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Schoolcraft introduces the ukulele

Schoolcraft Learning Community music teacher Jake Wiltermuth teaches the ukulele to his classroom of eighth-graders. This year the charter school began incorporating the ukulele into is music curriculum. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – With half the class strumming chords and the other half playing the melody, even a casual listener could easily identify the piece as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

This year eighth-graders at Schoolcraft Learning Community have been introduced to the ukulele, a smaller member of the guitar family.

“It’s kind of hard, but it’s really fun to learn,” said eighth-grader Sabrina Suggs.

Music teacher Jake Wiltermuth began teaching the ukulele this year to older students as another way to offer hands-on music learning, much like fourth- and fifth-graders throughout Minnesota learn to play the recorder.

Schoolcraft teachers saw, when they hosted an African drummer as a guest speaker, how well hands-on music learning connected with the kids, Wiltermuth said, noting that any method of learning through doing fits well in Schoolcraft’s commitment to expeditionary learning.

The school purchased the ukuleles and Wiltermuth began teaching the instrument to his eighth-graders this year.

“I think it’s a really great way for students to learn,” said Wiltermuth, whose long-term goal is to teach the ukulele to sixth- through eighth-graders as they progress through Schoolcraft’s older classes.

Students learn to read music, develop an ear for music and also have fun learning to play songs.

“At first it was really difficult,” said eighth-grader Katie Evje, “but the more you practice, the easier it gets.”