Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Students as Sound Designers- A STEM to STEAM Lesson

If you are looking for a great STEAM activity, look no further than this lesson. This lesson is super cheap and great for teaching about sound waves in class. This is also a great lesson for students to explore how sound can impact a theatrical performance. Depending on your students' age and maturity, you can become very advanced with this lesson or keep it very very simple.

Prep: Download Audacity onto any computers you plan on using for this lesson. This is a free download that works on both Mac and PC. I would recommend you also downloading this to your computer as well so that you can demonstrate the sound effects creation as well. If your computer has a built in microphone you can use that for a free solution, or there are probably several sets of microphone headsets at your school that you can borrow for the purpose of your lesson. If you want to go a little more advanced and get a better quality sound you might want to consider purchasing a microphone from amazon. I got one similar to this for about $20.00 you can find them cheaper and more expensive if you are interested. For the purpose of the lesson the type of microphone doesn't matter, but if you are actually interested in creating your own sound effects for plays a good recording microphone is a must.

Begin by letting your students explore sound creation. Have them practice and create the most original sound they can come up with. I would record all the sounds onto your computer while the students watch. Audacity is great because it shows the sound waves recording in real time. Once students have recorded their first sounds, play back the track. Have the students make observations about the types of sounds they hear verses the sound waves displayed on the screen. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce sound vocabulary including Crest (peak of the wave) Trough (Bottom of the Wave), Amplitude (distance from the midline) and Wavelength (distance from one crest to the next).  Students should begin to recognize that amplitude affects the volume of the sound wavelength affects the length of time. Giving students apple opportunity to explore sound and sound waves will help students get a better opportunity of these science terms (it will also inspire lots of creativity and silliness and who doesn't love that!)

Once students have had some fun and have good handle on sound effect start having them work towards creating specific sound effects. I love to start off with the thunderstorm for the younger kids. They love snapping their finders and stomping their feet to create the rain and thunder. Older kids often get a kick out of creating haunted house sound effects. Let the students use different props and classroom items to explore how they affect the sound. Have them make predictions about what the wavelengths will look like for each sound effect.

For the final project give students a scene to read. Have the students analyze the scenes and create sound effects that will compliment the scenes. Students must create the sounds and record them on audacity. To emphasize the science component, students should then print off the wave length picture and label each sound effect. You might also want to have students draw and label all fo the parts of the sound wave as well.

I hope your students like this activity. Mine love using the computer to create and use sounds in presentations. How do you integrate Science and Theatre?