In a unique partnership that brought music and science alive for students, the Dallas Zoo and Dallas Symphony Orchestra developed a creative new program that melded animals and music, two things kids love but may never have imagined overlapping.
The program – which started at the Zoo to explore how animals move, and ended with soaring compositions at a unique DSO concert – encouraged cross-curricular learning, an interdisciplinary way of teaching that stimulates students to build connections and think in creative new ways.
In January, more than 3,000 students attended the culmination of this partnership, a “Music and Motion” youth concert featuring famous animal-themed music, along with orchestral arrangements of animal-inspired melodies composed by local students.
(Listen to the introduction to the performance.)
“Cross-curricular learning deepens the experience for students and can create connections that make learning real for them,” said Marti Copeland, Dallas Zoo’s director of Education. “Music stimulates the mind, and this program also incorporated movement, which has been shown to enhance brain activity. When students are doing something they are interested in or enjoy, they are ready to learn.”
Students kicked off the program in September with a special Animal Adaptations Tour, guided by Zoo educators. They observed animal movements, which were then related to Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) in Science through adaptations and physical traits used for survival. Students met a variety of animal ambassadors as they also searched for musical inspiration, including ocelots, flamingos, kangaroos, koalas, spider monkeys, and even Rufus – the Zoo’s illustrious bobcat.
“It was exciting to see the students in front of an exhibit and hear them talk about what they saw,” said Anna Lewis, the Dallas Zoo’s camp coordinator. “I loved seeing them try to move like the animals and make connections from one exhibit to another.”
Following the tour, Dallas Symphony Orchestra teaching artists led an interactive music composition workshop at the Zoo. Students were steered through the creative process, learning how to apply their observations of animal movements to write melodies.
A number of these original melodies, including “Leaping Kangaroos,” “Stalking Bobcats,” “Swinging Spider Monkeys” and more, then were selected and arranged for full orchestra by DSO Education Director Jamie Allen. The combined excerpts formed the single “Music and Motion” composition featured in youth concerts performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in January.
“I always enjoy seeing the ‘aha’ moment when that light bulb of inspiration hits,” Allen said. “We wanted to adapt the idea of music to animals in order to expand children’s minds, because learning doesn’t happen in silos. That’s just not how kids think.”
At the “Music and Motion” premiere, groups of DFW students were abuzz with excitement in the Meyerson Symphony Center as DSO Assistant Conductor Ruth Reinhardt introduced a flurry of animal-inspired pieces. Students heard the Dallas Symphony Orchestra perform such movements as Saint-Saën’s “Carnival of the Animals,” Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and Mancini’s “Pink Panther.”
(Listen to the Music and Motion performance.)
But the highlight of the afternoon was the world premiere of “Dallas Zoo Melodies.” Local student-composers enthusiastically clapped, cheered, and imitated their favorite animals as they heard their works come alive.
“The students who participated in the ‘Music and Motion’ program at the Zoo were very engaged throughout the experience,” Copeland said. “They were so creative in coming up with a rhythm and melody for each type of animal movement. When I heard the world premiere of ‘Dallas Zoo Melodies’ at the Meyerson this week, I enjoyed picking out the different animal-inspired melodies. The ‘Stalking Bobcat’ tune has stayed in my head for days!”
Love learning and animals? Find out more about the Dallas Zoo’s amazing classroom programs and partnerships today!