Jarred Geller uses punk rock to teach his preschoolers about shapes and geography.
“If I play ‘Wheels on the Bus’ it’s hard for them to get invested in that,” he said.
But with catchy, poppy hooks, and fist-pumping riffs, the 5-year-olds are all in.
Geller started his "Punk Rock Preschool" at Eugene Field Elementary in Oklahoma City last January. He knew that fun and play were essential to young students, so he wrote some songs to incorporate rocking out into his lesson plans.
“It makes learning a lot of fun. It makes the class fun, and it makes the culture in the class great,” he said.
Geller said they do lots of regular preschool stuff too, like story time and arts and crafts. But he thinks the music has a special effect on the students. He said it enables their love of learning, and helps them remember what they’ve learned.
“I want it stuck in their heads,” he said. “I want them going home and singing, ‘Geography.. you and me..’ and they do, so mission accomplished.”
A psychological study out of the West Chester University of Pennsylvania shows that Geller might be on to something. According to the study low-income, at-risk preschool students, which many of Geller's student are, showed greater observed positive emotions such as interest, happiness, and pride in music, dance and visual arts classes, as compared to traditional early learning classes.
The principal at Eugene Field, Paige Bressman, said she’s definitely seen a change in the little kids.
“His students are excited to come to school,” she said. “They love to be in there, because he has them up and moving. They have a great time.”
Bressman said the preschoolers spent much less time crying at the beginning of the year, because they realized school is not a scary place, but a fun place. She had quite a few parents request Geller as their children’s teacher, because older siblings had done so well in his class last year.
She also said Geller expects a lot out of his students.
“He does not dumb down the curriculum for them at all. He gives them more than they can handle but with the music they rise to the occasion. They tend to pick it up pretty quick,” she said.
Geller says his philosophy is to keep things high-level. He figured if the kids could memorize all the words to “Let it Go” from the wildly popular Disney movie, Frozen, then they could learn the words to his songs too.
“Just because I didn’t learn trapezoid until the seventh grade, doesn’t mean they can’t learn it right now. Ya know? And it doesn’t mean that it’s any more of a difficult concept than learning a circle,” he said. “They’re looking at the shape, they’re giving it a name.”
He said the only downside to the whole thing is that his kids get bored the following year in kindergarten.
“They were all telling me a week in to school, ‘Mr. G, our kindergarten class isn’t like your class.’”
He told them that kindergarten is still awesome in its own way, and told them not to compare it to his preschool class.
“Because… that’s not fair to your teachers,” he said, "We don't all play guitar."