Minnesota School Of Music - February 2020


In a 2008 survey conducted by the National Trust in Britain, children were more likely to correctly identify a Dalek from “Doctor Who” than a barn owl. Likewise, a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8–18-year-olds in the U.S. found that the average youth spends more than 53 hours a week engaged with entertainment media. These statistics, coupled with growing concerns that children are spending less time outdoors, are leading to terms like “nature deficit disorder” and global initiatives to get kids outside. Why is contact with the outdoors so important? Researchers are answering this question by studying the benefits of time spent in nature. One benefit is that outdoor time helps kids understand boundaries and learn how to assess risk. As naturalist, author, and broadcaster

Stephen Moss puts it, “Falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk-reward.” Not to mention, time in nature may help improve focus for hyperactive kids. In one national study of youths by the University of Illinois, participants’ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms were reduced after spending time in a green setting versus a more urban one. This may be due to the fact that natural environments call upon our “soft fascination,” a less exhausting type of focus than what is required by urban environments. Emotional benefits were discovered too, including reduced aggression, increased happiness, and improved self-esteem. Beyond just getting outside, the type of contact we have with nature also matters. Visits to nature centers and watching “Planet Earth” are two ways to

experience the outdoors. But research points specifically to the importance of free play in the natural world: unstructured outdoor time when children can explore and engage with their natural surroundings with no curriculum, lesson, or activity to complete. Ever notice how kids are fascinated by the simplest things? A child visits a rose garden, but before they even get to the flowers, they become captivated by a leaf on the ground or an ant crawling on their shoe. Children are born naturalists. These are the moments we need to recapture. Take a page out of that kid’s book, and as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses — or leaves or ants — with no checklist and no plan, just time spent playing outside.


As we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the meaningful connections in our lives, we wanted to touch on a key part of any good relationship: communication. From significant others to business partners, having an open dialogue is crucial to any healthy, happy partnership. The same can be said about your relationship with your child’s music instructor. We’re lucky to have truly dedicated professionals on our teaching staff here at MnSOM. They all have the experience and skill to make a difference in your child’s music education. However, they can’t see every aspect of your child’s life. As a parent, you can provide valuable insight into struggles your young musician may be having at home. When a student struggles during home practice or feels they aren’t being challenged enough, they may think there is nothing they can do. In these moments, it’s easy to become frustrated

or bored — and the idea of avoiding their instrument becomes more and more enticing. Left long enough, this small practice problem could have your child convinced they just don’t like playing music. In these moments, it can make a world of difference to bring their teacher into the conversation. Teachers can change practice styles, teach new techniques, and even adjust the difficulty of the exercises. Our teachers want students to learn and grow through their practice and have no problem adjusting to your child’s needs. They just need to know a problem exists in the first place. So, if practice frustrations have your child thinking of giving up their musical education prematurely, have a talk with their teacher. Don’t throw in the towel at the first signs of trouble. Chances are, a minor change can get them back to enjoying music and the learning process.

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