History classes can be an enjoyable journey through time for students. However, history is often presented in a dry and/or non-experiential manner. Music history can be one of the areas of study that the second paradigm often holds true. When I take a look back on the my own music education, most lessons that focused on composers and their historical context were the least enjoyable and most quickly forgotten. I am surely not alone. In a 2007 study, Campbell, Connell, and Beegle found that one area of concern middle schooler noted about their music classes was “boring music” they learned about that did not relate to their musical taste. So, why is it that music history and “classical” music, in general, is regarded as boring areas of study for so many students? The problem could lie in the way in which such lessons are presented. How can music educators expect students to enjoy learning about and retain information on music history when, all too often, it is presented in the form of outdated, lecture style lessons that do not seem relevant to students’ lives, their educational needs, and personal preferences?
For my music history domain, I tired to find a way to present Western Art Music History to my students experientially in an interdisciplinary manner so that they would find enjoyment and relevance in what they learned. I regularly include classical music in my lessons and fifth grade students are expected to experience a survey and display a basic level of understanding about four periods of Western Art Music History; Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century/Modern. Yet, I have always struggled with marking these types of lesson highly engaging. Therefore, I developed some methods, tools, and projects that would assist me in teaching this part of my curriculum in a way that would be well received by my students and also leave them with a developing body of knowledge. In doing this, I attempted to change the way I taught to help develop my students’ “21st Century Skills” of collaboration, critical thinking, making global connections, self-direction, and use of technology as a learning tool, as described by Ravitz, Hixson, English, and Mergendoller (2012). Two methodologies utilized as guiding concepts to achieve these ends are Project-Based Learning (Solomon, 2003) and flipped learning as advocated by Kahn (2011).