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Shawna Longo – the Music Educator, STEAM Facilitator and Arts Integration Specialist at Hopatcong Borough Schools in New Jersey – was my guest on episode 53 of the Music Tech Teacher podcast but she’s back to chat about STEAM lessons in the music classroom.

Shawna shared some great ideas during the episode and we mentioned a number of links and resources which are listed below.  You can download a copy of the list, plus my outline of the lesson ideas by using the download button below.


Links and resources:


Lesson/Unit Ideas:


6th Grade: Ratios and fractions

  • Discuss pipes with students: where can you find pipes in real life? (examples include church organ, Yankee Stadium etc)
  • Take out a set of Boomwhackers and listen to different notes that each one produces
  • Measure the boomwhackers: students work out how length correlates with pitch and convert to ratios


7th grade: Sound Waves

  • Revisit the work they did on ratios – correlation of length and pitch of pipes; amplitude, frequency and wave length
  • Relate to the boomwhackers (perform)
  • Could take a field trip to view an organ inside a church to make real-world connection
  • Could Skype in an organist into your class instead – discuss the organ and mechanics etc
  • Move on to a discussion about soundwaves and frequencies
  • Experience sound waves through a visual representation by showing students Chladni plates
  • Discuss the relationship to frequencies: a busy/intricate pattern = high frequencies
  • Create visual artwork based on the Chladni plate patterns


6th grade: Invent an instrument

  • Gather clean garbage – students bring in from home
  • They are encouraged to think about the sound each type of material makes
  • Show examples – items you can hit, strum, scrape etc
  • Revise families of instruments – which categories would it fit into? (woodwind, brass, percussion etc)
  • Remind students that instruments are grouped together based on how they make sound
  • Students create a NEW instrument – they can combine methods of sound production in a single instrument
  • Blue Man Group “invent an instrument” contest was the spark for this idea
  • Use the engineering design process as a framework. In a STEAM classroom this includes:
    • Observe and investigate (see what already exists)
    • Ask probing questions and discover (what are the possible solutions?)
    • Building knowledge and connections (apply knowledge to solve problem)
    • Create (sketch your solution first!)
    • Analyse, revise and reflect
  • When students have finished project, they go through a process of self-review and peer review. Shawna asks them to give “two stars and a wish”
  • After the peer and self reflection, Shawna assesses the projects
  • Students then compose a short melody or rhythm to perform on their new instrument.  It must showcase what the instrument can do
  • Optional extension – record the performance in a DAW (GarageBand, Soundtrap etc) and add a backing track


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