Friday, November 20, 2009

Sounds Abound in Fifth Grade

Submitted by the Fifth Grade Team

If you know a fifth grader who attends Ashford School you may have had he pleasure of listening to a serenade on the pan pipes or a lively tune played on a “sound sandwich.” These handmade instruments are just one part of the exciting learning taking place on the fascinating topic of sound. Fifth grade teachers have been co-teaching with the enrichment teacher, Carol Moran, to present inquiry-based, high-interest, and hands-on lessons.

In September, the students explored vibration. They used tuning forks to strike a surface and designed and conducted experiments to see how different objects would sound when struck by the vibrating fork. The most entertaining part was watching the effect the fork had on striking a cup of water – splash! After learning that all sounds are created by vibrations, students analyzed the qualities of sound.

In early October, classes went outside and analyzed absorption and reflection at work. Sounds reflected (echoed) off smooth, flat surfaces like our school and were absorbed by items with rough surfaces like the trees in the forest near our playground. It is encouraging as a teacher to see that the children are natural scientists: questioning, everything around them, analyzing variables, and brainstorming future experiments.

Later in the month students were involved in an in-depth study of pitch. They identified high- and low- pitched sounds and examined factors that alter pitch. This led easily into connections with musical instruments. Many children demonstrated their background knowledge of instruments and how length and tension can change pitch. We examined xylophones and the length and position of the keys in relation to the pitch that they made. There are a great many web-based resources to enhance student learning in this area that are fun for students and families alike. Try out these fantastic sties to make “sounds abound’ in your home!