Using the Symphony to Teach Symmetry

Don't believe that classical music can be used to help students do better in school? The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra is proving that it can. In a recent concert at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, the members of the orchestra gave an integrated concert that showed how classical symphonies can teach students about essential concepts that can help them succeed in other traditional school subjects. They took the concept of symmetry and showed students how it exists in and pervades our daily life. 

Throughout the hour-and-a-half long concert, titled "Agents of the S.D.A." (Symmetry Detection Agency), students and their chaperones were shown how symmetry appeared in nature, in classical music, and in classrooms around their community. The concert is part of a series of annual concerts designed at showing how a concept that is fundamental to music can also be applied to other disciplines, such as mathematics, writing, or the visual arts. This year, their goal was to focus on three different types of symmetry: slide, mirror, and flip. The symphony gave real world examples of each type of symmetry followed with a musical example by a prominent composer in classical music history; for example,  Beethoven's 5th Symphony, which many of you may recognize, was used to demonstrate mirror symmetry:

The concert represents the culmination of months of outreach by the orchestra. Last fall, three NBSO members visited 50 different private, public and parochial schools across the state to perform at assemblies and introduce the concept of symmetry in music. Following that, Terry Wolkovicz, the Volunteer education director for the NBSO,returned to the schools, this time visiting individual classrooms and giving teachers and students, or SDA agents, activities to identify sources of symmetry in their classrooms and schools.

The result: over 8,000 students contributed and showed examples of each type of symmetry using xylophones, toilet paper roles, mustaches and dancing. 

The concert illustrates how classical music can be used to reenforce lessons in the classroom and strengthen skills and concepts learned in seemingly unrelated classes such as English and Geometry:

"Alaina Baptiste, a third grade teacher at the Rodman School in New Bedford, said her 27 students 'absolutely loved' the program and were excited to attend the Zeiterion performance.

'They found symmetry in their reading, writing and math,' she said, adding that the students benefited from having Wolkowicz visit her classroom to reinforce the concept through various fun-filled activities." 

Following the concert, the symphony has garnered attention nationwide from other orchestras interested in creating similar programs and concerts to engage youth and introduce them to classical music. 

Read the full article here on South Coast Today!

Also, if you haven't already, sign up for the New Bedford District Meeting on March 28th, 2014, from 1-2pm here!

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