Getting the Waves


“Whether driving your car or reading in the library, sound provides you with information about the world around you. Sound serves two basic functions for people around the world: signalling and communication”.

Driven to ignite curiosity, facilitate understanding, and  support and encourage practical applications, we challenged MS students to design, build, and play a musical instrument. From MS science teachers (Mr J Bourque, Ms K Chan, Mr G Moulton, Ms M Shillington and Mr I Wylie), “Grade 8 students enthusiastically took on this challenge.” The project grew from the Waves Unit to develop an awareness of design and construction processes.

Why do this?
We believe that knowledge and understanding is reinforced through doing, encouraging a hands on practical application of recently acquired knowledge.

“Students have used their knowledge and understanding of properties of materials, how sound waves behave, how musical instruments are constructed in order to design, develop, and build a musical instrument and analyse the sounds produced.” – Ian Wylie Science Teacher

How did students do this?
They cut, bent, chopped, glued, tied, melted, soldered, hammered, and more. Student’s Joshua and Hannah speak with pride about “putting our learning into action.” Through recognition of the physical characteristics associated with soundand ignited through sparks of creative thinking, the 220+ grade eight students designed and built a diverse array of instruments.

Observing the collaborative, creative, reflective, and technical focus of the students at work was thrilling to witness. We saw bamboo become flutes, PVC morph to pan pipes, rubber bands strung to cardboard box guitars, copper pipes tuned to xylophones.

The student were fully engaged and took ownership of their learning throughout the project. The science lab housed loud curiosity and tangible interest and enjoyment attached to this learning adventure.

Resilience surfaced as students strived to find the right materials, place rubber bands without snapping, carefully saw and reshape wood, drill clean and accurately sized holes in pvc piping.  The smorgasbord of needs were met with words of encouragement to keep calm and carry on. The low quality acoustical properties of commonly used materials and lack of technical construction knowledge were prevalent. Regardless the students carried on, reflecting on the causes of concern and doing what they could to improve their instrument towards brilliance.

To deepen understandings and connections between instrument construction and the physics attached to waves, students used Audacity and Garageband, to record, select and analyse instrument recordings to confirm frequencies produced.adacity-screenshot

Through trial and error, we have identified Venier’s Logger Pro and Microphone sensor to be the most suitable tools for analysis. Recognising deeper understanding is developed through an analysis process, the science team are discussing increasing instruction around the analysis of waveforms to identify frequency, pitch, note, amplitude, wavelength.

Having seen how engaging, enjoyable, and progressive this educational process was, I am sure we will be doing it again next year.

For further information on this successful curriculum component, speak to your nearest HKIS MS Science teacher.

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