Bellwood Teacher and YouTube Sensation Contributes to Educational Community
A kindergarten teacher in Bellwood, PA is enriching classrooms across the country with his YouTube channel, Harry Kindergarten Music.
Pete Harry has put a fun twist on learning by creating educational music videos. The videos cover the topics of reading, writing, math, science, and character education, and are used by teachers both locally and throughout the country.
What began as a personal teaching style became a virtual sensation - but that wasn’t Pete’s original plan. “This totally went viral by accident,” Pete says. “In my second year of teaching I started making these songs and videos just for my actual classroom. I would teach topics in my class and think ‘I wish there was a song that could teach that.’ I would think of a jingle in my head that didn’t exist yet, so I just started making the songs myself. The kids would watch them at home, kind of like kindergarten homework. Then teachers started finding them and sharing them.”
“I was shocked when the channel hit 1,000 views,” says Pete. “After a couple months it was up to one million.” Pete’s YouTube channel currently has 230 million views and 222,000 subscribers.
Most of the videos are what Pete describes as “educational music videos” - songs that teach concepts and are accompanied by clip art images and song lyrics. “I try to make them really fun and catchy so they’re memorable,” says Pete. “My goal is for kids to get the song stuck in their head, so they can remember these educational concepts.”
The YouTube channel also features mini documentaries of Pete and his family doing things like visiting the pumpkin farm, planting apple trees, studying caterpillars, and recycling. “Some of them are like a virtual field trip,” says Pete. “I have two kids of my own who are 5 and 8 years old. I want other kids to see that I’m not just a teacher, but also a dad. I have my own kids and they’re learning these things, too.”
Pete’s virtual platform has given him the opportunity to collaborate with teachers and educators across the country, and even across the world. He has traveled to numerous states to speak at conferences, and has communicated with teachers in Africa, South Korea, and more.
Pete teaches at Myers Elementary School where he is on a kindergarten team with 5 other teachers. “Now that Harry Kindergarten Music is this big thing, it’s been a way for me to share things with the greater educational community,” says Pete. “I’m always trying to contribute to our team and our school, but with my YouTube channel I’m able to contribute to schools all over the world. It’s great to be able to do that.”
Pete began teaching kindergarten 14 years ago after being inspired by a 5th grade substitute teacher he once had. “I remember being a child and student and feeling like she really put forth this extra effort to make our classroom engaging,” Pete says. “That made me want to do the same thing when I got older.”
Pete is following in the footsteps of teachers that inspired him by going the extra mile, himself. In addition to Harry Kindergarten Music, Pete goes above and beyond what a teacher is expected to do. “I do at-home visits with my upcoming students during the summertime,” says Pete. “I like to connect with them and let them get to know me before they come to my class.”
Pete is also taking additional steps to ensure his students’ education is not hindered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m trying to share my videos with parents, as well,” he says. “I hope they can give some direction to these parents that have suddenly found themselves homeschooling their kids. These videos provide content that is both fun and educational.”
Although devoting time to education is important, Pete sees the most value in engaging activities. “I think it’s crucial that kids are outside playing and creating things and doing stuff that has nothing to do with a screen. Ultimately, that is what’s going to be best for these kids.”
Pete does recognize, however, that screen time is inevitable, but he advises to use that screen time wisely. “The reality is that kids are going to be on a screen, whether it’s on YouTube, an iPad, or the computer,” Pete says. “There are options that are intellectually engaging - options that engage their creativity and their brains. If kids are going to be on a screen, that’s the kind of material they should be watching.”
Harry Kindergarten Music is a great option for virtual learning material. The videos not only teach academic concepts, but also what Pete calls “character education.” The character education videos teach things like responsibility, helpfulness, and kindness.
“Kids are going to be on some sort of online platform. If it’s going to be there I want to offer something that is fruitful and productive for both kids' brains and hearts,” says Pete. “I want kids to watch my videos and become a better person overall.”
You can also find him on Facebook @harrykindergartenmusic, and on Teachers Pay Teachers.