Potter students connect recycling to music with the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra

Jan 14, 2019

What does music and recycling have in common? More than you think, as one musician is connecting her love of music to important environmental lessons.

New Bedford Symphony Orchestra Education Director Terry Wolkowicz has been developing classroom activities to connect her passion to education for years. In the past, she has used music to teach students about ecosystems. This year, it’s all about recycling.

On Jan. 14, Wolkowicz stopped by Potter Elementary School to show each third, fourth, and fifth grade class how they can make an impact on the environment.

“The idea is to take musical concepts and apply them to how we can fight plastic pollution,” Wolkowicz said.

She taught students how musicians practice the recycling tenets of reusing, repurposing, and recycling. Musicians often “reuse” existing songs by simply changing the notes, while keeping the same underlying pattern.

Repurposing existing songs is also quite common. Some incorporate the “retrograde” version of their songs by simply reversing it. Other times, musicians may invert a line of music, add to existing music, or expand it.

Finally, there’s recycling: Turning an existing piece of music into something totally new.

Potter students got to try their hand at each tactic in several activities Wolkowicz prepared.

Students transformed a traditional Beethoven piece into something new by incorporating different ways of reusing, repurposing, and recycling the notes. Others used Lego boards to move notes up or down to reuse them.

She even brought a little bit of science and engineering into the lesson, by having students identify pieces of plastic and showed how her electronic music board works.

The classroom visit is a part of Potter’s collaboration with the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, which has been going on for the past month. In March, it will culminate with a visit to the Zeiterion Theatre to see a live orchestra performance.

It is the third year the school has teamed up with the orchestra, noted Principal Heidi Brooks. Usually, Wolkowicz works with fifth graders, but this year Brooks expanded it to the third through fifth grade.

“I really want them to think about our environment, and what are we doing, and what are they doing, that will have an impact, and what could we change to have a more positive impact,” Brooks said.