Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Sound Garden


After over a week of horsing around with our scientific exploration of pendulums, interest had definitely petered out by close of business on Monday. After class I set about dismantling our remaining PVC pipe painting pendulum . . .


. . . as well as the block tower destroyer . . .


. . . but then started thinking about all the effort I'd put into devising them and the hassle of returning all the parts to where they belong. I prefer to think of it as being economical with my own physical energy, not laziness, that got me thinking about how I could repurpose what we already had for the rest of the week.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I recalled, vaguely, pictures of a certain apparatus that just might serve to allow me to leave for lunch without exerting myself any longer in the classroom. That afternoon I dropped by Goodwill, where I found a large bin full of orphaned lids from pots and pans. On Wednesday morning we carried the pendulum skeletons, some string and the various lids to the outdoor classroom and converted them into the first stage of what I think will evolve into a new Woodland Park outdoor feature: "The Sound Garden." 




As you can imagine, all we needed to add was some old silverware, bamboo, fly swatters, rubber spatulas, and a miscellany of other stick-like objects, and we had ourselves a big, loud time.

I highly recommend the high-pitched resonance of that small, red cast-iron lid.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how the pendulum that I'd built for the purpose of knocking down small blocks had been a flop with the Pre-3 class. The group of boys who had been attracted to it were far more interested in holding onto the horizontal parts, then bouncing it up and down until it broke, than they were the pendulum effects. That same group of boys on Friday, "sticks" in hand, were the ones who had the most fun in the Sound Garden, creating a big time cacophony without breaking anything but the peace.

Our classroom is an acoustically challenged place, which has lead to my being judicious in making musical and other sound producing implements available indoors. I'm kind of shocked that I'm only just now realizing that, duh, one of the advantages of being an urban preschool is that we can make all the noise we want outside, and our neighbors probably won't even hear it, let alone complain.

And for those of you who are interested, I'm borrowing the name Sound Garden from the Dave Hollis sculpture "A Sound Garden" that resides on grounds of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) facility here in Seattle (which is where the band Soundgarden got its name as well).  Hollis' piece is designed to take advantage of the winds along Lake Washington to produce a variety of eerie, dissonate sounds.

Courtesy of NOAA


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13 comments:

Barbara Zaborowski said...

I like "Sound Garden" better than our name for a similar set-up. We call ours the "Noisy Wall." Ours hangs on the fence outside our room. One of our most successful pieces is an old broiler pan from Goodwill. The kids strum it.
Haven't been reading your blog for long, but I'm enjoying working my way through the older entries.

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

I am loving this!!

Sherry and Donna said...

Last Wednesday I set up a music area INSIDE full of musical instrument which are capable of producing the most lovely of sounds, BUT by Thursday I was ready to chuck them all out the window when 1/2 the group gathered there and took great delight in creating the most horendous noise while the other 1/2 stood around with ears covered yelling aaaaahhhhhhh!!!

I NEED A "SOUND GARDEN"!

(As far away from the Hush Garden as possibly of course).

Donna :) :)

jenny said...

Man, stop stalking the thoughts in my head - last night I wrote half a post about taking music experiences outside and I'm going to finish it off today. And this morning, here you are with your sound garden! I think it is a terrific idea - I'm hanging out to create a banging post at preschool.

Anyway perfect timing - now I can link to your sound garden :)

Life with Kaishon said...

Oh! I love this. I can just imagine the happy sounds this garden creates : )

PJ Mullen said...

That looks like the view from behind Neil Peart's drum kit :)

toasted said...

Love it! I wonder if my neighbours would mind....?

Michele said...

ha ha was just thinking same as TOASTED, wondering if I can get away with it at home. Have you seen the lovely wall on Soullemamas blog. Not sure what she called it but a big wall of pots and pans and cookie sheets and muffin trays with wooden spoons etc hanging nearby to make some music

Great idea (neighbours be warned!)

PS Love your reframe. Of course its not laziness, it is repurposing, economical use of time and existing resources, lateral thinking. Well done Teacher Tom!

PS I would love to hear at some point of your experience of preschool/school years both at home and school setting. What was this like for you and what were you like as a student? In what ways did your parents let you explore and investigate and learn and play as you now do with your students. And how has it shaped and influenced who you are now and you as a teacher.

CreativeSTAR said...

I'm in outdoor musical heaven!

Scott said...

A Sound Garden seems like the perfect addition to your outdoor space.

pamela wallberg said...

I love this. I've been wanting to build a proper sound scape for ever. . .maybe now that we've got the sand under control, I can work on this.

Rusty Keeler's book (Natural Playscapes, I think?) has a lovely chapter on sound scapes.

Marla McLean, Atelierista said...

This year there seems to be a movement of machines being invented. So many of the machines are magical and fantastical, but all seem to possess an amazing quality. They are machines that in the end, protect. Protect the baby chicks, protect folks from bad guys, protect bad guys by turning them into good guys...
Love the use of sound and gravity. Like a kid, these are things that never get old for me. Great ideas for outdoor play too, thanks! Once again,Tom, you've given me some new inspiration.

Launa Hall said...

The level of noise I'm allowed, as a student teacher, to allow the children to make is really low. Thanks for the inspiration, Tom--I intend to push the boundaries on music and sound making when I'm in a classroom of my own.

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