Music is a fun and engaging way to teach children about science because they almost always bring out children’s scientific curiosity. Using rhythm sticks with students could prompt them to ask,
“Why do some of the sticks have bumps and others don’t?”
“Why are some sticks red and some sticks blue?”
“Why is it louder when I play like this”--holding the sticks flat on the floor--“instead of like this?” (holding them in the air).
Simply telling children the answers to questions like these doesn’t help them develop as scientific thinkers because why bother thinking, observing, listening, and experimenting if the nearest adult already has the answer.
Exploring the Science of Sounds, 100 Musical Activities for Young Children by Abigail Flesch Connors provides great activities that allow children to discover how sound works.
Conducting Loud and Soft Bells:
Bell bracelets--one per child
What to Do:
- Ask the children if they’ve ever seen a conductor leading a band or orchestra. If some have, ask about how the conductor tells the band how to play. If not, explain that a conductor uses only her hands, and sometimes a stick called a baton, to lead.
- Tell the class that they’re going to play in a band of bells, and you’re going to be the conductor. Demonstrate the signals for “play more loudly” (raising hands slowly in the air, palms up) and “play more softly” (lowering hands slowly, palms down). Have the children try this with you.
- Pass out the bells and conduct the group with the hand signals, giving plenty of time between changing signals. Continue for about a minute.
- Ask if any of the children would like to take a turn being the conductor. If time permits, give several children turns.
Questions to ask:
- How did it feel to follow hand signals, instead of someone giving directions in words?
- Was it easy or difficult to follow the hand signals? Why?
- Did you use your hearing to follow directions or one of your other senses?
Discoveries to Make:
- A conductor can tell a band to play loudly or softly by using hand signals.
- Children can follow a leader’s directions or lead a group themselves using only hand signals.
Keep the Learning Going:
Ask the children if they can think of other ways a conductor might signal “loud” or “soft.” Then try out the various ideas they come up with.
For a fun holiday activity, jingle bells can be used instead of bell bracelets.