Giraffes Can’t Dance
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Digital Tiny Tunes Places Early Childhood Students
in the Middle of an Orchestral Story
Sponsored by St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
Early childhood is a critical time for emerging literacy, social emotional learning, developing motor skills, and establishing a fundamental interest in music.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s (SLSO) newest Digital Tiny Tunes program, Giraffes Can’t Dance, combines these concepts into a classroom-ready presentation for Pre-K and Kindergarten students so you can easily integrate early childhood curriculum into your music classroom.
Based on the book Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees, this Digital Tiny Tunes program invites students into the world of Gerald the Giraffe as he overcomes adversity, discovers his talents, finds music that inspires him, and ultimately, learns to dance.
Made available to classrooms for free, this 30-minute interactive video engages students in play with music from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, performed by the SLSO. Students become part of the story by performing rhythmic ostinatos, moving expressively to the music, and listening and responding to cues in the story.
While ideal for the music classroom, this program also offers the opportunity to collaborate with your school’s Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers. An accompanying Teacher Guide provides arts-integrated lessons that can be implemented by music teachers, classroom teachers, or a combination of both. For example, classroom teachers can read aloud Giraffes Can’t Dance and help students connect their own emotions and experiences to Gerald’s. Then in music class, you can turn their words into song. Or use a locomotor movement activity to explore emotions in Carnival of the Animals and encourage your colleagues to use the same music in a simple freeze dance activity with students in their classrooms. The lessons are so easy to implement that many teachers have reported using Digital Tiny Tunes as a simple, ready-made sub plan.
With both the video and the Teacher Guide accessible from the SLSO’s website, Digital Tiny Tunes: Giraffes Can’t Dance is a great option for classrooms who can’t travel to a concert hall for live music.
Amy Hughes, a music teacher in Kissimmee, Florida, shared Giraffes Can’t Dance with her students more than 1,000 miles from Powell Hall, home of the SLSO, where the program was recorded using a high-definition camera system for the highest quality production. Additional filming took place in the stunning Climatron, a geodesic greenhouse at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
“Digital Tiny Tunes has opened up opportunities for young students around the world to see a professional orchestra in a way that is geared towards them.”
“I absolutely believe this is one of the best [virtual] field trips I’ve found for my students,” she said. “It gave them an opportunity to experience performances that integrated their age-appropriate abilities and needs.”
“Digital Tiny Tunes has opened up opportunities for young students around the world to see a professional orchestra in a way that is geared towards them,” said Carolyn Kramkowski, a music teacher at St. Louis Public Schools. “I enjoyed it so much that I shared this program with my music teacher friends from other states. I even shared it with my childhood pen pal in Hong Kong, and she showed it to her students.”
Kramkowski is one of more than 530 teachers from 412 schools who used Digital Tiny Tunes in classrooms in the 2021/2022 school year. Since making Digital Tiny Tunes available in 2021, almost 63,000 Pre-K and Kindergarten students have danced and played along with SLSO musicians.
On-demand access to Digital Tiny Tunes: Giraffes Can’t Dance will be available through May 2026. Both audio description and subtitles are also available. To gain access to this free program and others, register at slso.org/learning-lab-teachers/. Once you complete a short registration form, you will be granted immediate access via email.
Digital Tiny Tunes: Giraffes Can’t Dance was created in partnership with Ready Readers, the Center of Creative Arts, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Audio description provided by MindsEye.
The SLSO makes several other online programs available to teachers on its website for free, including Digital Tiny Tunes: The Lion and the Mouse for Pre-K and Kindergarten students, and Peter and the Wolf and SLSO SoundLab for elementary school students.
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November 7, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)