Discovering the Magic of Music: Ottawa Elementary Students Write a Song about

Lindsay Chung

In the summer of 2012, Dana Campbell, a grade 2/3 teacher at Churchill Alternative School in Ottawa, heard a song that resonated so much for her that she called a fellow teacher so that she could play it for her. The song “Safe Here,” by Juno-nominated folk singer Craig Cardiff, talks about community, contribution, and turning words into actions. Together, the teachers decided to take this experience into their classrooms by inviting Cardiff to work with their students on creating a song that resonated with them.

In November 2012, after months of brainstorming and planning, Dana and her colleague Natalie Shorkey, who teaches Grade 4/5 at Churchill Alternative, had Cardiff join their classes and the whole school to participate in a day-long workshop to talk about “Music as Magic” and to work together to compose a song: “Love Turns I into We.”

Lindsay Chung spoke with Dana and Natalie about their experiences a week after the workshop.

How did you come to invite a singer-songwriter into your classroom?

Dana Campbell:  There was a song on Craig’s album Floods and Fires that I heard called “Safe Here” that really resonated with me. I wanted to find a way to bring it into the classroom. I met with my colleague Natalie and we listened to the song together. There are quite a few lines that embody a lot of what we focus on at our school. We wanted our kids to understand that having a safe environment is not just being physically safe, but also having a place where you can make mistakes and learn. We also wanted to talk to them about the difference between having one person contributing, versus a collective all working together. We felt that this idea was very powerful because it talks about how to make change happen both on a global scale and in our school community. It comes down to the idea of reminding children that they can make a difference.

Natalie and I ended up going to Craig’s concert at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec. After the show, we approached him with the idea of coming into our school to work with our community and it snowballed from there.

Is music a big part of school life?

Natalie Shorkey:  We’re fortunate in that we have a lot of knowledgeable and musically inclined teachers at the school. For kids who struggle with academics, music can provide an opportunity for them to excel.

How did you incorporate “safe here” into your classes?

DC: We started by introducing the song in mid-October and focused on a few Big Ideas, including what community, contribution, and “I” versus “we” thinking are. We brought our classes together four or five times, brainstorming and working in teams. It



closeup of students working together on project

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