Cross-curricular music education at Studio Bell

April 19, 2016

This past March, 2016, the NMC Education team invited several teachers to participate in a focus group to explore ideas for education programs at our new home, Studio Bell (plus, of course, to enjoy delicious snacks). Prior to this focus group, and ever since, our team has been working diligently on developing programs that continue to reflect the NMC Education philosophy, but integrate the incredible new exhibits and instruments that will live inside Studio Bell.

Photo courtesy Natalie Marsh

Teachers from various schools, subjects, and grade levels discuss NMC programming with the Education Team. Photo: Natalie Marsh.

What did we want to know?

During our focus group we had teachers test our website in order to determine the user-friendliness of our bookings system and to understand what, if any, improvements need to be made.

We had many questions about future programs at Studio Bell and what specific need each school requires. These questions included:

  • How long would your ideal field trip last?
  • What additional amenities do you require at a site you are visiting (i.e. lunchroom, cloakroom, etc.)
  • What was missing from our online bookings forms?
  • Why do you pick one field trip destination over another?
  • Do you have to raise extra funds for field trips?
  • What is it like to deal with bus bookings?
  • Do you value classroom space at a field trip destination?
  • What elements can make field trips more inquiry-based?
  • Have you ever used a provided “post-field trip lesson”?

What did we find out?

Luckily, our participating teachers had a lot to tell us! We were able to gain important insight in to the pitfalls of our website, including unclear titles and redundancies. Those are being addressed as we work on improving.

The participating teachers had many suggestions for how to improve bookings, and how to create an engaging field trip experience, including:

  • Creating all-day experiences for students
  • Clarity on our website, including clear distinctions between programs for different grades, and differences in roadcase and on-site programming
  • Clear and detailed curriculum connections on program pages
  • Partially completed field trip bookings forms, based on CBE and CCSD standard forms
  • Less time spent in classroom, more in exhibits
  • Allowing tours to be inquiry-based and led by student discussion, not a “script”
  • No pre or post-visit lesson plans, but rather suggestions of where to find more information, or on creating more inquiry-based activities
  • Cross-curricular programming
  • Allowing independent exploration of exhibits rather than a rigid tour experience
  • Ongoing conversations with NMC staff post-visit to allow inquiry to continue back in the classroom

Where do we go from here?

NMC has always excelled at creating cross-curricular experiences, so there is no doubt we want to continue this practice in Studio Bell. We don’t teach music lessons, rather, we use music as a way to open up curriculum connections. So what curriculum connections should we make?

We have been thinking about several programs for our new space that cover different topics for different grade levels. Planning continues, but our programs may include:

  • Music tours: Students explore various concepts while touring exhibitions in Studio Bell’s stages
  • Inquiry tours (Design your own adventure): Single or multi-day visit created with NMC Educators
  • Sound Science: Students gain an understanding of pitch, volume, and timbre, with hands-on activities
  • Canada’s Music Mosaic: Students explore Canada’s multiculturalism through the instruments we, and our ancestors, have played
  • Patterns + Ratios = Music: Students explore the connection between math and art
  • Lyrics and Landscape: Students explore how Canada’s landscape has helped create songs
  • Makerspace: Students construct and deconstruct string instruments

With these programs, we hope to make curriculum topics more relatable. Everyone—including children—will have some connection to music. These experiences can open the door to more complex topics in math, social studies, and science. Music can be used as an entry point to subjects students generally dislike or have difficulty understanding in a traditional classroom setting.

Teachers—and our education staff—hope that our conversations do not end when groups go back to school. Many benefits of music education are long term, and one short visit may not be enough. We want to be a catalyst for inquiry adventures in the classroom, and to promote music as a tool in lesson planning.

We are still exploring post-visit tools, but we definitely want the conversation to continue after the buses go home. If a program at Studio Bell can lead to the creation of a makerspace in a school, inspire the use of songs in lessons, or other uses of music and instruments in the classroom, then we will have completed our mission of amplifying the love, sharing and understanding of music.

Would you like to participate?

We are still in the planning phase, so stay tuned for updates on our official program offerings for the 2016-17 school year. The best way to find out when and how to book, is by signing up for our NMC Teacher newsletter, here. Besides on-site programming, we will continue to offer several Roadcase programs, where you can bring NMC collections and lessons right to your classroom.

If you would like to share any of your comments, ideas, or ask any questions, please contact us at

Please let us know any innovative ways you are using music in your classroom!

We look forward to seeing you at Studio Bell.

About the Author

Marcy Belva

Marcy has been at NMC since November 2015 as the School Programs Administrator. Her passions include museum education, crafting, animals, and science. She is currently trying to become a comic book nerd, despite being in her late 20's.

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