OLD TOWN — A class at Leonard Middle School has been doing quite a bit of star gazing this year.
The 22 students in a seventh grade music-appreciation class have been pondering the many meanings of stars. The ultimate result of this is the song “Stars That Shine,” the single of which the students are selling to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Maine.
The project stems from a belief in service learning by Shianne Priest, music director at the middle school. The idea behind service learning is that students do something beneficial for the community while they’re learning.
“I used to think that service learning meant that a class would go plants flowers after learning about flowers,” Priest explained. “Then a couple years ago, I took a class on middle-level learning and had my eyes opened to the world of service learning. I never knew that it could be taught in any subject or as an integration of all subjects.”
Priest’s trial of this kind of project was last year, when students recorded and sold an original single to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
This year, Priest again turned the decision-making over to the students, asking them who they wanted to help and how.
After researching organizations and causes, the children decided on Make-A-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. They decided to follow the lead of last year’s class and create an original song.
They settled on stars — prominent in the Make-A-Wish logo — and the hope that wishing on a star represents. The students then went on the Internet and found hundreds of quotes about stars and hope, a handful of which would ultimately be used in the song’s lyrics.
The students also put themselves in the shoes of the children that Make-A-Wish benefits. “They thought about what it would be like to be a child with a life-threatening disease, what do they have to deal with and what do they miss out on,” Priest said. “To be such a child, you would have to have a lot of hope, courage and strength.”
There was one problem, however. Last year’s songwriter, Lily Muscatell, was now 14 and a freshman at John Bapst Memorial High School. Still she jumped at the opportunity to help out. The students supplied her with their list of quotes about stars and hope.
The result is the song “Stars That Shine.” Muscatell explained, “If there’s a problem in life, sometimes we get blinded by the problem and can’t see anything positive. This song is about getting past the cloudy nights and rainy days and seeing the stars and the sun beyond the clouds.”
Part of service learning is teaming up with community partners. One was Husson University’s New England School of Communications, where student sound engineers and their professor volunteered their time so the Leonard Middle School class could have their song professionally recorded.
A NESCOM sound engineers turned Priest onto what would become the CD cover photo, a shot of star trails over Acadia taken by Andrew King. King let the students use the photo in exchange for a copy of the CD. The CD jacket was designed by Tim Larson of the middle school’s technical department.
The finished product went on sale for $3 a copy on May 1, with sales continuing through the month. All the proceeds will be donated to Make-A-Wish. The CD is available at the Old Town YMCA or by contacting Priest at 827-3900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.