I am thrilled to announce that Leslie Mauerman, Lecturing Professor of Education at Cal State San Marcos, is now actively involved in the development of Rockademix, a non-profit curriculum that uses the visual and performing arts and technology to teach kids academics. She joins a diverse team that includes Grammy-winning musicians, PhD historians, child development and language acquisition experts, choreographers, artists, and a group of more than 20 students (ages 5-12) who have put Rockademix through its paces at our location in Carlsbad, California.


I met Leslie while teaching in the Oceanside Unified School District. I’ve taught general education classes in less affluent elementary schools since 1997, and I had just finished up a preliminary special education credential (EdS) at CSU San Marcos. Inspired by my work and the professors at CSUSM, I formed The Kids Like Blues Band with my first grade class at Garrison Elementary School. Leslie heard about the work we were doing and invited my entire class of 30 students (ages 6 and 7!) to visit the CSUSM campus and share our work with students and staff at the CSUSM College of Education (KPBS covered this story – you can check it out here).


After we visited, Leslie commented how “…it was miraculous to see so much happening on so many levels—the students were developing self-esteem, obtaining language skills and demonstrating mastery, all while belonging to a class community that was singing, dancing, and learning together.” I was ecstatic that she shared my vision for the project. Moreover, as a scholar familiar with decades of research and best teaching practices, she has been able to explain the pedagogy behind my teaching method better than I can ever hope to.


Understanding how effective it is to use the visual and performing arts to teach kids, Leslie was also one of the first people that encouraged me to create my own curriculum. When I finally took the plunge last year and took some time off to create Rockademix, I knew immediately that I wanted to enlist her expertise to articulate the thinking behind our teaching methodology.


I met with the Rockademix students twice weekly to develop the program this year, and kept Leslie in the loop. After I shared the program with her in detail and Leslie visited the Rockademix class, she was eager to add her support so that teachers everywhere can utilize it. That’s the goal of Rockademix: to make this visual and performing arts curriculum available to kids and teachers in all schools, regardless of their level of training or affluence. Kids learn better with a healthy dose of the arts, and these programs have been largely cut out of schools. We aim to put them back.


Leslie recently came and visited the Rockademix class. She met the parents and students and hung out to observe the class in action. Prior to her visit, the kids and I had worked with a professional choreographer and child motor development specialist to create dance moves to accompany the lyrics to one of my songs, “Transportation History Blues”. Using a number of collaborative strategies, we worked extensively in pairs, small groups, and as a whole class to review, revise, and discuss the various movements. We had really begun to hash out the collaborative piece of Rockademix that will assist teachers in creating a sense of ownership in their own students.


On the day Leslie joined us, we were preparing to further develop this component of Rockademix. I divided the class into five groups, and we even included the parents hanging out in the waiting room for the activity! I showed them a video with visual prompts for one of our new songs. Each of the lyrics has a specific visual prompt created to help further connect the concepts.



















Rockademix worked with an artist to create these custom illustrations – visual prompts to help students understand that the progress made in the Industrial Revolution was both a product of great inventors and the hard work of laborers. (For example, from “Transportation History Blues”: “I’m talking Transportation Blues, have you heard the news? James Watt and John Henry’s skills were complementary”. This song also directly addresses the CA State Academic Standards which require students to know the importance of inventions and their impact on society and culture.


I then explained how I wanted the groups to evaluate the moves; they could assign someone to take notes, another person to keep them on track, etc. It was up to them to decide if they liked the prompt, wanted to change it, or had a better idea. When we came back together as a class, each group made a presentation. We taught the kids about how to take a consensus using thumbs up and thumbs down, and we came to an agreement regarding what we thought was best.


It was great! The kids learned how to collaborate, think on their feet, and interact appropriately with each other. Leslie was impressed given all the higher level thinking skills being taught. She commented, “The notion of using a cross-discipline approach to teach core subjects that are otherwise quickly covered in this fast-paced content delivery world is a stroke of genius in that it uses multiple modes of instruction as well as multiple levels of cognitive functioning to present and attain knowledge for students.” And despite the age, cultural, and background differences of the group, we were working together as a team. This was a testament to the work we’d put in over nine months as a class.


I have a lot of respect for Leslie; she has over three decades in higher education, a wealth of knowledge about best teaching practices and research, and has trained scores of teachers. I was honored she thought enough of the program to join the team. We have since filmed a series of interviews with her where she articulates the pedagogy of Rockademix, its educational value, and the various teaching techniques used and why it has the potential to be successful in all classrooms. Please stay tuned for excerpts from the interviews..