The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Acoustical Engineering, Part II

I haven’t forgotten about my blog, I promise! I was out sick last week and thought it wasn’t that big of a deal. Then I had a sore throat that persisted for several days. I finally went to the doctor about it and, after she ran a culture test, learned that I had streptococcal pharyngitis (aka strep throat). I immediately started a course of antibiotics, but I had to wait 24 hours before I was no longer potentially contagious. So that’s why I haven’t been updating. Even when I was at work, I was sick enough that I’d get home and simply crash until the next day. I’m feeling much better, though, and hopefully my blogging will pick up, too!

Miss C and I have been having a lot of fun with our Learning Buddies model this year. The students have done so much more than just reading! They have learned poetry for Veterans’ Day, studied the Preamble to the US Constitution for Constitution Day, made maps of the classroom for a geography unit, participated in a “walk and talk” book summary, and, the biggest project so far, learned about acoustical engineering through the Engineering Is Elementary series!

If you had asked me at the start of the year if I thought fourth graders could wrap their heads around the fundamentals of acoustical engineering, I’d have said no. Maybe the very basic idea that acoustical engineering deals with sound, but more than that? No way! If you had asked me if first graders could understand it, I would have laughed out loud. But as Miss C and looked at our science standards and conferred with our amazing Instructional Coach, we realised it was possible. We knew it would take a lot of planning, but we were excited to try it out.

We spent several weeks meeting during our shared plan time at school, going through the lesson materials, figuring out what we would present, how we would present it, and when it would be presented. We talked about what we wanted our students to understand. And then we got started. I wrote about the first part of this project back in January, when we first began with Kwame’s Sounds. Since then, the students have learned about the Engineering Design Process:

They worked through the process to design, build, and improve musical instruments made from upcycled materials, such as soda bottles, cereal boxes, whipped topping containers, and rubber bands. Then they learned about methods of dampening sound and controlling it. Along the way, our amazing students learned that sound is caused by vibrations, that slow vibrations have a deeper pitch and fast vibrations have a higher pitch. They shared that acoustical engineers design solutions that deal with sound. They learned that engineering is something that they can do, even at an early age!

To celebrate the completion of this project, we brought our classes together this afternoon to watch a movie showing a percussion group using the principles of acoustical engineering to create music using everyday objects. Some may be familiar with this group. The students enjoyed watching the video, even though they didn’t get to see all of it. For those who have never heard of STOMP, here is the video we watched:

I am really excited for the next Learning Buddies project that Miss C and I undertake! We aren’t going to tell anyone what it is yet, but I guarantee it is going to be amazing!

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