This month’s Be the Scientist program for kids in grades 3-5 returned to sound exploration like we did last Fall with the Science of Sound program. This time, we aligned it with Hispanic Heritage month to offer a suite of programs that focused on South American cultures. And the result was exploring pitch and frequency with Pipes of Pan. Here’s what we did.

We started off with a brief slideshow to introduce the topic and provide key definitions. This has become a staple in the Be the Scientist program as it sets a foundation for the hands-on portion of the program and welcomes participants to share their knowledge around the topic of exploration. We had a very small group this time around and everyone was able to chime in with comments or questions relevant to the slideshow.

Supplies for experiment

Supplies for experiment

The slideshow defined sound, pitch, frequency, and Pipes of Pan. We included text, discussion, and video to demonstrate these definitions and provide context. After establishing this foundation of learning, we introduced the challenge: to construct individual Pipes of Pan per the Exploratorium’s Science Snacks activity. We asked participants to use only the supplies provided, to experiment with different lengths of tubes, and to observe how adjusting tube lengths affected pitch and frequency.

This was an imperfect process for sure, but the participants loved it. Because we had a smaller turnout, those who did attend could use an ample amount of tubes and we didn’t run IMG_20190926_165706out. They also helped each other with the final construction using a hot glue gun, as this was at a table in the front of the room so everyone had to carry over their tubes carefully and in the order they wanted.

While the final product had varying results, everyone was proud of their creations and did their best to make a tune. They enjoyed listening to Pan of Pipes music while experimenting with their own and it seemed the smaller number of participants created a community of learners who helped and learned from each other. If you’re looking to offer this activity at your library, start collected paper towel tubes now. Our supply, intended for 16, was nearly used up by 4. 

Music and sound continue to be topics of interest that inherently supports experimentation and creativity. We’re looking forward to our next sound based STEAM adventure.