Friday, May 21, 2021

Campfire Time!

Campfire Songs! 

A recent social media post asked if camp songs are still culturally relevant. The post challenged me to consider how and why I use "camp" songs and I realized I do use some "camp" songs but the emphasis is on singing around a campfire a wide variety of diverse and inclusive songs and they aren't all considered to be "songs learned at camp."  It is all about the kinds of songs used, not the experience of camping. The post also asked how others use camp songs in their classrooms and this was my response.  

Your post challenged me to think about why I use campfire songs with my students. First, the emphasis is on singing around a campfire (community singing) not about going to summer camp. It simply isn't  discussed and is not the focus. Appropriate, diverse, and inclusive campfire songs are repetitive, easy to learn, playful, memorable, and meaningful.  That does not mean that they are culturally exclusive if done with a lens of using culturally relevant song material (not exclusively American "camp song literature") that acts as a mirror, window, or door. For the last month of school students sing campfire songs that  feature call and response, canons and rounds, expressive singing, instrument play, movement, and ensemble singing. Playful songs from cultures not my own are included that are diverse and inclusive.  Each class on their last day comes in to experience a campfire and we sing around the (pretend) fire.  Some of my students talk about sitting in the backyard with fires, or of building fires while going camping with family and friends, and using fire to celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah, the Persian fire festival (related to Nowruz), and many other holidays and festivities. Many students share how they have sung these memorable songs to siblings and family members and they quickly become multi-generational songs for all to sing.

It is worth noting that campfire songs are made up of folk songs, spirituals, work songs, sea shanties, cumulative songs, call and response songs, fingerplays, movement activities, and often include folk dances and storytelling elements.  


Our ancestors, wherever they were in the world, sang while cleaning animal skins, paddling canoes, pounding grain, hoisting sails, or gathering food.  One person tapped a beat, another sang a melody, and others would join in or add harmony. Often, at the end of the workday, they might have joined around a fire to sing songs about love, family, travel, and hope.  

Singing songs around a campfire leads to ensemble singing, reinforces concepts and skills, and can be celebratory, inclusive, and meaningful.  They can lead to collaborative, enjoyable, memorable, and playful musical moments. It’s not about camping, at least not for me. It is about making memorable and enjoyable music with my students while celebrating the end of a school year.  


My students love this time of playful music making and ending our year in this way keeps the music and laughter flowing. 

A couple years ago I posted on a facebook live for how my campfire is made- here it is- How I Make My Campfire Video

This year it will be about TWICE AS BIG!!! 

Here are pics of how my campfire is made- all materials from Dollar Tree except the wire stands (which are my glockenspiel stands), and the brown construction paper (from school). 


1 comment:

  1. You are phenomenally creative, Aimee;Thanks for always sharing!!!


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