STEAM Lesson Part 1

This trimester, the science teacher and I are working together to produce a STEAM unit in the music and science classes at the third grade level. To begin, STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. STEAM is born from STEM. STEM was introduced when our country was turning to innovation as a way to ensure a prosperous future (quoted from http://stemtosteam.org/).  The A was added to recognize the positive impact that arts and design have on innovation. In addition, this unit is enhancing the current music curriculum as we are utilizing many musical concepts and standards to complete this unit.

The first portion of our unit is  about pitch and volume. In today’s lesson, the students were given their recorders and their recorder music. They have just earned a recorder star for their recorder straps by learning Don Muro’s “Land’s End” from Introducing BAGI  asked the students, “How would you perform this song if I gave you these beakers, a jug of water, and markers?” The students immediately answered that the water poured into the beakers would produce sounds and notes. We experimented together to learn that some of the beakers that looked the same actually produced different sounds, in which we were now referencing them as pitches. Some of the beakers were thicker in density and we assumed this made the beakers different pitches. We noted that many of the empty beakers were pitched at G and C (above the G). As we moved through the lesson, the students learned that when they added water to the beaker, it lowered the pitch. The students then used their recorders to define the pitches B, A, and G so that they could determine if they could get their three beakers to sound those three pitches. In addition, since these students were loving this project, I pointed out the descant that is heard in the recording and assigned one of the groups to figure out the pitches for the descant using the beakers. The descant was made up of the notes A, B, and D. The problem that arose was that the beaker could not produce the high D pitch, so the students used the water to produce a low D pitch. They all experienced great success. At the end of the class, they performed the song with the accompaniment. They were amazed to be able to perform this song using water, beakers, and markers (the markers acted like triangle beaters), and utilizing the knowledge they learned from science (volume and pitch) and music (pitch, high and low, reading rhythms and performing on instruments). This STEAM unit will continue and eventually culminate with a final project where they will compose a simple melody using noteflight (http://www.noteflight.com), GarageBand, and instruments made from recycled materials.

When I integrate across the curriculum, I make sure to address a few items. These items are:

  • Keep the teaching of age-appropriate music concepts in tact.
  • Make sure that I am giving ample class time to concert preparation so the students are feeling confident when they perform.
  • Make sure that I am addressing the concepts of the integrated subject, ie: using the same terminology and having knowledge of their curriculum and timeline.

Please check back for further developments.

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3rd graders using beakers, waters and markers to create and perform the pitches A B and D.
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Students listening to the pitch their beaker produces when it has 250 ml of water in it.
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3rd graders filling their beakers with water to produce a variety of pitches.
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3rd graders notating the descant and figuring out how much water is needed to produce the pitches.

 

Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award and the 2016 NJMEA Master Music Teacher Award. TI:ME . You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com
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  • Amanda F.

    What a fantastic arts integration lesson! While I have done a lot of work with my elementary music students about pitch in relation to size and have introduced them to a simplified version of a glass armonica as outlined above, I have not tied this to the scientific process with water
    volume. I will have to do that. I wonder—do your students play
    Boomwhackers? I am curious because the visualization of a Boomwhacker as a cylinder of water in a beaker might make a
    strong connection and allow students to accurately hypothesize about
    appropriate volumes. Likewise, this lesson could be expanded by learning about Benjamin Franklin’s version of a glass armonica with different widths of glass producing various pitches. Did you venture at all into vibrations (e.g. explaining about A440 vs. A220 and sound wave lengths in relation to pitch) during this unit? One thing I really appreciate about this lesson/unit is that you not only teach the students to replicate the song they learned, but to use apps to compose and record a melody of their own. With smaller sizes of beakers or glass bottles, they might indeed be able to achieve the high D that eluded them in the initial trial. I look forward to
    learning more in your STEAM Part 2 post!

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