Design an Instrument

By april vitale, May 10, 2009

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Science

Lesson Time

180 minutes for classroom activities


The design process will be used to create a string instrument.

National Standards


The student will:

  • create a string instrument
  • prove that vibrations produce sound
  • understand and demonstrate the characteristics of pitch


  • small shoe box
  • five rubber bands of various lengths and widths (thin and tight & wide and loose)
  • scissors




Prior to beginning this unit on sound, students are asked to bring in small (3- to 6-year-old size) shoe boxes.

Day 1:

1. The students will be introduced to the characteristics of sound, vibration, and pitch via a promethean board flipchart called Introduction to Sound. (Note: Alternate to flipchart: United Streaming video, Sound.)

2. Student volunteers interact with flipchart.

3. Class completes eight question assessment on introductory material.

4.  Students are asked to complete the following homework: Write definitions of the words you’ve learned and a meaningful sentence using each definition.  (Note: Possible long term homework: Research the affect of decibel levels on hearing in humans.)

Day 2:

1. Introduction -- Band/orchestra members of class demonstrate high and low pitch with trumpet, clarinet, and violin. Students guess if pitch is low or high.

2. Teacher reviews vocabulary.  Ask: How are vibration, pitch, and frequency related? 3. Now ask students to observe finger positions as they listen to violinists again. Discussion of string vibrations and pitch.

4. Teacher asks: What is the most popular string instrument? (guitar)  Teahcer plays rock and roll video.  Class discusses how the musician makes the guitar squeal and how the bass guitar mellows the sound.

5.  Teacher asks, while indicating the assembled craft materials: How can we use these materials to demonstrate pitch and vibration?

6. Teacher instructs students to create a journal page entitled “String Instrument.”  The entries follow the scientific inquiry method.

7.  Teacher breaks students into teams of two.  Team pairs discuss how to use the materials to make a guitar, violin, harp, etc., then create a sketch and take notes.

8. Teams share their sketches and ideas. Constructive feedback follows.

Day 3:

1. Pairs design and complete their idea of a guitar using the materials.  They complete their journal page up to the Conclusion.

2. Each team pair demonstrates how they used the materials, plucks their rubber strings and the other students guess if the pitch is high or low.

3. Students should finish with the conclusion that the tighter bands vibrate more and create a higher pitch than the looser, wider bands.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Students present results of research which includes a chart of decibel levels. Can use chart as a base for “sound waves” topic.

Keep “guitars” to use for subtopics of:  How sound travels; Best/worst materials for sound travel; Loudness.

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