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Students learn skills the fun way: making music


As Amanda Partlo strummed a guitar to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine,” a trio of Alto Elementary students pounded on tambourines in time to the music. For Mason Cross, it inspired a few dance moves as well.

Alto Elementary student Chase Beach keeps time to a song

“If I play loud, how should you play?” Partlo asked.

“Loud!” answered Lacey Rainey in a big voice.

“And if I play quiet, how should you play?” Partlo whispered.

“Quiet,” said Chase Beach, softly.

The trio of students in Cynthia Donahue’s cognitive-impaired classroom took part in 10 one-hour sessions this school year with Partlo, a music therapist at the Franciscan Life Process Center.

They practiced eye contact, motor skills, speech, focus and attention, and more thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Lowell Education Foundation.

Music therapist Amanda Partlo plays several instruments and sings during the interactive sessions

“This is so developmentally where they are at, to have music classes that require involvement,” Donahue said. The sessions “work all those skills we want them to have going forward. And that they are listening to someone besides me has been huge for them.”

Lowell Education Foundation President Heather Cooper said the grant made sense for the foundation to fund, because it “has substantial research behind it that supports its effectiveness in improving social behavior, creativity and vocabulary comprehension, just to name a few. It reduces anxiety and muscle tension, and allows students to learn better — and that’s what LEF is all about.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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