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Some kids call him Mr. Justin. Or Justin Styles. He also answers to just Justin.

Whichever name you choose, if you're filing into Amanda Bauer's classroom at Aquila Elementary School in St. Louis Park, Motion City Soundtrack's Justin Pierre wants you to know he's your buddy and that he's going to teach you how to make music.

"These kids come in here and I just want to give them everything," the 47-year-old musician said.

On Thursday, that meant showing a group of kindergartners in the west metro school how Hollywood studios use household objects to make the sound of snow crunching beneath a hiker's boots or the clip-clop of a horse's hooves on pavement. Pierre and Bauer crafted the lesson on the reproduction of everyday sounds in movies — what's known as Foley — after he overheard a student say he wasn't allowed to listen to music at home.

So they found an animated short on YouTube about a spider that tries to open a can of peas by hurling rocks at it, eventually finding itself crushed by a speeding truck. Pierre and Bauer set up microphones around the classroom and demonstrated how to make various sounds.

Pierre quickly expanded and contracted a Hoberman sphere to mimic the sound of the spider skittering across a dusty field. He tossed tiny metal balls into a steel mixing bowl to mark the ping of a rock hitting the can of peas. And when the truck hit the spider, he pursed his lips and made a short "pfft" sound to signify the splat.

Then he had the kids try. One by one, they took turns setting the soundtrack for the animated short.

"Music can really be anything," Pierre said. "It can be birds chirping. It can be tires screeching."

He came across the gig when he visited Aquila for a career day a few years ago. The affable pop-punk frontman won over the school's staff, and Principal Maria Graver asked if he'd be interested in volunteering sometime. Pierre agreed.

But he hasn't trained the students on Motion City Soundtrack songs.

The only time Pierre has played his music at Aquila Elementary was on his first day as a guest instructor. He asked kids to shout their favorite words, and he improvised a song with his acoustic guitar. Then, Pierre had them watch the music video for "Hold Me Down," the closer for the band's sophomore album, "Commit This to Memory."

Elementary educators in Minnesota typically tell their students not to throw snowballs at each other on school grounds. But Pierre made an exception that day — metaphorically so. The kids were so jazzed by a scene in the video where a group of children pelt him with snowballs that he encouraged them to barrage him with crumpled paper.

"Sometimes you can tell they need a bit of an outlet," Pierre said. "They just need to be redirected every once in a while."

Educators say they appreciate how Pierre effortlessly meets the kids where they are.

When he hears boys chide classmates for wearing Taylor Swift T-shirts, Pierre loudly compliments the pop superstar and reminds the kids there's no such thing as having bad taste in music. And once when he heard a girl remark that she wore a hearing aid, Pierre pulled one from his ear, too.

Pierre infuses each of the lessons that he creates with Bauer with flourishes that allow students to participate however they choose.

"There's not a lot of autonomy when you're a kid," Graver said. "There's not a lot of things you get to make your own choices about. What I hear Justin doing with the kids is telling them it's OK to tell your story with whatever medium you choose."

Plus, Pierre brings street cred to the classroom music lessons.

Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre lets Gabriel Graham check out his watch before music class at Aquila Elementary School in St. Louis Park.
Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierre lets Gabriel Graham check out his watch before music class at Aquila Elementary School in St. Louis Park.

Alex Kormann

"How cool is it to bring in a punk rock musician and have him help you teach 5-year-olds?" Bauer said.

The classroom visits have invigorated Pierre. In interviews and through his music, he's been candid about his struggles with mental health. And even though Pierre enjoys writing music and performing onstage, he said, the experiences usually leave him feeling exhausted. So, too, does a day in the classroom, but each visit also leaves Pierre fulfilled in a way he hasn't felt before because he can tell it's making an impact on the kids he works with.

"This might be the first time in years I've gotten a full night's sleep," Pierre said. "I think I need this in my life."