Guys Sing and Cooking For Life (p. 19) are two projects that received grants from Imagineaction, a program that promotes interaction between students and teachers and their communities. The program is sponsored by the Canadian Teachers Federation, the J.W.McConnell Family Foundation, and Greystone Managed Investments.
A throng of boys is gathered in the front hallway of Forestview Public School in Niagara Falls. A few have percussion instruments, someone has a guitar, but all of them are using their voices to belt out an energetic rendition of the memorable World Cup anthem “Waving Flag” by K’naan: “When I get o-older, I will be stronger, just like a wa-a-ving flag.”
But as popular as that song is, you won’t find any girls in this rehearsal. This musical gathering is just for “the guys.” Led by their music teacher, Keith Tait, these boys are throwing gender stereotypes to the wind and are part of an all-boys singing group at Forestview called “Guys Sing.” Tait started the all-boys choir in September 2010 to debunk the myth that boys don’t like to sing or be in choirs. “I wanted to do something that isn’t normally seen in an elementary school setting – something that could make a difference in boys’ views towards singing,” says Tait.
Guys Sing is also part of Tait’s effort to align his classroom arts program with the school’s growth plan, which focuses on engaging reluctant learners and encouraging male students to embrace literacy outside of the classroom. “Music is just another avenue for literacy,” explains Tait. “We’re constantly reading in this group – sheet music, CD inserts, lyrics from videos.” And the proof that Guys Sing is engaging is in the numbers. In the two short months since its inception, the group has grown to over 40 boys from grades 4 to 6 – nearly 75 percent of the male population in those grades. Tait has created a close-knit but casual environment where the boys choose the songs they’re interested in singing and help figure out how they’re going to sing them. On any given day, they might be singing tunes by Coldplay, Michael Jackson, The Police, or Bruno Mars.
Tait obtained funding from Imagineaction to purchase special black performance T-shirts. He involved the boys in the T-shirt design process from the beginning, but when the group saw them for the first time, they were beyond excited. “I seem to recall a lot of screaming and yelling,” laughs Tait. “The shirts really cemented their bond and you could see that they really felt like a true singing group.”
The boys wear their shirts with pride when they give their energetic performances at pub- lic concerts, retirement homes, and school board functions.