The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.
A Social Skills Curriculum
Christie Gray, Executive Director, Sistema Toronto
Sistema Toronto is in its second year of a three-year project dedicated to building a detailed and integrated curriculum focused on musical and social learning outcomes for its 250 students, aged 6-12. The music curricula components include music and moment, strings, choir, and percussion. We are also creating an integrated social curriculum, developed by a team of our teachers and rooted in experiential learning pedagogy, that is intended to be woven into teaching and learning outcomes for all music classes.
The first iteration of our social curriculum was rolled out in 2017-18 and is based on the overarching principals of empathy, effort and attitude. Each of 35 weeks of programming focused on a different social skill or ‘word of the week.’ Teachers were provided with lesson plans, videos, and inspiration that helped them weave the word of the week into their classes. Students and teachers talked about the concept, what it means, and what it looks like in practice.
For example, during one week we focused on the social skill of “forgiveness.” We asked students to think about how forgiveness is an essential part of Constructive Criticism and Teamwork, which we had talked about earlier in the year. Junior students listened to a Mozart aria about friendship and betrayal. Afterwards, they shared their own experiences and talked about how forgiving someone is an important part of relationships.
During another week, the focus was on Constructive Criticism; students and teachers talked about how to offer suggestions and strategies for improvements while making sure to offer specific compliments as well. Students put their skills into action that week; they spent an hour introducing our youngest students to a stringed instrument for the first time.
The second iteration of the Social Curriculum will be implemented in September. Students will spend more time on each social skill and will delve deeper into applying each concept in music, at school, and at home. Also, in Year One we found that our words of the week were often too unrelated from week to week, so in our second iteration we are planning monthly themes that tie more concepts together.