Thanks to Story Tapestries and the Hoyt Center for the Arts, I had the opportunity to spend over a week working with third and sixth graders in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Although I’ve done many arts integrated residencies prior, this one stands out as a model for success. An appropriate name for the approach we took in New Castle might be “building community through the arts.” As a teaching artist, I most often work with students, or their teachers, or some combination of both. But in New Castle, I collaborated with students, teachers, a center for the arts, and local artists over the course of the residency. It was awesome and I hope to work in another community under the same residency model soon.

New Castle is a beautiful, old small town in Northwest PA near the Ohio border. I immediately felt at home since I was staying in someone’s house. The Marquez family, now my good friends, were kind enough to let me stay with them for the entire residency. In return, I manipulated Hector, the papa, into eating three salads in one week. But that’s another story. Suffice it to say that being able to live with a family in the community had a HUGE impact on my experience and I would consider it essential to replicating the residency model.

The residency kicked off with a wonderful professional development (PD) session at the absolutely stunningly beautiful Hoyt Center for the Arts. The PD was the perfect opportunity to meet the teachers and artists I would be working with and share my art of Human Beatboxing with them. Over the course of the three hour session, I was able to introduce the whole group to some of the fundamental techniques of beatboxing and demonstrate a few applications through arts integrated lessons. The best moment of the session was a long, informative discussion about one of the activities that led to a few significant upgrades to the activity. Thanks! As I always tell teachers, it is teachers that clarify and improve my own ideas.

Over the next five days, I worked in a third and sixth grade classroom at George Washington Intermediate School. Our objectives were different for each group. I was shadowed by two local artists from the community interested in arts integration. These artists were far more than shadows, and immediately contributed to the lessons. After the classroom work, I met with the artists for a debrief.

In the third grade classroom, we decomposed hexagons into triangles, rhombuses and trapezoids (sixths, thirds and halves, respectively). Each fraction was assigned a vocalization and thus students were able to perform the decomposed hexagons.

The sixth graders worked in teams to compose multi-part arrangements which were laid out on an X-Y plot. Below is a recording of one of the groups performing their piece:


An X-Y Plot composition arranged and awaiting performers.
An X-Y Plot composition arranged and awaiting performers.

The teams tackled music and math objectives. They worked together to perform their compositions, a process rich with musical skill development (steady beat, texture, form). Additionally, their teacher suggested a statistical analysis of the students composition. For example, the students created line plots to illustrate the change in volume over time of their compositions.

The artists that worked with us in the residency developed arts integrated lesson plans using a template I provided. One of the artists, dancer Shari Mastalski, went above and beyond the call of duty, and, on top of completing her own lesson plan, composed (with a little guidance) a rap based on lessons we observed in the sixth grade classroom. Below is the Integer Rap:

Integers are whole numbers for example one,
Two, three, four, five, up the number line they run.

Integers can be negative numbers when
They run the other way past zero like negative ten.

If the signs are different you must subtract
And take the sign of the larger number that’s a fact.

When you have to subtract, remember leave, change, flip
You may be confused but sit up straight and get a grip.

Now if only we had somebody to drop a beat…

About The Author

Max is a professional beatboxer and teaching artist. He enjoys teaching and performing for audiences of all ages.