Thursday, 20 July 2017

Inside Stave House

It’s quite possible that South Lee School have given me the warmest welcome to a venue so far. The staff I spoke with each carried a beaming smile, and the sense of pride in what they do really shone out. The Independent day school and nursery is found on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk and provides an educational platform that extends beyond the classroom, for children aged 2 to 13. A real fire in their belly for child development and learning really came across during my visit to their Early Years department.
‘The Kindergarten Reading Cave’
I had the pleasure of shadowing Ruth Travers, the founder of Stave House for the day, who lived up to her reputation and delivered an impeccable music lesson for Mrs Gisbey’s Kindergarten Class. I’d had a little Stave House contact myself through my own small person, but was intrigued to experience the music education resource for myself.
The class, consisting of 17 children, took their places on the carpet and were well focused and eager to be involved with the lesson. A real ‘learning without realising’ experience, the children were guided through songs and stories of the likeable Stave House characters, using character magnets to easily identify note placement on the stave using the Stave House board. I was extremely surprised to learn afterwards that the children had only had a small amount of previous Stave House contact, and that from 15 minute sessions each week since September, had managed to retain and display a vast amount of musical knowledge.
‘Mrs Gisbey’s Kindergarten Class enchanted by the tale of Dunstan Dragon’

Stave House Level 1 has been introduced to the Early Years Kindergarten class at South Lee, with a view to deliver the programme higher up the scale (excuse the pun) once fully established. The Director of Music, Mrs Anna Winton Mills, is keen to watch the Stave House programme develop within the school. I had the privilege of joining her, Mrs Last – Head of Early Years, and several other teachers for an after-school training session lead by Mrs Travers. We were joined also by Montessori Educationalist, Wendy Compson who is soon to take Stave House to Bosnia Montessori schools.
The staff at South Lee are very excited and enthusiastic about Stave House, and have the opportunity to further train to take the Stave House Diploma Teachers Course should they so wish, enabling them to assess the children for Stave House Level 1 themselves. During the session, Ruth guided us through the Stave House curriculum and the requirements for Level 1.
‘Placing the note characters in their correct placings on the stave in Stave House’
Within 2 hours, non-musical staff were able to identify notes, rhythm, pitch and placement on the stave and perform a melody from sheet music unaided. More importantly they took away with them the Stave House method to adapt and develop further for themselves in order to teach the children using sensory development and reinforcement, with an emphasis on creative thinking. Without the songs, characters, rhymes and interaction, Stave House is just a formula. Including these tools makes Stave House an educational experience and “living the learning” is vital for the child’s educational music journey.
Ruth Travers, the founder of Stave House, has a Montessori background and has based her method on these principles. She has used 30+ years of research to develop her programme which is currently taught to children (and adults) globally.
Stave House provides a resource pack for schools which includes a CD of Stave House songs, a curriculum guide, Stave House boards, and thorough learning support which enables the teacher to guide the children into reading and writing music through engaging stories, rhymes and songs. They are able to make the lessons their own, with the ability to revisit characters and create stories to fit the class and the individual child. Full learning support to the teacher, tutor, or school is given by Stave House throughout. The teacher can adapt their lesson to recover and reinforce any part necessary, and there isn’t a given time limit on each requirement for Level 1, although Ruth has found that at aged 4, most children are able to complete Level 1 Stave House within a year.
When the curriculum pack has been completed and the teacher feels each requirement is established, then the assessment is made for Level 1 Stave House.
Ruth told us that Stave House was “not just watching music happen” and her passion for the education of music was infectious. Children are given a sensory experience as they explore sound and develop their own understanding for music through the use of interactive learning techniques. I watched the children expand upon the stories Ruth told them, inventing their own personality traits for the characters as they were captivated by the enchantment of Stave House. After a mere 30 minutes, they had explored and shown an understanding for the five notes Ruth had covered in her lesson. They were able to place each note in its correct place on the stave during a memory game which involved the whole class, keeping them engaged and excited. They clapped and used instruments to investigate the Stave House Rhythm Family and Ruth showed them the importance of stopping and silence as well as playing their instruments. They clapped and counted the duration of the semibreve, crotchet and minim, and used the character magnets on the board to create a composition of two notes using the rhythm family to depict the note duration.
‘Stave House board’
Stave House is not just for the classroom. The method can be used and adapted to any individual or group setting. I personally think Stave House would work excellently in toddler groups, with home educators and with parents.
Home educators and parents are able to buy a pack, found on the Stave House website. The teachers pack includes the teaching manual, 3 workbooks for the children to draw music in, plus the board and magnet set for both Bass and Treble clef for only £26. The Stave House CD is available at an additional £6.
The next training day for Stave House Level 1 is on the 23rd May 2017 at the Studio in Galleywood, Chelmsford which costs £80 for the morning, or £120 for the whole day. The afternoon includes a master class showing how to relate Stave House to classical instruments, in particular the piano. The day also includes Lunch and a teachers pack, which I can say is worth every penny. To book onto the course, email Stave House at or telephone 01245 284407 / 07918 101557.
Schools can equip themselves with a classroom pack for around £400, which lasts them indefinitely. There is no update or retraining required and is invaluable with the learning support provided by Stave House. Music schools, private Music Teachers and Schools are required to pay a token license fee to Stave House in order to use the copyright name and materials and use them for profit. They are also committed to entering the children for the Awards each year. A parent not teaching Music for profit, but wishing to use the materials with their child at home or for home educating purposes is not required to pay the license fee. The courses provided by Stave House are second to none, and a teacher is not able to run training for others without the Stave House Diploma Teaching Course.
I think one of the key factors of Stave House is its adaptability. It is a fantastic tool for introducing music to children of all ages, but is not limited to the young which I saw for myself with teachers (without musical experience) able to grasp Level 1 for themselves by the end of the training session.
‘Mrs Winton Mills – Director of Music, Wendy Compson – Montessori Educationist and South Lee music teacher showcasing sensory teaching methods, using the Stave House board and characters’
I’d like to take the opportunity to once again thank Ruth Travers for inviting me along to South Lee to experience Stave House for myself. I think it’d be extremely hard not to take away some of her passion and enthusiasm for music education from the training session, and can say wholeheartedly that The Wild Sheep shares the Stave House ethos.
I’d also like to thank South Lee School for allowing me to visit and gain an insight into the school and its workings. I look forward eagerly to revisiting in the near future, and it was an absolute pleasure to spend time with the staff and children.
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S xox

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