In 2021, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music was the first institution in the United States to offer Smart Start, a new and innovative Early Childhood education program, and they are offering it again in 2022.
The classes use musical activities to train fundamental cognitive skills for children ages 0 – 4.
The Smart Start curriculum, developed by Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, is designed to build on the inherent link between music and the mind. They support key developmental skills and milestones, help children learn and better understand the world around them, and prepare children for academic success.
Smart Start combines early childhood educational research from Piaget, Montessori, Dewey, Orff, and Kodaly. The curriculum targets four key cognitive skills: Attention, Memory, Perception, and Cognitive Flexibility.
Learning Through Music
Through playful, familiar activities like singing, listening, movement, stories, games, and music making with age-appropriate instruments, children develop key cognitive skills.
Songs and activities are carefully chosen to match each age group’s specific developmental needs.
Children in Smart Start also develop fine motor control, rhythm, creativity, and sophisticated musical understandings. Throughout the class, they explore percussion and Orff instruments, helping prepare for lessons on a specific instrument later on.
“Cognitive skills are a natural part of music education,” explain Rebecca Bowen, Digital Content & Communications Manager at WCM.
“In a class, a child might be remembering a new song, paying attention to the teacher, and switching between tapping to the beat and clapping the rhythm. This kind of activity is good practice for cognitive skills as well as musical skills, and is just one of the many ways that our teachers help to develop these skills.”
Studies have demonstrated that Smart Start helps children achieve cognitive growth.
One study in the peer-reviewed journal Music Perception showed that children who participated in Smart Start demonstrated increases in vocabulary size, pre-reading abilities, and singing ability after their first year. Similar levels of growth were observed in years two and beyond.
Research plays an important role in the development, evaluation, and continuation of Smart Start classes. WCM also conducts original research on the outcomes of the classes in order to keep refining and developing our practices.
“The content of the classes is based on current psychological and neuroscientific research on the role of music education on cognitive development. Our teachers receive training in this research, and we continue to refine our curriculum and practices based on it.”
Where: Classes are offered at the Conservatory’s Downtown Milwaukee, Fox Point/Bayside, and Brookfield locations.
Discount: Receive 10% off the price of classes using code MKEKIDS through September 30th, 2022.