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Science of Sound: Summer School Class Turning Trash into Musical Treasure

Science of Sound
Science of Sound

Ozark North students are learning how to play many instruments, including the ukulele, in the Science of Sound summer school class.

What do toilet paper rolls, string, drinking straws and wax paper have in common? They can all be used to create an instrument.

“We’ve learned how to play the recorder and ukulele and how to make instruments out of stuff we usually throw away,” Ozark North Elementary student Josie Mills said when asked what she’s learned in the class Science of Sound.

The purpose of the summer school class is to play different types of instruments to discover how they create unique sounds.

“Are we playing a melody or a harmony?” teacher Angie Harmon asked the students, who were sitting on the floor holding ukuleles. “Think about it and talk to a partner.”

After discussing it among themselves, students took a vote. Eight students thought they were playing the melody on the ukulele; three thought harmony.

“We are playing harmony,” Harmon said to the students’ amazement. “This is not the part we sing. We are playing the background. A melody is one note at a time. The harmony would be the chords. A chord has to have three or more notes.”

And this is how the Science of Sound class works — students explore the details of music while learning to play various instruments. Today, it’s the ukulele.

“We learned that the higher-pitched sounds make smaller sound waves. And the lower-pitched sounds make bigger sound waves,” student Calvin Richardson said.

Harmon, who is the North Elementary music teacher, said she hopes students leave summer school with a better understanding of how instruments and sound work.

“I want students to understand the different instruments of the orchestra and how they are classified into families by the way they produce sound,” she said. “And, of course, I want them to have a lot of fun and learn to play a few different instruments.”

Students have also been creating their own instruments using some unconventional items. For a kazoo, students used a toilet paper roll, wax paper and a rubber band. For a pan flute, students used drinking straws and tape. And for one of the students’ favorites — screaming string things — students used plastic cups, paper clips and string.

Creating these unique instruments will help students in their final project of creating their own instrument.

“They will name it and classify it into one of the four instrument groups: String, percussion, woodwind or brass,” Harmon said.  

Harmon said the students who signed up for the summer school class are already interested in music, making the class all the more fun.

“That was the second time they played the ukulele and you can tell they are really interested and want to learn more,” she said. “This class goes above and beyond what they would be doing in the regular classroom during the school year. It’s almost like an enrichment class.”

And the students enjoy the extra time learning about music.

“I like that we get to play the recorder and do stuff that we wouldn’t get to normally do until fifth grade. So, we get a head start,” student Brandon Kail said.

Calvin Richardson and Audrey Bonucchi practice the recorder.

Bella Langston plays one of the kazoos she made.