Chicago Heights School District 170

Under the direction of Music teacher Jim Rahtjen, fourth- and fifth-grade grade students at CHSD170's Jefferson and Washington/McKinley Elementary Schools this year had the opportunity to participate in an afterschool Music Production Lab Club.

The club, funded by a special grant, provided students with an opportunity to delve deeper into music and video technology than is possible during their weekly class sessions.

The production lab provided students the chance to explore their varied musical interests in depth. It also exposed them to new technologies and ways to express their creativity musically.

The students experimented with Digital Audio Workstations such as Incredibox and Bandlab. They also learned audio recording and engineering fundamentals using simple digital voice recorders and professional recording suites such as Logic Pro.

They closed out the year by testing their newly acquired skills while assisting in recording the graduation song played at Jefferson’s Kindergarten graduation ceremony.

The lab also focused on Video Production, with students learning motion animation techniques using an extension on their Chromebooks. They used WeVideo, a powerful video creation / editing software to incorporate pieces they had created and mix them together in music or videos that showcased their talents.

Rahtjen, who earned his Master’s degree in Music Composition from Kansas State University, welcomed the opportunity to create an afterschool program specifically designed for students interested in music technology and its application in music education.

“I embrace every opportunity to stay on the cutting edge of music technology and incorporate its use in the public-school music program,” he said.

“With so many schools using Chromebooks, new and exciting technologies are being created every year for use in the classroom. I make a concerted effort to seek out new technologies available to our students in the belief that in allowing them to explore their creativity, their accomplishments can be absolutely amazing!”

“I seek to instill in our students a passion for music and a thirst for exploration that pushes the envelope and expect to see my students far surpass my abilities as they grow in their exploration of music in the years to come,” Rahtjen concluded.

Jefferson School Principal Christopher Baikauskas was rife in his praise of the students’ efforts.

“I truly believe that the opportunities afforded our students through the afterschool music and video production lab accurately represents the attitudes of our school district in expanding our students’ horizons in every aspect of the education environment.”

“I think it is incredibly important that we propagate our students’ interest in the fine arts through the use of technology. In today's world, students are connected through technology. Technology is a new canvass in which artists can create and showcase their expressions of art, be it in music or other fine arts.”

“I applaud Mr. Rahtjen and our Jefferson School students for their creativity and dedication after school to create such a wonderful video,” Baikauskas added.

Below is the link to a final project that a group of Jefferson School fourth-graders created using stop-motion animation, video editing, and audio recording.