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A Look at a New Integrated Fine Arts Curriculum

Among the very first people who supported me in the creation of Go West Young Mom were my daughter’s wonderful Kindermusik teachers, Larry Dieffenbach and Grace Bardsley. In fact, they were the very first advertisers on Go West Young Mom!

An illustration from one of the "What If We ...?" chapter books.Bardsley and Dieffenbach have impressive musical backgrounds, both hold music-related degrees and also teach private voice and piano lessons.

Now they are focusing their energies on a new path, called “What If We … ? The Quest and Questions of Leonardo and Athena.” It’s an integrated fine arts curriculum aimed at children ages 5 through 8.

Bardsley and Dieffenbach designed and wrote the whole curriculum themselves, and an artist illustrated the materials. It features a boy named Leonardo and his very wise friend Athena (she’s an owl, by the way) as they journey through various time periods, including the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Beethoven’s lifetime.

The curriculum revolves around music, with lessons in rhythm, solfege (sight-singing) and keyboard playing. But it also includes art projects, games, math and science projects, history lessons, journaling exercises and physical activity.

Children and their parents participate in the 75-minute-long lessons together and follow along with Bardsley and Dieffenbach as the class follows along with four chapter books.

For example, in the first book, Leonard and Athena head out to meet Hilegard of Bingen, a poet, scientist and musician in the Middle Ages. She urges the characters to call her “Hildie,” and they get to listen in on a choir rehearsal that leads to a discussion of Do-Re-Mi.

In the lesson plan for that section, children discuss the word “wisdom,” and explore the question “How does your day sound?” They are urged to think and talk about the sounds they hear in the morning differ from evening sounds.

That chapter has a great quote that sums up much of what Dieffenbach and Bardsley are trying to accomplish with “What If We …?”

“Leonardo felt this heart beating faster from knowing he was about to learn something new.”

If you want your child to learn something new, a session of “What If We …. ?” is being offered this fall. Dieffenbach and Bardsley teach the 30–week course in a church in St. Charles. Personally, I think it would be an especially great opportunity for families who are home-schooling.

To learn more about “What If We … ?” you can check out the website, which also has some detailed interactive elements that Dieffenbach and Bardsley are working on as they seek to bring the course to a wider audience.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the course starting this fall –- or want to be notified of future classroom opportunities with “What If We? … “ -- please contact Larry Dieffenbach at lsdieffenbach@sbcglobal.net or by phone at 630-208-9761 or Grace Bardsley at Moimom1@aol.com or 630-779 7254.

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Reader Comments (1)

Hello Teacher Grace and Teacher Larry!!! This looks amazing. You guys are quite gifted - thank you for sharing your knowledge, passion, and creativity. Claire and Alec miss you lots, and I do, too.

September 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

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