Stephanie Arnell, a music teacher in Freeport, hosts a TeachRock...

Stephanie Arnell, a music teacher in Freeport, hosts a TeachRock workshop Sunday at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in Stony Brook. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Stephanie Arnell, who teaches fifth-graders in Freeport, starts each new school year with the same lesson: “Muddy Waters, The New Kid in Town.”

On Sunday, the music instructor showed five teachers from Long Island, plus one from Yonkers, what that lesson entails during a training session at the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in Stony Brook.

The training session came from a partnership between the hall of fame and TeachRock, which functions as part of the nonprofit, The Rock and Soul Forever Foundation, founded by rocker Steven Van Zandt in 2007. Sunday's session was the first of two planned workshops meant to introduce more teachers to TeachRock’s free curriculum.

Many of her students at Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School come from other countries, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, for example, Arnell told the participants. As part of the lesson, Arnell asks her students to recall the moment they got off a plane in New York, and the type of clothing they wore to adapt to the cold winters of their new home.

Then she gets to Muddy Waters, the legendary Blues singer and guitarist who moved from Mississippi to Chicago in 1943.

“Does anybody know what Muddy Waters had to change?” was her next question to her students, she demonstrated in a presentation that went through a few lesson plans on TeachRock.

“He played acoustic guitar,” Arnell said. “Nobody could hear him. What happened? Electric guitar. He plugged it in. … What did he have to change about himself? He had to plug himself in.”

That’s how Arnell gets students to engage and learn about the Blues. There’s also social studies: the great migration of Black Americans who moved from the South to the North from the 1910s until the 1970s. The lesson also has a social emotional learning component, where students' emotional well-being is taken into account.

“I was just thinking about the connection with the migrants moving even today,” one attendee chimed in.

“Another great connection to make to your kids,” Arnell responded.

Arnell, a "TeachRock ambassador," wrote the Muddy Waters lesson herself. The website offers more than 200 instructional plans for grades K-12, covering subjects from algebra to world history. The lessons range from “Math with the Grateful Dead” to “Rap like ChocQuibTown with Ladama.”

Arnell, who began teaching more than 20 years ago, discovered TeachRock in 2016. She did a Google search when she needed to teach human rights in music and used the lesson she found on TeachRock about music and the Civil Rights movement.

“They liked it. They liked learning about Bob Dylan. They liked learning about the songs that Martin Luther King sang when he marched,” Arnell said of past students. “I showed them the video clips that are on the site, holding hands singing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ and they liked it.”

Since then, “I just changed the way I teach,” she said in an interview.

Mike Young, a Freeport High School music teacher who attended Sunday’s 90-minute session and has used TeachRock’s curriculum, said the ready-to-use instruction plans save teachers time and offer options in different content areas.

“It’s a bottomless pit of information. That’s very valuable for teachers,” he said. “It’s an awesome resource.”

A second workshop is scheduled for Oct. 15 and its theme is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

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