Tinkering with Sound

Tinkering with Sound

Lesson Overview: Students will use Synth Kits to produce sounds, manipulate these sounds and record these sounds

This lesson, at its basic level, is science but with the extensions this project encompasses math, writing, music, art, and history

The process of manipulating the sounds is the biggest lesson here: sound waves! Think about challenging them to think about why certain materials manipulate the sounds better than other materials

Lesson Objectives: Students will develop an understanding of how sound waves react and change as they bounce of different types of materials. Students will also develop an understanding of the importance of recycling

Assessment Strategies: End of the unit check list and self-assessment

4-PS3-3 Energy

Students who demonstrate understanding can:


Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide.

4-PS3-4 Energy

Students who demonstrate understanding can:


Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.*

Duration: Depending on the amount of time this lesson/unit can take 1-2 days but can also be extending into a larger unit depending on direction you would like to take this exploration

Middle School (ages 11-13)
Elementary (ages 8-10)


General Education
littleBits Basics
Computer Science
Makerspace Workshops


STEP 1 : Engage them!

This video is a great launch : Cymatics: Science Vs. Music – Nigel Stanford https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3oItpVa9fs you may watch it several times, my students could never get enough. There are a bunch or partner videos that break down each section depending on the amount of time you have to watch them all This is the other video you want to show: it is all about a town that uses garbage to create beautiful instruments and music http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/recycling/stories/the-recycled-orchestra-musical-instruments-made-from-trash

STEP 2 : Turning Trash Into Beautiful Music

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Launch the project with telling students that just like in the video we are going to use Synth kits to produce sound and manipulate the sounds using recycled materials. We are going to challenge ourselves to produce instruments that do not exist yet…until today! Use a Design Thinking strategy here to help students develop ideas before getting started. What is Design Thinking? http://www.edutopia.org/what-is-design-thinking-for-educators On large chart paper have student teams make two columns: one side is instruments that they like, the other side to do come up with solution for instruments that they could produce from every day recycled materials. Materials: it might be helpful to demonstrate how different materials manipulate sounds differently. Have students make predictions on why this is and what is causing the sounds to be different. Use the same circuit sound with different materials: tin pie plate, plastic cups in different sizes, aluminum foil, and different size boxes.

STEP 3 : Team Work is KEY!

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Once students have a good idea of their direction they can get started producing their sounds. They should experiment with several different ideas but have a clear direction of where they are going. They should keep in mind what materials they are going to sue to manipulate their sounds. *note: you may want to have a few items they can use to experiment with: cans, cardboard boxes, cellophane, anything that will change the sounds

STEP 4 : Taking the Learning Deeper and Broader

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Once they have their sounds they need to start to build their ‘instruments’ They should test, rethink, rebuild, re-test…encourage them to not just be happy with their first creations. They should keep a record of what they created, changed, recreated to show their progress of their thinking Once they are ready they should record their sounds. You can do this with a simple phone or laptop, webcam…anyway they can record. Variations: 1. Take music software and turn the recorded sounds into an ‘album’ or recorded songs 2. Bring in math: start you own band and sign with a record label 3. Art: make a music video for you music 4. Bring in the history of music in your area and have them base their music in history

STEP 5 : Battle of the Bands

Team presentations – Let them come up with how they want to present their work. We did it as a gallery show and had all the animated music videos playing on the big screen.