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- Red Mountain Writing Project
Music is the Glue: A Writing Camp Perspective
Music has the innate ability to transcend time, space, culture, generations and more. During the third week of The Red Mountain Writing Project, Grammy-Nominated Songwriter/Producer Alvin Garrett taught 7-10th grade students how to turn their thoughts and perspectives into music.
For two hours every day, students spent time analyzing Garrett’s songs for social justice issues, while recognizing the influence of music. Students took their perspectives on these issues and expressed them through the platform of a song, giving campers the opportunity to view music from a different lens.
“The purpose of the camp is for the kids to understand their perspectives,” said Dr. Shonterrius Fountain, Birmingham City Schools teacher. “Children perceive the world totally different than adults.”
The idea to infuse music into the curriculum was the brainchild of Dr. Fountain. For the past five years, she has written the writing/music curriculum with the intent to use music and writing mechanisms to assist students in gaining worldly perspectives.“
There is a process to writing and putting the pen on the paper,” she said. “We tell the kids that your perspective guides your thoughts. Your thoughts guide your speech. Your speech guides your action, and it just continues to go that way.”
As a songwriter, Garrett gave another level of expertise in the process of songwriting. He focused on helping students find their unique approach to writing and applying that approach to meaningful subjects.
“To me, I feel it is a gift to be able to take what’s in your mind, write it down and sing it for others to hear,” said Garrett.
Dr. Fountain and Garrett want to have an impact on the way the children think and perceive the world around them.“You can learn how to write songs,” Garrett said. “You can be excited about the song you write, but you need to learn how to think about, process and learn more about yourself and your perspective because writing has much to do with your perspective.”
“We want these kids to understand that music is more than just a melody,” said Dr. Fountain. “The music is the glue; the glitter is the words. Your words have power, and it’s all in the way you phrase and connect those words. That’s what gives us the music that we know and love.”
Many children learned about perspectives and the creation of music content for the first time, but at age 14, Martel already understood the importance of creating content in music.
“Since I’ve been writing and rapping for two years, it’s wonderful to connect with someone who is just like me,” Martel said. “Alvin Garrett is my musical inspiration.”
As a rising 9th grade student at Ramsay High School, Martel enjoys writing meaningful music on topics that he cares about and topics he feels like he needs to voice. He isjust one of many who have a passion for creating music and ultimately a passion for changing the world.
“I guarantee you that 20 years from now, you are going to be hearing and reading about these kids, and you will be inspired by their words, thoughts and deeds,” said Dr. Fountain.
Garrett provides advice for all ages whether passionate about creating music or not.
“Just keep your dream going,” he said. “Never give it up. If you’ve got something on your mind, get it out there. Speak. Don’t just be silent.”
About Red Mountain Writing Project
The Red Mountain Writing Project has been instilling the importance of writing into Birmingham City Schools’ students since 2009. They cover four themes over four weeks that include writing about Birmingham, fake news, musical content and STEM.
- GEAR UP Birmingham Steps UP at ASU
The ASU-Birmingham City Schools GEAR UP STEM Summer Boot Camp gives students the opportunity to connect classwork with engaging, hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is a two week, residential experience that students enjoy on the beautiful campus of Alabama State University in Montgomery, AL.
During the summer of 2017, ASU hosted over 125 rising 9th and 10th grade students from the Birmingham area. These students were provided unique experiences in fields such as forensic science, engineering, cancer biology and life / health sciences. Throughout the course of the boot camp, ASU’s top professors taught over 15 hours of instruction in specific STEM disciplines assigned to the students.
The Forensic Science campers processed several crime scenes for evidence, examined various fingerprint samples and performed toxicology laboratory experiments.
Cancer Biology campers were taught the appropriate method to find cancer markers in mock blood samples.
Campers studying Life Science participated in the dissection of fetal pigs focusing on the cardiovascular and digestive system.
The Engineering campers designed catapults using binder clips, created a stable place for an egg drop (to protect the egg from breaking), and designed a stable house using only marshmallows and toothpicks.
All the boot campers improved their skills and knowledge in reading, writing, English and mathematics. Each camper completed 32 hours in these basic skills to prepare them for the upcoming year of high school. While enjoying their stay at ASU, the campers also focused on wellness and bonding activities together. These activities included dancing (Zumba), making vision boards, attending plays within the ASU Theatre Department, playing board games and basketball. Another highlight of the boot camp was college night, a time for the campers to ask current college students about their college life experiences.
ASU STEM camp focuses on preparing students educationally, emotionally and mentally to attend college upon completion of their K-12 studies.