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Growing Sound is a cross-curricular workshop, for primary and secondary schools, that uses making musical instruments from fruit and vegetables as the focus for exploring music, the physics of sound, plant biology and the environment.

Growing Sound Logo
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The project combines the expertise of teachers, biologists, physicists and musicians to encourage and enhance science, environmental awareness and music teaching in schools.

Kids maing vegetable instruments

The day can begin with physical theatre, exporing the nature of sound. Percussion workshops are used to explore music making. They also explore what fruits and vegetables are, and which part of the plant they come from. The focus of the workshop is then pupils making, and playing, their own musical instruments from the vegetables and plant material supplied to them, perhaps inspired by musical instruments they have learned to play during the day. The final activity in the day might be a vegetable concert for the parents.

Growing Sound uses group discussion and problem solving to encourage children to develop original ideas. As the work is based on oral and physical activities all pupils have an opportunity to demonstrate their ideas, regardless of their literacy skills or special needs.

The pilot was run in a number of schools. A CPD session has been held at the Science Learning Centre NW. A flexible model was developed that provides a framework for other schools to use. Currently curriculum and CPD materials are being finalised by Wonderstruck Learning.

The objectives of this activity are:

1. To work on the art/engineering/science divides to inspire pupils to be interested in engineering.
2. To improve the teaching of science.
3. To increase pupils’ understanding of what sound is and how things make sound.
4. To increase pupils’ understanding of plant biology.
5. To demonstrate that engineering is not compartmentalised in traditional disciplines.
6. To show pupils that science can be creative and fun!

Many people, including Salford University, have used musical instrument construction as a vehicle to explore engineering. Using vegetables to make the instruments makes the activity memorable to pupils and therefore more effective. It also enables a discussion of the biology involved and illustrates how engineering problems are often not compartmentalised within traditional discipline boundaries. The idea for musical instruments made from vegetables has been used by Trevor Cox in science cabaret. Working independently of Professor Cox, the project partners for this activity have piloted a project called ‘Growing Sound’, which exploits vegetable instruments in school work. The Growing Sound project is being developed under the aegis of the ‘Sound Matters’ project, in particular by working more science into the activities, extending the age range for the activities, and providing a legacy of materials that can be taken up and used by schools in the future.

The activity explores:

* The physics of sound: e.g. echoes, sound absorbing and resonance of materials and cavities.
* The underlying biological characteristics of the materials that are grown that make them resonate, allow them to be hollowed out etc..
* Creating sounds using simple instruments made from fruits and vegetables.
* Using the process of growing and collecting materials to address the biology curriculum.
* Designing and building sound gardens to explore sound and biology.

Once the curriculum materials have been finished, the intention is to publicise the work so that teachers use the activity across the UK. We will create a website where the material can be hosted.