You might not be able to take your students to see The Clash live these days, but New York now has the next best thing: a feature exhibit on the renowned English punk band at SoHo’s new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex.
Featuring the original handwritten lyrics to “London Calling” and lead singer Joe Strummer’s Telecaster guitar, the aptly titled “Revolution Rock” tells the story of the band’s rise and demise, and of the many feathers its politicized lyrics and rebellious attitude ruffled along the way.
While The Clash may only appeal to a particular taste, the annex, which opened to the public on Dec. 2, has something for everybody, including lesson plans for teachers and plenty of educational fun for students.
The New York City extension of Cleveland’s original Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the 25,000 square foot space at 76 Mercer St. is brimming with rock and roll memorabilia, from Chuck Berry’s leopard print vest and Elvis’ notated Bible to John Lennon’s glasses, Grandmaster Flash’s turntables, and Madonna’s white pointy bustier from the 1990 Blonde Ambition tour.
Teachers considering a trip to the annex should take a look at the host of pre- and post-visit lesson plans available online at www.rockhall.com, says Dr. Lauren Onkey, vice president of education and public programs at the flagship facility in Cleveland.
These run the gamut from “‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll:’ The Building Blocks of Music,” which teaches students in grades K-4 about the basic elements of music, to “Keep on Pushing: Popular Music and the Civil Rights Movement,” a multisession social studies curriculum for high school students. English teachers will appreciate “Woody Guthrie and The Grapes of Wrath,” and science teachers should check out “The Cigar Box Guitar,” which teaches middle and high school students about the physics of sound.
Onkey and Jason Hanley, the Cleveland museum’s director of education, were in town last month to promote the annex and discuss educational programming with 770 teachers who turned the space into a veritable “School of Rock” at a teachers-only event on Jan. 21.
“We’re teaching the history of the music, but we’re also teaching a language arts lesson to help students analyze lyrics,” said Onkey, a former English professor, between packed presentations in the annex’s VIP room.
“Here at the annex, you’ve got Bruce Springsteen’s ’57 Chevy and copies of his handwritten lyrics to ‘Thunder Road.’ Before you come in you could talk to students about the imagery in that song and think about how they might imagine the car in relationship to the lyrics,” she suggested.
Hanley, a musicologist, recommends teachers also explore the Cleveland facility’s distance learning program, which uses impressive live video conferencing technology to beam museum educational staff from Ohio directly into your classroom.
“We’re hoping teachers will come here with their students, tour through the annex, and then take a distance learning interactive video conferencing class with us,” he said.
There is also an on-site curator and an education coordinator who can help orient student groups visiting the annex, added Hall of Fame executive producer James Sanna.
Judging from the reaction of teachers like Gary Moore, they will soon have plenty of school-age visitors to keep them busy.
“It’s important for kids to know where the music that they love comes from,” Moore said. “This museum will help them learn that history.”