How Country Music Can Bring STEAM Education to Life - Bonus Episode with Discovery Education - Transcripts

March 19, 2023

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In this episode, Executive Director at CMA Foundation Tiffany Kerns joins for an exciting conversation about how country music can bring STEAM education to life for students. Whether you’re a big fan of country music or just curious about the...


students to aspire to see themselves somewhere, they have to be able to see it. So the very first step is just making sure visually we are telling a story and showcasing possibility.

Hello there and welcome to today's bonus episode of the Easy Ed Tech podcast. If we haven't met yet, my name is Monica Burns. I'm a former New York City public school teacher and I've been out of the classroom for a few years leading professional development for educators, writing about all things ed tech on my blog class tech and sharing lots of favorites here on the podcast. Now you might be used to joining me on Tuesdays, but today's a special bonus episode in partnership with discovery education. I'm excited to bring you this special episode, but before we jump in a quick reminder, you can head to my website, class tech slash podcast for all of the show notes and resources from today's episode. And if you're listening to this on a podcast player like Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google podcasts, you should see a link in the description. You can click on it as you're listening today and it'll take you to all of the resources we mentioned. This episode is sponsored by discovery education, the worldwide education technology leader. While there's so much good going on at discovery education, this episode is all about working in harmony, a partnership with the country music association, bringing steam resources to schools at no cost. See how you can inspire a new generation of steam problem solvers and creative innovators with digital education resources, spotlighting diverse careers in the country music industry at CMA working in today's episode is titled how country music can bring steam education to life. And I have a fantastic conversation with Tiffany Kearns, the executive director at CMA foundation to share with you, whether you're a big fan of country music like I am, or just curious about the connection to steam, you'll definitely want to hear about their free resources for educators, students, and families, including a special virtual field trip you'll hear us talk about that you can watch on demand. Let's dive into the conversation.

Welcome to the podcast. I am so excited to talk about creativity and innovation and all things steam education and country music today. But before we jump in, would love to hear a little bit about your role and education.

What does your day to day look like? My name is Tiffany Kearns, and I'm the executive director of the CMA foundation, which is the charitable arm of the country music association. And I also have a dual role on the CMA side where I am vice president of industry relations. So I really wake up every day thinking about two audiences. The first audience are the professionals that make up the music business. So those that are contributing professionally to country music. And then secondarily, I am waking up thinking about our teachers and our students in education. And it's actually the beauty behind what we're going to talk about today is that those things, those two audiences are starting to dovetail and come together for this project. But for us, we've always been in the education realm for at least the last decade, really thinking about music and arts education and what it means to make sure that all students have access and the opportunity to participate in music. We understand that it is vital and critical that our students have a well-rounded education, but that they're able to unlock that creative muscle. Whether they're going to be a musician or not, we feel that that creativity is so key for every life skill

that you can imagine, but certainly a part of their education journey as well. And as you were talking and sharing those two different audiences, I was thinking just about how much this particular initiative will unpack and talk about today really does have that overlap between the two. And today we're talking about STEAM education and a special country music connection. But before we jump into the country music connection piece, can you tell us a little

bit more about the CMA Foundation and its connection to music education more broadly? Sure. So I think that as CMA, music isn't our DNA, right? It's a part of our brand, but we don't exist without the music, without that creativity. And so when we decided to launch a charitable arm and really focus on one central mission, it became very easy and obvious for us to think about music because so many of our artists, but quite frankly, most of our professionals had interests or cut their teeth on music inside of the four walls of a classroom. So we started thinking to ourselves, man, we continue to hear that national narrative that it's the first to be cut. It's not as appreciated as part of well-rounded education. And so we said, we want to understand that a little bit better. We want to take that one step further. Is that, in fact, the case? What are the challenges that our teachers or school sites are challenged by in order to think about how students get access to music education? And so I think for the last decade, we've been thinking about how do we support teachers?

How do we make sure that they have the resources they need to excel and ultimately bring music and arts education to our students? We feel strongly that if you want to reach students, you have to start with teachers. They are our front line. And so for us, always thinking about the teacher, how do we support them? How do we strengthen them? How do we bolster the things that they have access to? And then also, how do we look at the ecosystem that supports those teachers and figure out if there are ways that we need to engage and think about that more broadly? We really like to be solution oriented. We understand that locations, school size, there are a variety of reasons that schools experience different levels of challenges. And so for us, we just like to walk into a room, get a good understanding, assess where the student is, where the teacher is, where the administration, you know, the administrative part of the school district is, and then figure out ways that we together collaboratively can walk, you know, be in lockstep with one another to make sure that our students have access for a variety of reasons. We all know that students that are engaged in the arts tend to outperform their peers that are not. We know that it is the thing that excites and gets students engaged.

And certainly we are seeing it in this project that we're going to talk about today. But I think for us, we understand the impact that it has had on us as an industry. So we want to make sure that, you know, we're continuing to push forward the very important notion that music and arts education is a part of well-rounded education and our students

deserve to have access to it. I love the collaborative piece that you mentioned, right, of listening to teachers, making sure that they have what they need to bring this into action. And I'm really excited to think about, to explore this idea of how STEAM, you know, education connects the country music. We hear so much about STEAM education and the different things that it can mean in different learning environments. But, you know, in this context, particularly the different careers that are a part of the industry that utilize STEAM skills. So what type of careers

would fall into this category? All of them. There is not one, not one profession in entertainment that is not reliant on STEAM because the core focus of STEAM is critical thinking. I don't, I truly do not even know a profession where you're not having to be a critical thinker in some form or fashion. Collaboration is central to STEAM, you know, making sure that you're bringing all of these subject matters together and showing where they're interconnected. That is business. There is not one business that I know of that says, I can do this and I can stay in the silo and I don't have to depend on anyone else. You're always in dependence and working in collaboration with somebody else, some entity. And so I think for us, it truly is all of them. We're going to highlight some that we feel like are so clear. But when I really do mean all, I mean, it really is all. All professions within entertainment are truly based in

that STEAM mentality. So it's all of them. And that mindset is so important, I think, for this conversation and for just unpacking the resources that you all have to offer around that idea of critical thinking and problem solving and being able to collaborate with your colleagues. All of these pieces that are such an integral part of STEAM education, you know, really shine in the careers that you spotlight. So how can we help students understand what's possible for them if they wanted to explore different careers in this industry?

Well, I think that, you know, what we are seeing with our Working in Harmony initiative with Discovery Education is that in order for students to aspire to see themselves somewhere, they have to be able to see it. So the very first step is just making sure visually, we are telling a story and showcasing possibility. But I think more importantly, what this does, so if, you know, they're looking at the virtual field trip and the behind the scenes to the CMA Awards. Yes, they're seeing all of these professions. But if you're looking, if you're watching it, you're also, there's a part at the very end that starts to highlight other positions and professions that we didn't even touch on. What I love is that this allows them to be inquisitive. I'm like, if nothing else, we've unlocked this idea that, man, I really don't know, like I'm more inquisitive to learn more, to want more, to be hungry for it. I think that's what you any when I think of education, I think that's what we're all trying to do, right? We're trying to unlock this desire to want and know more. And it just so happens that education with information gives you that, right? You can make better decisions when you're properly informed. Education does that.

And so I think for us being able to know that not only are we showcasing very important professions, that we hope that students can say, man, I actually think a lighting director had never had not really thought about that. So I want them to have a clear pathway where they can say, you know what, I'm intrigued, and I want to know more. And certainly, CMA, as a professional organization, the thing we focus on is making sure that young people are finding their way to us so we can start to shepherd and guide them to the profession. Not to mention that if any, we have a student tier of membership. And the reason why is we want students to find their way to us earlier. And so we can help guide, take this one step further, take this amazing initiative we have with Discovery Education, let's take that one step further. If they find their way to us, we can shepherd them to find additional pathways. But to me, this is just the start of unlocking something that I hope has so many other webs of interest beyond just the

professions we're showcasing. Yeah. And just with the virtual field trip, with the video, all these different resources, it really is that opportunity for we don't know what we don't know. That goes for adults, it goes for students especially. And for them to just have this taste of what's possible, for them to say like, what about this? Or could I do this? Just get those wheels spinning like you were talking about is just such a neat opportunity in a classroom setting to bring that to students who may not interact outside of the classroom in spaces where they're seeing some of these things. So I had a chance to take a look at the working and harmony program last year and all the free resources, including for students, teachers, and families, and the virtual reality component, the virtual field trip from this month, earlier this year, I should say, and which is available for folks to watch now. How did this

program come to be? And maybe what are some of your favorite resources? Yeah. Well, first,

I have to know, what did you think of it? I am a big country music fan. So just personally, the idea when I first heard about all these, I was like, no way. I love this connection. I love this in an intro for students who are excited about music, really any genre of music. I think this really can connect and apply to, especially with the country music connection. And I just love the idea of going behind the scenes in any part of life. So for me, especially this new virtual field trip component, that behind the scenes, it's like you're almost having this secret taste of what's going on, especially during a big event or something that you might have seen or didn't even

know about. And so yeah, that's really what jumps out for me. Oh, I love to hear. I always have to know why other people think about it. Anytime I send it to people, I'm like, okay, tell me what you think. And I think the sentiment is watch it, watch it, watch it. Make sure that you put family members in the room and watch it. Put honestly, it's for all ages. And I think two things. One is the thing that I love is that we're able to meet students where they are. We're able to connect with them. I don't know any student that I've ever come into contact with but that isn't a music lover or content lover, right?

They have it on their phone, they have it on their devices. They are some of the most, you know, technologically advanced humans that we have. And so I think I love that we've created something that actually meets them where they are versus it feeling archaic or really not a great resource for them. So I love that. The second piece that I love is that in creating this, there was the hope in mind that not only can they get it in the classroom but we want you to also take this home. We also want parents to be empowered to have conversations with their students, you know, or the adults at home to be able to have further conversation with students. So that way you're not just talking about professional pathways inside of the four walls of the classroom but that you're starting to have those conversations with parents now. And I think that, you know, think about my generation or even a generation above me, not really having had tools like this, have no idea that the entertainment industry is actually a viable industry to make a living and that these professions even exist. So if teachers don't know and parents don't know, then students really are on their own to try to find pathways that are not taught in a traditional setting. So what I love is not only does this empower teachers to be inquisitive and really push for additional information and guiding students to think broader, but it also allows parents to be a part of that journey and the adults and the children's lives to be inquisitive as well. So I think that is probably my favorite part is that, again, we were trying to think about this from such a organic place. How do we just make sure that as many people are putting eyes on this?

Because the end goal is that more students are using that creative muscle, are understanding that there are so many things that can be unlocked in terms of what they know and what their future holds. And that even if it's not entertainment, that maybe anytime they're anywhere looking at something, they're starting to naturally push themselves to think beyond just what is right in front of them. So I just love that there is a place and a space for everyone to be engaged and involved with all of the activities that come with the virtual field

trip. I think that was really, really important to us. And just this idea, as you're talking, I'm thinking about the family connection, which we don't always get with the resources that are student and classroom facing. Sometimes they're behind a gate or they're hard to find or they're not friendly to play on a different kind of device that you might have at home. And growing up, and I'm sure you've probably had similar conversations, like so many people and you hear what they do now, it's because they knew someone who did it, a family friend or someone's mom or something, something. And just even if you saw something on television, you couldn't replay it or there weren't that many windows into other worlds. And it's one of the reasons why I'm really excited about these resources is not only do you get that behind the scenes look of something that you just might not have any exposure to, but you can also take that back into family conversations and encourage that muscle building to just say, now when I go into this other space, I'm going to ask a question about all the pieces that make that thing happen, which is so much of what happens here. Are there any other resources that you want to just call out to or that are favorites for you or that you've seen great responses to within this

working in harmony program? What I would just say is that without calling out very specifically, I am not an educator. And I certainly never want to pretend that I am when they have a very hard job. And my job is to honestly be an active listener. When I am in groups with educators, what I will say though, is that what educators are saying to us are that they have needed something like this to feel that they are not dated, that they, there are students that they've wanted to connect to and haven't necessarily been able to find the thing. And it's allowed them to engage with students that maybe were feeling left out or were not a part of the community connection before. So I think about in particular, we have a teacher that is in Texas, whom reached out to me and just said, this is exactly what I've been looking for. Because when a student says, but I don't listen to country music, they can immediately say, but give me the artist that you do listen to. Okay, so let's apply exactly what is in the virtual field trip. Do you, we talked about as script writers. So let's think about, have you ever seen the artist that you like on any award show or the lighting director? That artist has a lighting director.

So again, I think that for teachers to be able to feel a sense of connection to maybe students that they have felt disenfranchised or not a part of community, it allows us to extend an olive branch to bring them into the fold. And I think if that is what ends up being one of the greatest assets that is delivered as part of this program, what a win for us, because that means that, you know, we're, we're creating a positive experience for our students and our teachers. And so I would say that it isn't for me, I think I, I tend to think a bit more broadly versus like, there is this activity that I love, because by the way, discovery education team, there's a reason why they are partners on this, they do it better than anyone from our perspective, we've been intentional and have worked with them for years, and making sure that this was right. And they really are partners. We are engaged and involved doing talk a lot. And so I love that what they brought to life has a little bit has their expertise, and it also has ours. So you're getting this perfect blend, quite frankly, we are examples of what STEAM looks like, just our two organizations coming together and collaborating on this project. But broadly speaking, I just think that the attitude and the community that this can build inside of our classrooms is incredible.

And I so appreciate you, you giving those examples and, and really bringing this together with just that engagement component, right? There's so many layers here that I think these free resources offer educators and, you know, I'm going to put the link in the show notes so everyone can find them so they can go out and explore. But, you know, as we finish out here today, you know, would love to hear from you as well, right? Where can people connect with you? Where can they learn more about your work? And what's happening with the foundation and this

working in harmony initiative? So certainly come to the website. So there's CMA working in And you're going to see the video topic series, you're going to see the activities that kind of are associated with each of them, the virtual field trip, you're definitely going to want to check that out. But I would also say As a membership organization, we're always thinking about how we make sure that the professionals that are in our industry have resources, but also that we're a funnel for anybody that is, you know, interested or intrigued about not only just the music industry, but country music as well. As I mentioned, we have a student tier membership that is completely free. And the goal really is that we want to expose students to the music industry 365 days a year. This is one very critical and important initiative as part of that greater strategic plan. But I think for us, just know that there really is this organization that is working around the clock to find ways to make sure that students know that this is a viable professional pathway. But those two sites in particular will get you where you

need to be. Perfect. Well, thank you so much, Tiffany, for your time today, for helping us understand all the things that you all have created for teachers, for students, for families. We'll link out to everything so everyone knows where to find them. But thank you for carving out time to chat with me today. You are more than welcome. Thank you. It was so much fun chatting with Tiffany today. And let's finish up this episode like we always do with a few key points to make EdTech easy. STEAM is important in all careers. The country music industry is full of professionals with STEAM skills. A virtual field trip can help show students career possibilities.

Remember, you can find the show notes and the full list of resources from this episode at slash podcast, including all of the ways to connect with the team at Discovery Education and to access the Working in Harmony initiative resources. Thank you to CMA and Discovery Education for this episode and for Working in Harmony, an educational initiative providing free resources for classrooms and households nationwide to look at how STEAM skills and collaboration work in concert to innovate the genre of country music. If you're listening to this podcast on Apple podcasts or Spotify or another favorite app, don't forget to hit the follow button. When you follow along with the podcast, each new episode will download for you automatically so you don't miss a thing. And if you have a moment and are feeling extra helpful today, please leave a rating or review for the podcast. It helps other educators find this podcast when they're searching for topics like EdTech or education or technology in their podcast app. Have a great week and hope to see you back on Tuesday morning or another new episode of the Easy EdTech Podcast.