Teacher Feature: Infant Classroom Explores Music

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week, we are featuring Katy Martins, Noel Ulmer, and Nessa Moghadam, who teach our youngest group of infants at SEEC, the Cottontails. These teachers recently explored music and musical instruments with their young learners, and thoughtfully selected activities and museum visits that were developmentally appropriate and suited the needs of their young age group. I joined the Cottontails on a visit to the Hirshhorn Museum, where they spent time in an auditory-based exhibit featuring quiet violin music. Below you will find a reflection from Katy, Noel, and Nessa, and some images from their lesson on music.

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What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?


We decided to explore music. The Cottontails love when we have music with Allison (SEEC’s music enrichment educator) and were really enjoying the different rattles we had around the room. Music was a great topic to explore because even with our various ages everyone would be able to participate.

Why and how did you choose the visit?


We chose our visit because we wanted to explore a new space. The Hirshhorn can be a great space because it is a very quiet, calm space and we really wanted them to be able to focus on the instrument and pictures we brought with us.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

We wanted them to get used to being in a new environment. We also wanted them to make a connection between the music that was playing in the exhibit and the sounds they were making with the instruments we brought along with us. With infants, sometimes all we want is for them to get used to longer visits without the buggies constantly moving.

What was most successful about your lesson? How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic? What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?


I think the instruments we brought were the most successful part of our lesson. It kept their interest while we were stopped at the exhibit and allowed them to make a connection between the music we were hearing and the music they made while playing the instruments. In preparing for our trip, we made sure that we had lots of options for holding their interest.

What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic? What was challenging regarding logistics?  What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

I wish we had more time to explore the space before we brought the kids. The Hirshhorn is a great place to go when they are a bit older because it is very visual and there is no space for them to come out of the buggies on a blanket like we do on most of our visits. We had a really great mellow visit but we know it’s not always so easy, and every visit could have different outcomes. I would recommend a teacher bring lots of manipulative objects and not be afraid to change plans. If we had gotten there and they all fell apart, we would have had to change our plan on the spot. Even though we didn’t need to, I wish we had just in case.

Here are a few photos from their unit on music:


Before venturing out to a different museum to learn about musical instruments, the teachers made sure their students had multiple exposures to music in their own classroom to become familiar with the topic. The class spent plenty of time singing, clapping, and exploring different types of shakers and authentic musical instruments.



About a week before their Hirshhorn visit, the class had their first exposure to a real trumpet.


Many children enjoyed pushing the trumpet’s buttons with their fingers and looking inside of the bell. Other children noticed that they could see their reflection in the shiny surface of the trumpet. One teacher played some loud notes on the trumpet as the children watched. Some were captivated by the noise, while others weren’t sure about the loud volume.


The following week, after more exploration, the teachers and students bundled up and walked across the mall to the Hirshhorn Museum. Before entering, Nessa read the children a book about musical sounds, while Katy and Noel provided them with the tactile experience of touching instruments related to the story.


The group then headed upstairs to view Susan Philipsz’ installation entitled Part File Score, a visual and auditory installation featuring sheet music and the sound of a violin playing.


The large space and music provided a great environment for this class of young learners to spend some more time exploring instruments through touching, shaking, and mouthing. The violin music selected for this installation often starts and stops abruptly – garnering some priceless reactions from these infants.


During this unit, the Cottontails experienced many types of musical sounds and were able to make cause-and-effect connections through hands on exploration with instruments. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their unit on music! See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!