STEM: Students Totally Engaged in Music at James W. Smith Elementary

James W. Smith ElementaryJames W. Smith Elementary (JWS), a Title I school, is located in the small, rural town of Cove City.  The school serves students from the surrounding area which is primarily agricultural. Cove City is equi-distance between Kinston and New Bern—about 16 miles (or 20 minutes drive time).  Subsequently, these students have few opportunities to experience performing arts or even a movie on the big screen.  Due to shrinking budgets, funding for music education programs is very hard to come by.  But according to an article on the PBS website, “Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas.”  One study found that children who were given music lessons over the school year tested an average of three IQ points higher than groups that did not receive these lessons.

Luana Palimetakis, the JWS music teacher, is very aware of these studies, so when asked what she would most like for her program, she jumped at the chance to apply for funding through Partners In Education for The Harold H. Bate Foundation Individual School Grant program for a keyboard lab.  Very few of the school’s students have access to a piano or keyboard outside of the classroom.  With the approval of Principal Renee Whitford, Ms. Palimetakis collaborated with Diane Bondurant to apply to PIE, and the school was awarded $5,000 to purchase the equipment.

The school worked with New Bern’s Fuller Music to identify and purchase the best equipment that they could for the money that they were awarded.  Ms. Palimetakis and Ms. Bondurant both expressed their appreciation to Mr. Fuller for his guidance in selecting equipment that will withstand the rigors of enthusiastic students.

The keyboard lab consists of eight student and one teacher console.  Each student console has headphones so that the individual using the keyboard can only hear his or her music.  Each console also has a microphone so that the student can communicate with the teacher.  Using headphones, a microphone, and a wireless iPad, the teacher can roam the room and hear each student playing individually and can give private instructions to that student.  The students are very engaged when on the consoles, and when not on the consoles, they are working on music instructional materials.

The music teacher feels strongly that this keyboard lab enhances the student’s interest in music.  Mrs. Bondurant realizes that music is one of the few activities that stimulates all of the parts of the brain at the same time. Since our brain is hard-wired to connect with long-term memory, she is hoping that the teachers would see an increase in the students’ cognitive performances inside and outside of the classroom.  As for the students, they are happily engaged while learning a new skill.
Congratulations to Ms. Palimetakis and Ms. Bondurant and the students at James W. Smith Elementary School!

For information on Partners in Education, the local education foundation for Craven County Schools, contact Executive Director Darlene Brown via email. PIE website: