Exploring Pitch and Volume

Question: How can you make an instrument that changes in pitch and volume?

This was the problem, or as I like to call it – the messy situation- of the day.  Using what they know about pitch, volume, vibration and energy, the Magical Minds had to create an instrument that could play both low and high sounds (pitch) as well as loud and quiet sounds (volume).

On the tables I put out a bunch of materials, such as toilet paper rolls, rubber bands, boxes, jars, bottles, rice, popcorn, fabric, and more.  At first, I just let them explore.

After a while I began to ask guiding questions:

  • Does it matter how tight the rubber band is?
  • Does it matter how long the string is?
  • What happens if you change the amount of water?
  • Does it matter how hard you pluck the string?
  • Does it matter how hard you hit the jar?
  • What happens if you blow into an object with a smaller hole?

As much as I would like to think that my questions were the most helpful element of this lesson, I am sure it was observing each another that had the greatest impact.

By the end of the period everyone had a successful instrument. I was particularly struck by how different each instrument was.  Some kids solved the problem of changing volume by changing how hard they shook a container of rice/popcorn.  Others discovered that force/energy changes the volume.


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