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Strumming through lunch breaks

Sparta — It sounded like a pop concert, but it was actually Appleview’s ukulele club warming up, accompanying the Imagine Dragons song, “Thunder.”

Led by music teacher Adria VanWyk, some 20 fifth-graders played flawlessly through the chords, following the music on the big screen in front of them.

“Okay. Good job,” said VanWyk. “You know what? Based on how you were sounding during this, it’s starting to sound really clean because we’ve been practicing during lunchtime and during class. 

“Is there anybody who felt like this was too easy?”

All hands went up, so it was time to start a new piece: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

VanWyk first demonstrated two new chords. Then, “I’m going to teach you a reggae strum,” she told the group. “I would like you to focus on the chord changes, then part way through, you can start adding that reggae strum.”

Appleview’s ukulele club warms up

Learning Together

VanWyk said she learned to play ukulele last year and started teaching it this school year. All fifth-graders learn ukulele basics. At first, students learned strictly chords, but have started to learn how to pluck the notes.

‘It’s just really fun’

— fifth-grader Jessalyn Duvernay

VanWyk started the lunch club in January for any fifth-grader who wanted practice beyond regular class time. They meet every Wednesday.

“It’s just really fun,” said Jessalyn Duvernay. Fellow student Marina Steenstra, who looks forward to being a part of the middle school band next year, said she wanted to learn a new instrument.

Said Isaiah Flory: “What I like about it, it’s something special. You don’t get to do it every day — it’s a special thing, a special group you get to join.”

VanWyk said the club is meant to be laid back. 

“If they don’t really love going out for recess, it’s an alternative for them to try. It’s just something they have a chance to shine at, and I feel like it builds their confidence a little bit, too. My goal is to teach them a skill that would be therapeutic for them in some way or just enjoyable.”

Music teacher Adria VanWyk leads the ukulele club warmup

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

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Jane Lally
Jane Lally
Jane Lally is a reporter covering Sparta. Recently retired after working in state government and other areas, she found her way back to the journalism field again. She graduated from Central Michigan University and spent most of her career in writing, editing, graphic design/print production and broadcast closed captioning. She has written for The Grand Rapids Press, The Morning Sun in Mount Pleasant/Alma, MacDonald Publications in Ithaca, Leader Publications in Niles and The Herald-Palladium in St. Joseph. She strongly believes in the importance of public schools as they bring communities together and make them stronger. She is happy to be able to tell the stories of Sparta schools.


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