Monthly Archives: August 2015

Build A Speaker Challenge


This week the students in Music +STEM participated in the Build A Speaker Challenge!  

The scenario for the challenge was one many of us have experienced ….

A new song/video just came out that you want to share with your friends but all you have is your phone to play it on. You turn it on but it’s not loud enough for everyone to hear. Turning it up all the way distorts the sound, but you don’t have a extra speaker to plug it into.


Here’s the challenge students were given:

Hard at work designing and creating their speakers

Hard at work designing and creating their speakers

Build a speaker using only the supplies provided in the allotted time. 

The supplies consisted of

  • Up to 2 cups
  • Up to 2 sheets of construction paper
  • Up to 12 inches of masking tape

The goal:

Create a speaker that increases the decibel level of the audio of a phone

Students spent a day building their speakers.  They were allowed to work alone or in a group of two or three.  By the end of the day our classroom was filled with their inventions!


Day 2 was spent testing their speakers!

Here is the process we used:

  • We will measure a control level of decibels on a phone at a specified volume
  • We will then measure the level of decibels of the same sound being played using the speaker you create

Since it is difficult to find music that stays at the same volume, we used the “white noise” of a recorded hair dryer as our control sound.  We also made sure that everyone used the same phone at the same volume level. Decibels were measured with a decibel meter app.  We took a five second measurement for each speaker and used the average level provided by the app.

Testing their speakers with the decibel meter

Testing their speakers with the decibel meter

Of course, success was measured by the amount of increase in decibels, but students answered reflection questions to show more evidence of learning.

Questions like…

  • Is this the original design you created?  If not, what did you change along the way?  Why did you make those changes?
  • What improvements would you make to your speaker with the same supplies?  
  • What improvements would you make with more supplies and/or time

These questions help students focus on the process and the possibility for continued improvement in a project.  We found these questions to be especially important for students who had very little increase in sound – or even a decrease.  Most were able to suggest improvements from their own experience or by observing other students’ speakers.

The Results! 

The best results of the day were an increase of 6.5 decibels and 6.3 decibels.  The tension was high in many classes as students became silent to test their speakers and wait for the results.  Kids were truly impressed when they saw classmates achieving high numbers.


This was a great first building experience for our Music + STEM class.  Stay tuned to see us “toot our own horns” about what we make next!

Music + STEM = ?


Just what IS Music + STEM?    11802694_10152962703140919_4614138183162647576_o

Most of us know what to expect in a music class, but what happens when you add Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (and possibly more)?  It’s not an easy question to answer but here’s a snapshot of some of what will be happening in our classroom this year…

The goals of Music+STEM are:

  • Engage students in social music making and equip them with skills so they may continue throughout their lives
  • Reveal to and engage students in the ways in which music is part of our lives and society
  • Engage students in the practice of the scientific process, critical thinking skills, and 21st century skills
  • Instill in students the importance of reflection in the learning process – “Fail To Learn”

What will this look like in the classroom?

Monday & Tuesday…..WE Time      WE Time stands for World Exploration.  These days will be primarily teacher-led learning and projects.  The topics will relate to ways in which music is a part of our lives and society.

Wednesday …………… MI Time        MI Time (pronounced MY) stands for Music/Innovation.  This one day a week is set aside for students to learn about a topic of their choosing.  It should be something they feel passionate about and are motivated to learn more about.  This part of our class is inspired by Don Wettrick’s book Pure Genius and should be very exciting.  Be on the lookout for what our students do with this amazing opportunity!


World music drumming instruments!

Thursday …………Musicing        Musicing is just what it sounds like – making music!  The most important part of musicing is that it is active music making.  Instead of talking about it – we’re doing it – alone and together. Students typically learn and retain much more this way and most importantly, they experience the joy of music making.  Our school has shown amazing support this year with the purchase of world music drumming instruments, ukuleles, and even buckets for bucket drumming.  Keep your ears peeled for the beautiful music coming from room 102!

Friday ………..Re-Friday        Re-Friday is for review, reflect, regroup, and sharing.  Students will review the work of the week, reflect on their learning, regroup and plan for the upcoming week, and share their progress with the class.

This is the design for a typical week but as we all know, typical weeks don’t always happen, so this schedule is subject to change.  Be warned – expect the unexpected in Music + STEM!

Finally, a word about grading…

Making music together requires teamwork so we develop this skill in other ways, too.

Making music together requires teamwork so we develop this skill in other ways, too.

Students will be assessed in the following ways:

  • Field notebooks/journals will be graded weekly
  • Musicianship grades will reflect students’ technique and their contribution to creating a successful musical environment
  • Projects
  • Progress checks within projects

Needless to say, we are excited about all that will be happening in Music + STEM this year!  Stay tuned for updates on the happenings of our classroom!

P.S. You may have heard of STEAM – when Arts are integrated into the traditional STEM subjects.  We deicided to call our class Music + STEM (or M+STEM) because Music is still at the forefront of the class.

Musicing on our first day together!

Musicing on our first day together!