When Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University launches its new Foundation Phase building on April 4, its students will have the opportunity to participate in a unique music workshop, learning skills they can one day take into their own classrooms.
The new building has been designed around the Education Faculty’s new Foundation Phase (Grade R to 3) curriculum, which hinges on the tried-and-trusted Reggio Emilia philosophy of child development. It is an alternative, innovative philosophy of education that draws on music, art, drama and languages to maximise the potential and many different forms of intelligence of all children.
Running the music workshop for the Foundation Phase students – as part of the launch activities on the day – is musician, composer, storyteller and educator Pedro Espi-Sanchis, who was born in Spain but has lived in Cape Town for more than 30 years. He has worked with thousands of teachers and community workers all over the world.
Espi-Sanchis specialises in instrumental African music – and uses workshops and stories to introduce children and adults to the world of music. But instead of using conventional musical instruments, his are fashioned out of dry kelp, paw paw leaves, wood, stones, tortoise shells, kudu horns, cow bells, hunting bows, and more – just as they were created some 60,000 years ago by early human beings in southern Africa.
“He can turn just about any material into a musical instruments. This session will help the teachers realise that they can use just about anything to make music in their classrooms, regardless of the resources available,” said Foundation Phase Programme Head Dr Deidre Geduld.
“It’s all about using what you’ve got at hand and creating learning experiences from that.”
Espi-Sanchis, who has written music content for Foundation Phase books published by Oxford University Press, said: “The students will be using instruments that are made very easily and taking them home with them as examples … They are designed to be used in the classroom.”
He will also be using the African storytelling style in the workshop. “Storytelling is arguably the first teaching method developed by humans to educate their children. I use stories in the workshop to introduce instruments and African music-making systems the students can apply in their classrooms.
“Education should be fun and creative … [I will teach] a method that leads to the making of real and creative music in the shortest time possible.”
The instruments used in the workshop will include the Makweyana musical bow, as well as the Ixilongo flute, the Kazoo and the “One Person, One Note” pipe ensemble, all made out of dry kelp.
Espi-Sanchis became well-known in South Africa as “Pedro the Music Man” in the long-running Kideo television series in the 1990s. During the 2010 Soccer World Cup, he created the Vuvuzela Orchestra which performed a repertoire of soccer songs.
The Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy taps into children’s potential by allowing them to express themselves in multiple ways, including art, music, drama and more. It is an approach that focuses on building a schooling systems that believes all children deserve good quality foundational education, not just those who can afford it.
Young children often represent words as drawings, others represent thoughts, numbers and images as colours or shapes, while others express their feelings in words or music or in silence.
These are some of the languages that young children use, and Foundation Phase teachers need to continuously be responsive to them for they are the creative roots from which literacy, numeracy and life skills are nurtured.