The Frenship Foundation for Leadership provides teacher grants to help fund materials, technology, supplies, and innovative projects that engage students and spark a passion for learning.

During the annual Prize Patrol event, Holly Stone, the music teacher at Westwind Elementary, was awarded a grant to purchase 30 ukuleles and a rack. Stone’s grant was awarded through funds provided by one of the Frenship Foundation for Leadership’s sponsors, H-E-B.

Stone decided to write her grant for ukuleles because she believed they would be a great tool to help foster a lifelong love of music in her students, as well as aid in teaching music fundamentals. Many students get more excited about music when they get to play an instrument or be actively involved in music making.

Music provides opportunities to make cross-curricular connections. Students often practice counting, fractions, and reading fluency when they read music. Additionally, they make connections to history when they discuss subjects such as composers, styles of music or the development of instruments. These connections allow for discussions that directly correlate and reinforce what is being taught in their other academic classes.

The ukuleles are a great first instrument for students as they are more accessible to play for most beginners. The students really gravitate towards the Ukulele as they can begin playing songs they hear on the radio after learning only a few chords.

At Oak Ridge, second through fifth graders started learning to use their new ukuleles. Stone had the student go through a rotation of stations in small groups practicing skills such as rhythm counting, instrument family sorting and rhythm dictation. Stone was set up at one of the stations to discuss proper care of the ukuleles, how to hold them and learned their first two chords.

It was immediately clear the students loved playing the ukuleles. Stone stated that the students get very excited when they come to class and see on the board, they will be learning something new on the ukuleles. They have already learned a few chords and will begin playing songs as a whole group next week.

“It has been such a joy to see them celebrate with one another as they develop new skills,” said Stone. The ukuleles provide many opportunities for the students to make connections with each other and work together as they all learn a new instrument.

“I believe that elementary music education is important because music is a place where every student can be successful and included,” said Stone. “I have found that all students, even those that struggle academically, athletically, or socially find their place in the music room. Music breaks down the walls that divide students. Every student is included and important when they sing or play an instrument together. “

The students are also learning and practicing life skills in music with the ukuleles. They are regularly provided with opportunities to practice teamwork, problem solving, public speaking/performing, and responsibility. These are all skills that will serve them well in the future even if they choose not to pursue music.

“I would like to say thank you to the foundation and H-E-B for believing in our students and the power of music education,” said Stone. “Our students are richly blessed by your continuous support. We cannot thank you enough for being willing to help provide new opportunities and experiences for our students.”