American author for encouraging students to ask questions through poetry, song and movement

“Music enriches children, it helps them learn better and with movement it makes it even more special,” says Jim Valley.

Not hard to believe if you were among the audience the American author, poet and songwriter enthralled with poetry written by children that he tuned to make it musical at a school in Chennai recently.

At a time when educators are paying more attention to renowned developmental psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences, Mr. Valley's three-city tour of the country, to inspire children to pen their own lyrics as well as to look at lyrics as concepts, seems an interesting activity for schools to consider. His workshop ‘Rainbow Planet' that he takes across the world is a programme geared towards helping students share their ideas and ask questions through poetry, song and movement.

He believes that if one has the feeling and enthusiasm, writing a song is easy. A majority of his workshops are aimed at children of the elementary classes. “They are more open. Their sense of wonder and connection to the world is from the heart,” he says, picking up different ideas from children to strum a school anthem on his electric guitar. Teachers are facilitators in most of his workshops, where a group project is taken up. The best points from each of the groups are put together as a poem, to give it a song. Some of his ideas on multiple intelligences-based activities which can be conducted in school are available here: www.rainbowplanet.com.

Imagination, friendship, environment, community building and multi-culture are some of the themes he explores with children. An advocate of music and art education in schools, Mr. Valley says, if the two are taken out of the curriculum, education becomes boring. “There are some parts even in the U.S. that do not honour music, they concentrate on tests,” says the 68-year-old, who has been teaching across schools for over two decades. Music, he believes, can shape and inspire children. “It can calm us, excite us and wake us up,” he says, adding that India with its culturally rich music can tap much more.

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