Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.

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« Getting Boys Interested in Art, Again. | Main | Creating the Right Moooo’d During the Holiday Season »

November 30, 2015

Creating the Right Moooo’d During the Holiday Season

From: Hester Menier

The real question at the holidays isn’t, “What do you want for…?”, it’s how to keep the peace as the craziness of the holidays commences. This year I found some inspiration while driving home from an art workshop, listening to NPR (National Public Radio). As I listened, a story peaked my interest about a small town near where I grew up called Fairfield, Iowa. Fairfield is home to the Maharishi University of Management (MUM), a school founded in the 1970s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the known guru to the Beetles and other celebrities. At the university students practice transcendental meditation and other consciousness activities in order to improve their academics and quality of life. 

But the story wasn't about the students at the university, it was about cows. Radiance Dairy and Farmer Francis Thicke, use music from the MUM university radio station in their milking barns. While milking the cows enjoy Gandahara Veda, an Indian/Persian music that is designed to be in tune with nature, which reduces stress on the cows while they're milking. Research has shown that when the cows are calmer they produce better and more milk. Silly as this may sound both the University of Indiana and the University of Leicester in the UK have done extensive research on the effect of music on cows.  

So, if this works for cows, I wondered would it help my students be less stressed and more productive. 

So I did a little more research. Gandahara Veda music changes throughout the day as the dynamics of the day change. Each melody is designed to match a three hour time period called a Prahara; at sunrise, morning, midday, afternoon, sunset, evening, midnight and late night. In addition you can also listen to Ragas, which can be played anytime day or night. The music is written to work with the correct sound currents for each of those time periods. A sound current is a vibration sent through any type of noise. According to Vedic tradition the music resonates with the natural frequencies of the universe and allows those who listen to it to feel more connected, calm. Best said by their website “to create balance in nature and peace in the world.” Couldn’t we all use a little peace in the world! 

I gave this a test run on a very special group of students. Once a week, I have a self-contained class of ED students who visit my classroom for some supplemental art time. It was a rainy morning, so I chose a Rainy Melody by Patanjali Greek I found on YouTube. At first the students didn’t even notice the music. I taught a lesson on Zentangle and when we started to draw the first string, I pointed out the music. I wanted them to slow their hands to the pace of the music. As they started to draw I saw a change, they were so quiet and their usually frantic movements slowed to calm strokes with a permanent marker. They were very focused and worked for more that 30 minutes with little talking. This was the complete opposite of the regular behavior they exhibited during these visits. 

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2nd grade working on patterns to decorate their journals 

Since then I have used the Gandahara Veda music with all of my classes and often leave it on while I am on plan. The students don’t mind it at all, and a few even request to have it played. I never had this reaction when I played rock or country. It always seemed to cause mass groans or boisterous sing alongs. Either way it distracted from the work in the room.  Something about the slow repeated sounds definitely brings a calm and focus to the room. If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, you may want to see some of the other selections the cows enjoyed. Either way, setting up the classroom enviroment with calming sounds can create a less stressed, more focused space for your students, at a time when so much crazy is happening around them. Wishing you all and “Udderly” Delightful Holiday Season!

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