The greenest of them all, music is eternally renewable, reusable and recyclable
Yet another research project -- this one German --- shows that children who make music together are more inclined to behave in a cooperative way.
An article in Miller-McCune summarizes how 96 4-year-olds in Leipzig demonstrated how group musicmaking promotes social behaviour. Here is the meat of the findings:
The researchers conclude that engaging in the “shared goal of vocalizing and moving together in time” strengthened the children’s “sense of acting together as a unit.” Their results support the hypothesis that music originally evolved as a way of fostering group cohesion, by “generating an intuitive feeling of community and bonding among the performers.” (Researchers from Singapore, who worked with college students as opposed to preschoolers, recently reached a similar conclusion.)
“It is unlikely that children at the age of 4 made any rational choice like ‘because we just played music together, I will help you now.’ More likely, the children in our study made an intuitive decision to help the other child because they felt immediate empathetic concern with the peer’s misfortune the moment they saw the accident happening and felt committed to give support somehow,” Kirschner and Tomasello add.
“Understanding music as a collectively intended activity – with specially designed features that satisfy this human desire to share emotions, experiences and activities with others – might explain why the children in our study felt a stronger commitment after joint music-making, and so spontaneously helped or cooperated with one another.”
This is something that anyone who has worked with children and music notices immediately.
The researchers would absolutely retort that this type of work needs strict parameters, but I can't help thinking that there are several other kinds of group-focused creative activities that would have produced a similar outcome: painting a mural, planting a garden, building a birdhouse, etc.
So what makes music so special within this narrow context: It is less messy, it is weatherproof and is the greenest product on earth, being eternally renewable, reusable and recyclable.
This summer will go down as the summer of Glee camps. I keep hearing about traditional summer camps across North America who have bumped up their music programmes to plug into the huge swell in interest in song and dance among Glee-watching kids.
Here is a nice little profile of a typical effort currently underway in St. Charles, Missouri. As the teacher says near the end of the video, the self-confidence these kids learn will help them in just about every aspect of their adult lives: