpet and learn more than how to play the violin. Bugaj weaves geography, math and English education into her violin lessons with the students.
"We're looking at a map to look at Italy, because Italy makes an appearance as you'll see, and all of a sudden, 'What's that blob?' 'Oh, that's France,' 'Oh,' and they are making this framework that then later they can fill in as they're getting older and school happens, and all that. It's interesting if you're making it exciting. Why not? I mean they don't know that they're not supposed to know these things in first grade," said Kasia Bugaj.
Ann Harrison has lived in Attica for 30 years, and is a member of the Indiana University Foundation. When she saw IU's pilot project at a school in Bloomington, she was determined to bring the education to Attica.
"They can count to a hundred by 5s while holding their violins up in the Statue of Liberty position, which is building strength in their arm, but it's also teaching they can do it by 5s. They can count by 10s to a hundred, and they're working on 2s. They're working on geography, 'Where did the violin get started?'" said Ann Harrison.
Along with Harrison, community support helped to pay for 35 violins and Bugaj's lessons.
Clayton Henady teaches music to the students at Attica .
"I think the greatest thing about this class is instead of being more of a music-appreciation base, it's more of a music-doing class and so the kids are hands-on. They're doing things at all times. There's never a moment where any kid is not engaged," said Clayton Henady.
"I like about it when you get to put your bow on it and play it. That's my favorite thing to do," said first grade student Maddison Parker.
"It took a little while to practice it to get to the playing the bow with the violin," said Peyton Martin.
IU may look at how music education impacts learning in other areas. Until then, students are receiving lessons on the violin, an instrument many would never have had the chance to learn.
"It's the best investment. It's the most exciting thing that I have gotten to do ever. But for our whole community, it's wonderful," said Harrison.
Harrison said The Attica String Project is funded by donations and at no cost to students or the corporation. She said the goal is bring the project back again next year.
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