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A holistic learning environment is one that nurtures all aspects of students' learning. The environment is safe, supportive, and provides opportunities to help students deal with nonacademic as well as academic factors that impact their learning. Creation of such an environment requires the establishment of a supportive learning community. For a variety of reasons, establishing such a learning community of first-year medical students can be challenging. This communication presents one approach to meeting this challenge in a medical school Human Physiology course. Steps were taken at the beginning of the course to create the community, and activities designed to reinforce these efforts were incorporated into the course as it progressed. Two pilot studies were conducted to test the hypothesis that providing students with a participatory music experience may help to promote a holistic learning environment by helping them restore a sense of balance to their emotional well-being as well as reinforce a sense of community in the classroom. Student response to these activities indicated that these efforts provided emotional support during stressful periods during the quarter, helped promote a feeling of safety within the environment, and reenergized the class during long class sessions. This project illustrates that each instructor, within the confines of his/her own classroom, can make a significant contribution to achieving a holistic learning envrionment for his/her students.
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