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Music expands children's world of understanding

Music inspired by students encourages tolerance in the classroom.

May 5, 2004 -- When a third grade class in Beatrice, Alabama, was asked to define freedom, their answers inspired these beautiful words:

I want to grow up to be old,
To be the dream I dream.
I want to teach, I want to reach
Up to be all I can be.
Freedom, freedom, oh freedom!
Can you imagine that?

This moving song, titled "Freedom, Oh Freedom," is featured on the Center's first music project, I Will Be Your Friend: Songs and Activities for Young Peacemakers.

Included on the CD are 26 songs chosen from nearly 3,000 culturally diverse selections considered for the project. Each song helps elementary school children appreciate different music styles and experience music-making as an expression of acceptance and friendship.

Suggested activities in the accompanying songbook provide teachers with ideas for educating children about traditions, friendship, community, and justice.

Educators across the country have praised this award-winning project.

"[I Will Be Your Friend] is the most wonderful teaching tool I have ever seen," said a teacher from Illinois. "It gives the students and teachers an opportunity to actively engage in activities that will build character and tolerance."

One California educator recently told of the success in her classroom:

"I provide mental health services to children in a very needy public school. I see children who are depressed, violent, and in need of so much loving care," she said. "I taught [one of the songs] to my children in a group session.

"Suddenly children that had disclosed violent leanings ... and racist remarks were now singing 'I will be your friend.'

"I thank you from my heart for your help in their transformation from a view of 'no hope' to one of openness and possibility."

Through the generosity of its donors, Teaching Tolerance is able to offer this inspiring education kit to schools free of charge. Teachers can also find supplemental materials on the Center's Teaching Tolerance website,