Learning About Nature Through Music & Performance

Wings of a Feather with Constant Wonder at the Eric Carle Museum

(c) Hilltown Families

Connie and Alice of Constant Wonder. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

If you’re a parent or a teacher looking for music to supplement a nature based curriculum at school, or would like to get your kids more engaged in learning about the world around them, Grammy selected Constant Wonder has your name written all over it. Connie Gilles, a songwriter/teacher, and Alice Weiser, a dancer/singer/actress, are both from New York and love to teach facts and reverence for animals, insects and nature through both their music and interactive, on-stage performances.

My daughter and I met up with Connie and Alice on their most recent visit to our area. They stopped into the studio on Saturday (08/25/07) to do a guest DJ set with us, preceding their performance Wings of a Feather at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts. (Click here to listen.)

(c) Hilltown Families

Live on the Hilltown Family Variety Show at WXOJ 103.3FM, Northampton, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The three of them hit it off famously. They loved listening to all of my daugher’s stories about insects and pets. They had her singing along and interacting with songs they perform live in the studio. And sharing their new treasures with her, she got a kick out of peacock feathers, an ostrich egg, and an emerald green emu egg they brought with them, presented by the folks at the Starlight Llama Solar B&B and Llama Farm in Florence, MA.

Following their guest DJ set, my daughter and I headed over to the Eric Carle Museum to see their live interactive performance. Their name, Constant Wonder, celebrates the wonder children have about the lives of animals and insects. The duo was a delight and very engaging with the audience. They performed several songs that drew on the theme of their show Wings of a Feather, including “Make A Wish,” “Ladybug,” “From Fluff to Feathers,” ”
Sometimes It’s Tough To Be a Bee,” “Magnificent,” and “Save Me, I’m Your Earth.”

(c) Hilltown Families

Performance at the Eric Carle Museum (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The centerpiece of their performance is the Constant Wonder “Wonder Trunk.” It’s a very large tree trunk that they open up before each song after the audience shouts out, “Constant Wonder!” Inside the trunk are props they use to introduce the audience to the educational message of their next song. At this past Saturday’s show they pulled out ladybug wings, their new emu and ostrich eggs, peacock feathers, a honey bee costume, a large honey comb, a caterpillar and butterfly wings.

The show opened with their theme song “Constant Wonder” and then invited the kids in the audience to come up on stage. With fingers to their temples they were asked to think about how their favorite animal or insect might move about. Then on the count of three, twenty kids, hopped, slithered, flew and dove into imaginary waves before singing “Make A Wish.” (Click here to see video.)

(c) Hilltown Families

Kids singing along at the ECM. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Several time kids in the audience were invited back up on stage to participate. Children curled up on stage as if they were baby chicks inside of an egg. They wriggled their way out of their shell, walked around the stage peeping like chicks, and then grew wings and flew around the stage as owls. And as always their song, “Fluff to Feathers,” drove home the learning experience with engaging lyrics and music.

Whether the kids on stage were pretending to be dead lady bugs or Signing the lyrics to “Save Me, I’m The Earth,” each song engaged the audience though movement, followed by a song. It’s a formula that is very successful when teaching children through music and performance. Put this formula in the hands of two energetic, inspired and talented teachers and you have real winner.

To learn more about Constant Wonder visit them on-line at www.constantwonder.com.

Click here to subscribe to the HFVS podcast.HEAR HERE: The Hilltown Family Variety Show can be heard on-a on WXOJ LP, 103.3 FM, Valley Free Radio, out of Northampton, MA.

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    2 Comments on “Learning About Nature Through Music & Performance

    1. Constant Wonder’s Upcoming Performance Schedule

      Sunday, September 16, 2:00 pm
      KidFest! at Old Westbury Gardens
      1 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY
      516-333-0048, Old Westbury Gardens
      This performance is FREE with general admission!

      Sat. and Sun. September 22 and 23
      Long Island Children’s Museum
      Two shows each day: 1pm and 3pm
      11 Davis Avenue, Garden City, NY, 516-224-5800
      Long Island Children’s Museum

      Saturday, September 29
      Pumpkin Fest! at Suffolk County Farm, 12:30 and 2:30 pm
      Yaphank, NY, 631-852-5300
      Come enjoy a full day of family fun!
      There will be pony and wagon rides, pumpkin picking, face painting and more! Suffolk County Farm and Education Center

      And save this October date!!
      Ghouls and Gourds Festival, Sunday, October 28, 12:45 pm
      Brooklyn Botanic Garden
      This will be a terrific afternoon of music, performances, giant puppets and a costume parade led by a Brazilian drum corps! Wow!

    2. Dr. Marmalaid, A Puppet Show at the Children’s Art Museum
      Sept 15 2007, 11am Tickets:$12 (non members) $10 members

      Learning about Nature through music and performance…You have read all about the concept on Hilltown Families. Now is another chance to participate in a performance locally. Dr. Marmalaid has traveled the world helping animals in distress. Her gentle, empowering methods leave everyone with a sense of well-being and adventure.

      She introduces the children to many puppet friends: a gorilla with a belly ache, a singing dinosaur, a snake that wants to be a kitty, a giraffe, crow, rabbit and many others. All the animals come to Marmalaid for help.

      The children become her assistants giving hugs, words of encouragement, and even translating for a lost puppy. A beautiful map is the backdrop for Dr. Marmalaid’s world. Her traveling “Emerge-And-See” Wagon will surprise and delight.

      Marmalade Productions specializes in educational and inspiring puppet / school shows. In addition to puppetry the company has an area of Roving Characters ideal for Festivals. Marmalade Productions is biased in the Berkshires.
      They recognize the importance of participation and value the input and reactions of their young audience. “until we play before a live audience we can’t fine tune a piece…we depend on the children to tell us, when we are holding their attention when we are losing them and when they need to hop up and participate in some way.” In a live performance the child feels that their presence has significance.

      For More info on Marmelade Productions:

      Tony(a) Lemos
      The Children’s Art Museum

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