- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A new, interactive way for children to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and the environment is now available at the Calvert Marine Museum.
A songbook and CD set, titled “Singing the Chesapeake: Children’s Songs by Tom Wisner,” is a collection of children’s songs written by Wisner, who was known as the “Bard of the Chesapeake,” and is now available at the museum, according to a CMM press release. Wisner, who died in 2010, was committed to environmental education and awareness, which he shared through many art forms, including music, the press release states.
“Tom was sort of a local icon,” said Sherrod Sturrock, deputy director of CMM. “He spent a lifetime collecting information, talking to old fishermen and boat captains, and sharing it with kids. … They’ve managed to put this in a form that makes it accessible to families, kids [and] a lot of folks.”
Sturrock said most of the songs in the songbook were written by Wisner and some were written by his longtime collaborator, Teresa Whitaker, and his son, Mark Wisner. Whitaker also compiled the songbook, which contains between 20 and 25 songs, in editorial collaboration with Frank Schwartz and Kathleen and Michael Glaser.
Wisner wrote many songs, but the ones in the songbook are those he sang often with children and groups of educators throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. The songs themselves are celebrations of imagination and wonder and what it means to be “Chesapeake born.”
“What they’ve done over the years is take the songs that [Wisner] wrote … with kids in the classroom during his career to create this songbook, and then there’s a CD of either Tom or Frank and Teresa singing these songs,” Sturrock said. “They’re actually great; I’ve listened to most of them.”
Sturrock said Wisner would write songs with the children he taught. She said he and the children would create songs about what types of animals live in the bay and what they do, and “put it in a song as part of a lesson.”
“It’s done from a kid’s point of view, and they’re really fun,” Sturrock said.
Although Wisner could sing the songs, he could not write sheet music for them, Sturrock said. Whitaker and Schwartz enlisted the help of local music teachers, all credited in the book, to notate the songs, she said.
Upon Wisner’s death, “most of his stuff that he had collected over his lifetime,” including his songs, was given to CMM’s Center for the Chesapeake Story (Chestory) archives, Sturrock said.
The songbook is enhanced with Wisner's artwork and writings, his students’ artwork and photos by other artists. It is designed to be a resource for Chesapeake Bay region teachers and supports the implementation of the Maryland’s new environmental literacy standards, the first in the United States.
Sturrock called the publication of the book “very timely” because of the new environmental literacy requirement in schools.
“Tom’s philosophy was you shouldn’t just teach the science, you need to teach it through art, music and movement to bring all of these disciplines together … which makes sense, because you’re reaching all different learners,” Sturrock said.
A critical thing about the songbook, she said, is that children are not just learning about water in general, but about “water where you live.” The songbook allows teachers to use material developed specifically about the bay, which Sturrock said makes it more relevant to children.
Sturrock said she thinks children will get a personal experience when they read the book and sing along with the accompanying CD.
“Instead of just learning about crabs … now they’re also gonna sing about crabs and move like a crab and maybe they’re going to draw a crab,” she said. “It just layers onto what they’re learning.”
The CD included with the songbook includes some tracks never heard or recorded before and some of Wisner singing with children. The CD was produced by Jim Fox of Lion and Fox Recording Studios.
The songbook and CD set is available at the CMM store and the book is also available from the Chestory at www.chestory.org.