Assignment: Education – La Crosse music teachers introduce students to ukuleles

A grant allows La Crosse elementary schools to purchase 35 ukuleles

Playing an instrument can help teach determination and patience. Those skills are being practiced by a fifth grade class at Southern Bluffs Elementary School, in La Crosse, as they learn how to play the ukulele.

“It’s weird getting used to this, because it’s all nylon string and stuff,” said Southern Bluffs Elementary Schol fifth grader Landon Larson. “And if you don’t play violin or guitar or anything, it can really hurt your fingers.”

The ukulele lesson is new to La Crosse elementary schools. The district just received the instruments this year.

“Ukuleles are having a hay day right now,” said Southern Bluffs Elementary School music teacher Jill Schams. “They were kind of out of fashion for a long time, and that last few years, they’ve really come back into popularity.”

Because La Crosse elementary school teachers are tuned into the latest trends in music, 35 ukuleles were purchased with a grant awarded by the La Crosse Public Education Foundation. The instruments are rotated between all nine elementary schools.

“We thought if we take them for about a month at each school, give the kids kind of an introduction to the instrument, and then they’ll go on to the next school after that,” said Schams.

The ukuleles are being used to support the current curriculum by providing a fresh approach to teaching students the basics of playing an instrument.

“We teach recorder. A lot of schools teach recorder. We have African drums. We’ve got different instruments that we do share between schools,” said Schams. “Like the drums rotate from school to school, we thought this might be a good way to start having another instrument that can rotate.”

By introducing students to a new instrument, elementary music teachers are hoping to help children develop a life-long love of music.

“This just gives students another opportunity to express themselves and experience music in a different way,” said Schams. “We’re hoping that it gives them, maybe, some skills for band or orchestra and working on how to hold the frets, hold the strings.”

“I think it would be kind of fun to learn to play a different instrument, also,” said Southern Bluffs Elementary School fifth grader Lauren Buley. “Just learning, getting the feel for a different instrument. I think that that’s kind of fun.”

It’s this type of enjoyment Schams believes will help keep the arts alive.