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Elementary Music Teachers Share Rainbow Connections

At first, the rainbows appeared in windows around the world, and then people began singing rainbow songs. Every day, new YouTube renditions of rainbow songs, both classics and originals, have increased on the social media platform. 

As the CHCCS elementary art teachers developed their Rainbow Connection lessons, Dr. Brenda Whiteman, arts education coordinator, was inspired to create a playlist of different musicians covering “Over the Rainbow,” and “The Rainbow Connection,” including  Spanish and instrumental versions of each.  As Kermit the Frog sang in his breakout hit of “The Rainbow Connection,”  “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?”

“I thought it could be useful as either a listening resource for kids while they are creating art, or as options for the music teachers to work into lessons,” Whiteman said about the playlist. 

When Whiteman shared the idea of rainbow song lessons with the music teachers, she wasn’t sure if such an instructional extension would be possible. “I do think that it could be amazing,” she emailed the music teachers. “And a really great way to bring together the 6,000 elementary students in our community.”

The music teachers began sharing their ideas for activities linked to the rainbow art instruction through their Professional Learning Community (PLC), and soon many of them were recording their own versions of rainbow songs for their K-5th grade students. 

Amanda Phan, music teacher at Ephesus Elementary School (EES), recorded herself singing “The Rainbow Connection,” with guitar accompaniment. Chelsea Kutner, McDougle Elementary School (MES), recorded the song as well for the weekly lesson. Amy Evers from Seawell Elementary School (SES) played guitar and sang “Rainbow,” a 2018 original song by Kacey Musgraves that has gained popularity this spring since the singer performed it for the “One World: Together at Home” concert.

Morris Grove Elementary School (MGES) music teacher, Lois Jarrell, is a saxophonist, and she shared both a vocal and saxophone solo in her video to MGES students. Erika Pawlowski, Carrboro Elementary School (CES), shared “A Rainbow Song” written to the tune of “Are You Sleeping?” - recorded with an acapella app that allows the teacher to sing the song in a round. Pawlowski also used the Rainbow songs playlist created by Whiteman for the district-wide Music Choice Board.  She encouraged students to listen to the music while relaxing.  

Sheila Fleming, music teacher at Mary Scroggs Elementary School (MSES), was so inspired by her students’ art, she created a video montage of their many rainbows as she sang “The Rainbow Connection” to her students.

Rody Huertas Ostolaza is teaching his first year at Frank Porter Graham Bilingue Elementary School (FPGB), after working with the school community in September 2018 during a weeklong arts residency on processing trauma through arts instruction. He and his Puerto Rican colleagues all experienced the catastrophic damage and life changes caused by Hurricane Maria, and they taught FPGB teachers and staff about how they incorporated trauma-sensitive practices into the arts.

Huertas Ostolaza said in an email, “This first year has been great even with the situation we are living right now. When I decided to continue my career as an educator in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, I highlighted the importance of teaching music, using contexts that are practical and innovative for the student from an early age.” He created a multi-track recording of “The Rainbow Connection” that brought praise and excitement from his colleagues.

In an email to his PLC, Huertas Ostolaza said, “Honestly, this is my first time singing in English. I'm learning a lot watching all your lessons and I thought, I should try a little singing. Thank you for all your support during my first year. I learned a lot from you!”

“I had a Google meet with some of my students,” Jarrell said. “They were saying how much they miss being with others and having that connection of making music together.  We talked about people singing songs about rainbows around the world, and they felt that the rainbow songs were a way that, even though we are not going to music class, we can still have a musical experience together.  

“I had several staff members and some families email, saying that hearing the song was so moving it brought tears to their eyes,” Jarrell added. “This experience has really reminded me of the power of music, and that as music teachers, sharing these songs is a way of showing our school communities that music can be used to uplift each other and bring a sense of unity during this time of uncertainty and isolation. What an amazing experience this has been!”