Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sub Plans- Inventing a New Instrument

I loved visiting the Landmark Center in St. Paul this last week on my Expanding the Classroom Walls I, class. Check out my previous post about the MANY opportunities at this site. For the class we were asked to create a lesson inspired by one of the field trip experiences from the week.  The music gallery's at the Landmark Center is where I found my inspiration.  Here is my lesson

I started by looking into Mary Ellen Childs as an artist and I was very happy to see that she was featured on Minnesota Original.  This is one of my favorite shows.  This show really celebrates how much talent is right here, local to Minnesota.

The videos above would be one that I would show my students as we are learning about Mrs. Childs work.  These are the pieces that were on display at the Landmark Center.  It shows how they are played. The instruments are called Stringsercycle, Pipesercycle and Xylocycle. 


  1. How do you think Mary Ellen creates her instruments?
  2. Where does she get her ideas for the different sounds?
  3. How does a performance of Mrs. Childs music composition look different than other performances you have seen?
  4. How do you think Mary Ellen came up with the names of her bike instruments?

I would love these questions to be in conjunction with a visit to the Landmark Center, but if it is not, The images and videos provided would help with the development of this lesson.

This activity is what brought my thought process to bring this into the art classroom (or science classroom for that matter).  I like how the Landmark Center gave silhouettes of different instruments and examples of tracing and combining different aspects of the instruments and creating something new.   It's good to have tracing paper for this portion of the assignment to give students confidence.  I would have them do their brain storming with this, and remove the original silhouettes (leaving only their sketches) for the final project or drawing.

By just Googling Silhouettes of Musical Instruments, I discovered it would not be difficult to create some tracing worksheets.  Some of these images are public domain but many of them are for purchase.  I would imagine that my music department would be able to assist me in looking for images as well.

Think of where this could go?  You could use the same process for building a hybrid animal, the student might have to write about the new animals environment, it's predators, it's prey.  You could do this when talking about tools to help our environment, playground equipment, architecture...  This could be a really fun lesson with lot's of spin offs. It will allow our students to be inventors, critical thinkers, story tellers, and maybe even composers.

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