From the Teacher
Technology is how today's students learn. If it's a screen, animated, or anything on a computer and not coming from a heavy book with no pictures, they're into it. Whenever I can teach music theory concepts with a video game, it's a hit! Even the most introverted, wouldn't-dream-of-outwardly-participating student is dialed in, jumping around excitedly, and suddenly confident and competitive. It's been said that teachers should be the teacher they wish they had, and I always wished I not only had an excitable teacher to show me the ins and outs of EVERYTHING, but one who had the resources to do so hands-on, instead of just seeing others do it in a video. Until this project, I only had videos to dangle like carrots in front of my students while explaining about the shapes that sound waves and different frequencies make. Thanks to Donors Choose, I achieved my goal with my Cymatics lesson!
Though this project used mostly what the students would call "old-school" technology; a vibration generator, with a Chladni Plate (a thin metal sheet) on top covered in colored sand, which is then attached to a repurposed amplifier with banana plugs and connected to my school-issued laptop cued up to an online audio generator (the most "technological" part if you asked my students). Without a doubt, they were curious, but true to form, started off skeptical and "too cool". However, once the lab started, they were mesmerized! "Oooh! Look at the sand move! Whoa! That's cool. It gets so many more shapes and they're tighter when you play higher frequencies! It looks like an owl! Awesome!" Incidentally, I had my principal observe the lab and she also loved the lesson; I felt like I taught not only my 5th graders that day, but also imparted knowledge on my principal and that felt great! Learning across ages! Thanks to my materials!
I had been teaching them about how the sound waves create the shapes at higher frequencies, and so forth, but because the videos had a backing track of music, they never knew how high those frequencies actually sounded. I was glad I had done plenty of practice experiments before and discovered that it was actually quite loud and bought ear plugs for all of us. I know that having this literal hands-on experience (they all got to touch the vibrating Chladni plate), took the lesson from, "Neat." to "WOW!", but most importantly got them to truly understand the higher-level concept of the lesson. Even one of our special needs students, who is minimally verbal, came home and continued to conduct his own experiments! His mother asked him why he kept putting paper (I assume he didn't have sand on hand) on the speakers and having his father play bass-heavy music. He said, "Mom, sound waves make paper move." Imagine my amazement when she told me in a meeting! She thanked me for teaching her son something that he was obviously fascinated by and yet challenging him. There are also others who were not even sure it would actually work and thought the results in the videos we watched were "movie magic". Their eyes about popped out of their heads and they became some of my most engaged students that day.
I wouldn't have been able to have my students achieve this kind of high-level learning if not for the generosity of donors at Donors Choose. This Title 1 teacher felt like a magician for a day and I owe it all to you! I cannot thank you all enough.
From the Students