There are four methods of musical instrument making in sound theory and they are: String (Chordophones), Air (Aerophones), Material (Idiophones), and Stretched Skin (Membranophones). Please note these are not the same as the orchestra instrument classifications. (Percussion is where the last two sections fit into). Use these principles and make instruments with kids using recycled materials. At the Cleveland Children’s Museum, where I won an award for this exhibit, We had a whole section with tubes and boxes and metal lids, etc. I went to a second-hand store and picked up various kinds of different sized materials also. I had milk glass, wine glasses, pots, coffee mugs, & found some old jugs too. You might hang a string across a table and hang chimes or a cymbals set, a washboard, etc. I had wooden spoons and metal “hitters” to tap the various items to produce sounds. remind kids to be gentle but try to guess if the pitch will be high or low.
Stations for Sound Off Science: stretch rubber bands across nails on a wooden board. Place a set of metal crescent wrenches across a sponge-type material so they will vibrate. In your water table, set up the same sized pop bottles or jars and funnels. Have them fill the jars with water and make 8 different “notes” use a wooden spoon to tap the glass. Try to blow through tubes (across the top, different lengths make higher or lower pitches.
Line up different sized red clay flower pots turned upside down and a set of measuring bowls are great also because they are different sizes so the little ones will be higher notes and the bigger, lower notes. If you have a hair dryer hose, you can swing it over your head and the faster you twirl it, the higher the note (the air column gets shorter).
Concepts: AIR: size & width, height, (plastic, glass, metal, wood)
STRINGS: tightness/looseness, (thick and this rubber bands)
MATERIALS: size, width, length (try some wooden boards) we had a bamboo chime hanging with different lengths as a chandelier at the museum exhibit. Also if you have a few different xylophones use them to point out how the notes differ going up the scale. Sing a scale with kids too, any eight lined poem becomes a song this way.
STRETCHED SKIN: large or small surface, looseness of skin (drum heads, tambourines, hand drums as long as it is stretched and not plastic) I found if you heat a drum head you can tighten it up and make the sound higher. Hold it over your stovetop and heat the center carefully. Keep hitting it and you cabn feel it getting tighter. I had a very large drum and we placed torn paper on it and made the paper dance.
If you are ever in Phoenix, AZ. go visit the Musical Instrument Museum. It has every instrument in the world by country and you can hear them as you walk by the different walls that exhibit the pieces from around the world.
The collages are from my new book I am working on, “Connec-TABLE Science.” I do have it with a publisher at the moment but haven’t heard anything yet. The book is 140 pages filled with of gorgeous colored pictures of my life’s’ work with children teaching art and science (plus music). Check on my website for the Children’s Museum layout and ideas for tables with more ideas. “Why Is The Sky Blue?” is on amazon.com or through me,
www.pennirubin.com in the educational section