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Racine Unified Music Teacher Turns Virtual Learning into an Opportunity for International Collaboration

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

When the Racine Unified School District moved to virtual learning, Gifford Elementary School Vocal Music Teacher, Jack Senzig, chose to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem. While learning how to use various technologies for teaching and learning, Jack and his students in grades 3-5 managed to study music as a creative process, learning from musicians willing to share their time and talents with them.

One musician who responded to Senzig’s invitation was Jamaican artist Papa Michigan. “I tried to make connections with artists around the world,” Senzig said. “I also looked for music worthy of study that would make my students happy. They had been cut off from their friends and extended family and out of school since March. Papa Michigan's video was like a textbook of how to create a work of art.”

Papa Michigan responded to Senzig’s Facebook message, and the creative process has not stopped since. From allowing Senzig to create a “kid-friendly” version of his song to students studying the music video, discussing artistic choices, working through different drafts of videos, and crafting brief music videos of their own, all students made choices about who or what would be dancing, type of dance, setting, time, costumes, emotion, and target audience.

The product is a series of upbeat, student-created music videos. They studied other musical artists during the creative process but spent the most time on Papa Michigan’s video. “The thing I am most proud of is how students made their own creative choices showing they truly understood the concepts,” Senzig said. “Athletes, a car guy, baking, playing video games as well as dancers made videos that reflected who they are and what they love in life. Beyond that, having students communicate with musicians from other cultures has of a lot of value.”

Senzig continues to reach out to musicians around the world to work with his students. They will hear from composers from the UK and Iceland to learn about composition later in the year.

For more information and access to even more student videos, visit the Gifford Elementary Vocal Music web page.