JAMES ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Renee Sim wanted to introduce something different to her 5th grade music class.
The James Island Elementary school teacher borrowed 23 stringed instruments from a friend and fellow teacher in Mt. Pleasant.
The violin? No.
Viola? Not close.
In Fall of 2013, Sim introduced the ukulele, a small, light-weight member of the guitar family, which usually employs four nylon strings. Many of Sim's students had never heard of the instrument before, some even unsure if they could play one.
Said 5th grade student Alexis Evatt, "I was nervous at first I was going to do everything wrong."
Fast forward to spring 2014, and a Christmas concert later, those borrowed ukuleles are now a distant memory. Because of an overwhelming response from her students, Sim wrote a grant to the South Carolina Arts Commission, requesting funds to buy 30 ukuleles for the school. The state agency works to promote public participation in the arts through various grants and leadership initiatives.
"Children can come in here and excel in an instrument or singing, where they might not be as strong in their academics," she said.
"We can let loose. We can be creative."
The school's 5th grade students are the first to learn on the ukuleles, plans that will soon include every grade level.