Musicology – Friday

Musicology – Friday

Today, students put final touches on their hand-pipe machines, creating a mechanism similar to a music box, and continued their experiments on digital vs. analog transmissions. They then learned how musical reeds work and even created their own reed-like instrument using straws. Finally, students put all their knowledge of music together by defining what made music “good” to them. They used this knowledge to categorize and rate music that their peers might like as well.

Ask your students:

How does a reed work? (it vibrates when you blow into in, thus creating a sound)

What does binary mean? (Something composed of 2 parts; a digital signal is composed of 1’s and 0’s)

Book Recommendation: A Crooked Kind of Perfect By Linda Urban

This young adult novel is recommended for 5th-7th grade students.

From Amazon: “Ten-year-old Zoe Elias has perfect piano dreams. She can practically feel the keys under her flying fingers; she can hear the audience’s applause. All she needs is a baby grand so she can start her lessons, and then she’ll be well on her way to Carnegie Hall.

But when Dad ventures to the music store and ends up with a wheezy organ instead of a piano, Zoe’s dreams hit a sour note. Learning the organ versions of old TV theme songs just isn’t the same as mastering Beethoven on the piano. And the organ isn’t the only part of Zoe’s life that’s off-kilter, what with Mom constantly at work, Dad afraid to leave the house, and that odd boy, Wheeler Diggs, following her home from school every day.


Yet when Zoe enters the annual Perform-O-Rama organ competition, she finds that life is full of surprises–and that perfection may be even better when it’s just a little off center”

Musicology – Thursday

Musicology – Thursday

As our camp comes to a close, students worked to solve unanswered questions and finish up engineering projects. In the morning, students queried “what is music?” and worked on breaking down/ creating harmony and dissonance using electronic keyboards. Students also dissected harmonicas to discover how they and other reed instruments function. In the afternoon, students worked to automate their hand-pipe machines using a wheel-and-axel and conducted an experiment to demonstrate the effectiveness of digital vs. analog signal transmission.

Ask you students:

What did the observations from the videos add to your understanding of how a harmonica works? (Answers will vary)

What was the content of the first recording ever made? (Thomas Edison reenacting Mary Had a Little Lamb)


Book Recommendation: Echo By Pam Munoz Ryan

Grades 5-8

From Amazon: “Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.”

Musicology – Wednesday 

Musicology – Wednesday

Today, the students put their knowledge of sound waves and their frequencies to practical application to discover octave equivalency; they found patterns in notes and chords by playing their own virtual pianos. Additionally, students worked more on improving their hand-pipes and electronic instruments by creating drumming levelers and reverse engineering a speaker, respectively. Finally, students related language to music and discovered new ways of music representation and possibly teaching!


Ask your students:

What patterns did you see in frequencies of notes that sound well together? (They were equal factions apart)

What were the basic parts of your speaker? (Wire coil, cup, and magnets)


Book Recommendation: Hiding Out at the Pancake Place By Nan Marino

From Amazon: “Eleven-year-old musical prodigy, Elvis Ruby, was supposed to win the most coveted reality show on television, Tween Star. None of the other contestants even came close to his talents. But in the middle of the biggest night, with millions of people watching, Elvis panicked. He forgot the words to the song. He forgot the tune. He forgot how to play every single instrument he’d ever known and froze on national TV. So Elvis must run from the paparazzi camped outside his door and spend the summer working with his aunt and cousin at Piney Pete’s Pancake Palace in the remote wilds of New Jersey. It’s the perfect place to be anonymous, that is until Elvis meets Cecilia, a girl who can’t seem to help blurting out whatever’s on her mind.”


Musicology @ Aurora – Tuesday

Musicology @ Aurora – Tuesday

Today, the students put on their creative thinking caps when they were tasked to create their own harmonica songs! Ask your child to play their creation (or their mastered Mary had a Little Lamb) for you as they will be bringing their instrument home tonight. These creative juiced kept flowing as the students finished building their electronic instruments and were encouraged to perform a song of their choice for their peers. Additionally, the students put their hands to work by building their own hand-pipe instrument which they will be expanding upon later in the week. To tie this cacophony of sound all together, the students explored an online PHET simulation where they could explore sound wave and their properties further.


Ask your students:

If you increase the amplitude of a sound what happens? (The sound becomes louder)

What were the 4 components of your electronic instrument? (Battery, Vibration circuit, speaker, keyboard circuit)


Book Recommendation: The Way to Stay in Destiny By Augusta Scattergood

This young adult novel is recommended for 4th-7th grade students.

From Amazon: “When Theo gets off a bus in Destiny, Florida, he’s left behind the only life he’s ever known. Now he’s got to live with Uncle Raymond, a Vietnam War vet and a loner who wants nothing to do with this long-lost nephew. Thank goodness for Miss Sister Grandersole’s Boarding House and Dance School. The piano that sits in Miss Sister’s dance hall calls to Theo. He can’t wait to play those ivory keys. When Anabel arrives things get even more enticing. This feisty girl, a baseball fanatic, invites Theo on her quest to uncover the town’s connection to old-time ball players rumored to have lived there years before. A mystery, an adventure, and a musical exploration unfold as this town called Destiny lives up to its name.”

Musicology – Monday

Musicology – Monday


Music experts and newbies alike will love this week of exploring topics in STEM through music! On our first day of Musicology, students received their own harmonicas to explore playing/performing songs through trial and error. The students then explored the condition synesthesia by using their creative side and expressing the music they heard in colorful, imaginative drawings. In the afternoon, students listened to some good vibrations while learning how sound is composed of waves. They then used this knowledge to begin to build their own electronic instruments composed of a vibration circuit and keyboard!

Ask your students:  What is synesthesia? (A perceptual phenomenon in which one sense involuntarily triggers another; E.g. looking at the number 4 causes a mint taste in one’s mouth)

What is a wave? (The transportation of energy through a medium (water, air, etc.) without transporting matter)

Book Recommendation: A Mango-Shaped Space By Wendy Mass

This young adult novel is recommended for 5th-8th grade students and expands on the topic of synesthesia (which was explored this morning by the students). The plot revolves around Mia Winchell, a thirteen-year-old girl, struggling to understand and be understood by her peers, friends, and family due to her synesthesia. The novel received the American Library Association Schneider Family Book Award in 2004 and has since received several other awards.