Have you ever heard of the Blue Man Group? Chances are you've seen this rather odd threesome on a television commercial or even in person at one of their live performances. They're the ones who can drum up a melody by striking instruments made out of PVC pipes.
I've always found their antics quite entertaining; enough to catch one of their shows the last time I was in Vegas. That was several years ago and lately my interest in them has been renewed through a project that my students will be working on next week. To end our unit on sound--a unit where students learn about how frequency and pitch are related--my students will be building an instrument out of PVC pipes. I introduced the idea to them a few weeks ago and they have been anxiously waiting to get started ever since.
I'm convinced of the benefits my students will reap from the project. In addition to learning about sound, they'll have the pleasure of building and testing an instrument that provides them with some application of their learning. As I have been preparing the kids for the project, I've also realized how satisfying it has been and will be for me. I've been building my own instruments at home so that the kids could have some examples to work from. Let me tell you, building these instruments is a lot of fun! And I feel like the only reason I can build them is because I'm a teacher. Surely, my wife would never allow me to spend the time and money that I have working on them if I was just doing it for fun! Teaching fifth grade allows me to play, to stay young (forever a ten year-old). That is what these kids need. They don't need desks in rows, worksheets, and constant read-alouds from textbooks. They need playful projects like this to engage them.