Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Kindergarten Inquiry into the Science of Sound

Since the middle of February while were creating our dragon project, I started to notice something.  The kids were taking the logs out of our building area and creating "bands" with them as drum sets.  Kids were making shaker's at the maker's space, two friends brought three sizes of clay to me and wanted to show the class how when they thumped them each size made a different sound.  Another friend took a plastic bottle wrapper off the bottle and pulled on both ends sharply and showing us the snapping sound it made.  I was hoping to avoid it this year, but somehow, every year, kids start exploring sound! So....guess what our next large scale inquiry is:  Sound!

I set out some areas for them to explore first.  Then we will let them wonder.

I set out glasses for them to compose their own music and perform for the class.  I had planned on it being an exploration of pitch, but they noticed something else instead. At first the compositions were very random, then one friend colored an AB pattern and played it.  It sparked a discussion on how there could be patterns in sound and also defined "rhythm" as their patterns became more complex.

After they were done with this area, I set out these materials to see what they noticed about sound. We discovered that the more water that was in the bowls, the lower the pitch and the less water the higher the pitch!

For our Engineers, I put out materials for them to create instruments and show what you have to do to get it it to produce sound.

They created instruments that produced sound through shaking, striking, rubbing and strumming.

For our artists, I set out pictures of instruments for them to look closer and then draw its outline with a sharpie and creatively paint it with watercolors.

We also looked at Picasso's Blue Guitar painting, then hung it at our easel to inspire artists to create their own.

As they explored, two main things came up in our wonders which became our driving questions.  How is sound made? When does sound become music?

We learned that sound is caused by vibrations and that the sound waves travel through the air to our ears.  But something had to happen to make the vibrations start? The kids through exploring came to the conclusion that sound is made by striking, shaking, blowing, rubbing, strumming and plucking. We made instruments to model the different ways to make sound.

To show that sound can be made by shaking, we made maracas.

To explore the concept of pitch, we provided different fillings for maracas: Sand (not pictured), rice and two different sizes of beans, then we compared them.

We also used these as guiros to show show that sound can be made by rubbing.  They just ran a craft stick over the ridges of the bottle.

To show that sound can be made by blowing, we made harmonicas!  The first time we tried them they didn't work.  I realized that we needed thicker rubber bands to create the sound. They could tell the rubber bands were vibrating as they produced sound. They were very loud! The kids loved them!

To show that sound can be made by strumming or plucking, we made cup guitars! They have a great rich sound when you put them by your ear and pluck them as the sound is amplified by the cup!
We used three different sized rubber bands to create different pitches. The kids could really see the vibrations with these.  They could also feel the vibrations on their hands.

To show that sound can be made by banging, we made drums!

To organize our data, we created a web map showing the different ways to make sound and the instruments that are used for each one.

To explore when sound becomes music, I showed them videos of a group called STOMP.  They use random objects to create different rhythms with different pitches.  Look them up on YouTube! They are amazing and the kids loved watching them.  They were inspired and created their own STOMP inspired groups using random objects we could find in our room and our closet! You can see some videos of these on my Instagram account at darlamyersclass.

Through STOMP we realized that when sound has a pattern it gives it rhythm, and when sound has different pitches added to the rhythm it creates music!  After all of our exploring and investigating, we wrote informational books about sound to show what they learned.  The kids really loved exploring the science of sound!

Another thing going on in our room is a Mo Willems author study.  These little friends have been in our reading area all year long.  The kids didn't think they were really anything special until...

we read one of his Elephant and Piggy books. The kids have really enjoyed listening to and reading his Elephant and Piggy books.  They have been very inspired by him in Writer's Workshop and many Elephant and Piggy stories have been written by them.  They decided that they wanted to turn our dramatic play area into an Elephant and Piggy Workshop where they could read and write stories about them!  Now these stuffed animals are extra special to them! Here is our finished area!

They made a sign:

This area has been very popular! A lot of reading and writing skills are being practiced here! I am sure as we read his pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books, they will be inspired to write stories about them in this area also!

We brought out our collaborative canvas again!  It just didn't seem finished yet!  I poured some paint on it and the kids used large craft sticks to scrape the paint across the canvas.  They loved this process!

I think next we will start adding some texture and three dimensional aspects to it!

Here is a clue as to what we are going to discover next!  It fits in this box!


  1. This is a great blog. It gives alternative ideas for teaching different concepts. I'm curious as to how you assign grades, if at all.

    1. Thank you! I do assign grades in Literacy (Phonics, Phonemic Awareness, Writing) and Math. Our district requires that we assign a plus for exceeds district mandated expectations, a check for meeting district mandated expectations and a minus for not meeting district mandated expectations.

  2. Hi Darla!

    I've been following your blog for about 10 months now as I am a studying to become a teacher. I live in Ontario where the kindergarten curriculum is learn by play and have found your ideas to be incredible! I'm curious as to how long an enquire usually lasts. For example, how long was the sound enquiry from start to finish? How do the kids progress along in the enquiry? Do you a time line for certain things or do you let it develop depending on the students interest and curiosity?

    Once again, thanks for sharing all of your wonderful projects with us. I can't wait to be inspired in my own classroom one day!

    1. Hi Amanda!
      It depends on the kids and the inquiry! Some inquiries will last two weeks and some up to six depending on student interest and if we decide to do a large scale project and/or presentation at the end of the inquiry. I do not have a time line at all and base it on the students interest. If their interest is starting to wane after two weeks, I know not to go into a large scale project on that subject. Good luck on your journey into Inquiry Based Learning!