Feel the Beat

If you had happened by my summer camp classroom yesterday, you might have heard us clapping, stomping, and ch-ch-ching in our version of a human drum line. We were feeling the beat! Our theme for the day was rhythm, and although at first mention, the concept of rhythm might seem rather abstract for 5 and 6 year olds, they quickly caught on and became rhythm experts.

We began the morning by talking about rhythms we can hear, rhythms we can see, and rhythms we can make with our own bodies. Then we went on a scavenger hunt, searching for examples of rhythm in and around the museum. Our campers used digital cameras to capture examples of what they think rhythm is—some photographed water fountains, others found rhythms in the bark of a tree.

One camper found rhythm in this tree's bark


Another saw a rhythm in the rippling water

Inside the museum, we took a closer look at Counter Ground by Tatsuo Miyajima in the Silence and Time exhibition. This work of art takes up an entire room and consists of many LED lights blinking the numbers one through nine in an organized grid on the floor. The children quickly noticed that each light has its own unique rhythm—some count so quickly you can hardly see the numbers change; others count so slowly you might think the light is not working. We had fun clapping the different rhythms we saw.

"Counter Ground" by Tatsuo Miyajima, 1998-2000

Back in the studio, we worked with a variety of materials to create visual rhythms—stickers and adding machine paper, watercolors, and stamps. It was fun to watch how each child had her own way of approaching rhythm and incorporating it into art. Some preferred making simple patterns; others combined materials in new ways that I would have never thought of!

Rhythm stickers

We were also lucky to have Dr. Joni Jensen from Texas Women’s University come visit the class and share how she thinks about rhythm in her work as an assistant professor of music and choral activities. She played different types of music for us—from Darth Vader’s Imperial March to the Super Mario music—and we tapped out the beats in the music. But the best surprise was a chance to hear Joni sing opera. The kids loved it and begged her to sing more!

Dr. Joni Jensen playing a rhythm on an African bell

I think rhythm day was one of our best days so far, and many of the children seemed to instinctively catch onto what rhythm is all about. If you’re looking for a new way to visit our museum galleries with children, you might want to try feeling the beat! Have your children search for patterns or things that repeat in the art, encourage them to clap a rhythm for what they see, or ask them to describe the art with rhythm words (bouncy, swinging, pounding, floating, dripping, fast, slow).

Posted by: Leah


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Filed under Children’s art, DMA Programs, In the galleries, Just for Fun

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