Listening to the forest
Students sit and listen to a recording of the rainforest for a minute or so, and then write or draw everything they hear and words to describe the rainforest atmosphere. They can then talk about:
- What sounds they heard and in what order?
- How can we represent / put the sounds down on paper
- Could we recreate some of the sound using our own instruments?
- How could we organise the sounds into a piece or performance?
Make a squawking parrot
Since animals can’t see very far in the thick green foliage of the rainforest, they have to use their other senses. Some use very bright colours to let others know where they are, while others, such as monkeys and birds, use loud, low sounds to stay in touch over long distances. Here’s how to make a flock of squawking parrots:
pieces of sponge
paper in bright colours
brightly coloured plastic cups or yogurt pots
Using a drawing pin, poke a small hole in the middle of the bottom of plastic cup. Widen with point of scissors so you can get the string through – be careful not to crack the cup. Tie a knot in the string and pull it through the hole until the knot stops at the hole. Glue knot into place and allow to dry.
Decorate cup with pieces of paper cut to look like feathers and beak on the head of a parrot. Draw in eyes with a marker. Wet a piece of sponge. Tie the damp sponge to the end of the string and let it dangle. Moisten the string. This gives some tautness to the string and keeps it moist, producing a louder sound. Grasp string between index finger and thumb and slide down length of string. This should produce a squawking sound that is amplified by the shape of the cup. Experiment with different size cups and thicknesses of string.
Jungle Drums from Junk!
Make an instrument from found objects. Collect large containers like large coffee tubs. They need to have a plastic lid. Decorate the tub with brightly coloured geometric patterns to make it look exotic! Replace the lid to make a drum. You can use wooden spoons as drum sticks and, if you add dried peas inside the tub it can double up as a snake shaker too!
Build a rainstick
This is a South American or African instrument which amazingly mimics the sound of a tropical downpour. It can be very effective for creating a tropical atmosphere at the beginning of a story. Traditionally, rain sticks are made from the wood skeleton of a cactus. First, the thorns are pulled off and pushed back through the soft flesh of the cactus. Then the cactus is left in the sun to dry—with the thorns on the inside. Later, the hollow cactus is filled with beans, seeds, beads, or small stones, and the ends are sealed with pieces of wood. When tilted, the seeds cascade through the tube, bouncing off the cross-spokes creating a sound remarkably like rain- both realistic and musical. Here’s a version you can make at school / home.
|2 or 3 paper towel tubes
100 or so round toothpicks
paper or plastic wrap
|multicolour rubber bands
wooden ice lolly sticks
¾ to 1 cup lentils
Markers, paints, crayons, yarn, ribbon, glitter etc
Tape tubes together to make one long tube. Reinforce joints with a couple of ice lolly sticks, taping securely. Decorate tube with markers, paint, etc. as desired. Cover one end of tube with plastic wrap or paper held in place by rubber bands or masking tape. Use a drawing-pin to poke holes in the tube. Start at one end, spacing holes 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart, spiraling up to the other end of the tube.
Blunt one end of toothpick by pressing points on table. Insert pointy end through pin hole and press into tube as far as it will go. Repeat this process for the entire length of the tube.
Remember, the more toothpicks, the more convincing the rain sound. Pour in the lentils and cover the open end of tube with plastic wrap or paper and secure with tape or rubber bands. Experiment with different tubes and fillings to change the sound.
Make Recycled Musical Instruments
You could make your own percussion instruments from empty containers by filling them with small particles such as little stones or old shirt buttons, and then secure the contents by securing some paper over the opening.
Crunch used papers in a ‘hand washing’ motion to a rhythm.
Tear paper at a given moment in the rhythm.
- Repeatedly count out aloud together 1, 2, 3, 4, – 1, 2, 3, 4, – 1, 2, 3, 4, – 1, 2, 3, 4
- Continue to count out aloud, only this time add a single clap to each number that’s called. The children can progress to counting in their minds whilst making the rhythm beats only.
- 1, 2 and 3 is represented with a single beat and the 4th beat can be given x2 quick beats continuing and expanding. The first count has x2 quick beats while 2, 3, and 4 has a single beat.
A Stormy Beginning
Recordings of natural sounds can add a sensory dimension to studying the rainforest. A tropical thunderstorm is a particularly good ice-breaking activity or the end to a day of rainforest activities. There is a wide selection of environmental-type tape recordings on the market today that you may wish to purchase, but the following activity is a way that you and your students can create your own indoor thunderstorm.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t rain constantly in the rain forest. Some tropical areas have distinct wet and dry seasons, while in others rainfall is more even year round.
Rainstorms often follow a daily pattern. After the cool hours of early dawn, the air starts to heat up rapidly. Thunderstorms grow during the heat of late afternoon.
When the storm breaks, very heavy rains drench the landscape. A few minutes later, the sun may be shining brightly.
Have students sit cross-legged in a circle or semi-circle. Have them imagine that the air is becoming quite humid and still. Start by quietly rubbing your palms together, making a soft rustling sound. Begin on one side of the group, make eye contact with the students one by one, and have them imitate the action. When everyone is rubbing his or her palms, begin snapping your fingers. Again, begin at one side of the group, cueing people into action one by one. Have the action sweep over the group in a wave. Follow finger snapping by patting your hands on your legs and finally by stamping your feet.
As the storm subsides go through the first three steps in reverse order, patting legs, snapping fingers, rubbing palms. Emphasize that it is now quite cool and that the storm you just created is part of a daily cycle in many forests.
A percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound by being hit with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped, or by any other action which sets the object into vibration and can somehow be controlled by children playing it.
This is a simple way of taking a favourite song, music or nursery rhyme and giving that tune a different sound by ‘humming’ the song out or by giving it a ‘La, la, la’ all the way through to the end. Have fun mixing the variations at the chorus.
All parts of our body can make a sound, when tapped and/or slapped, touched or rubbed. Here are some hand clapping sound variations:.
- Open fingers to palm
- Cupped palms of both hands
- Cupped palm to flat hand
- Open fingers to open fingers
- Closed finger to palm
- Finger tip clapping
In a large area, in a circle facing clockwise and in a marching motion, the children move with the following beat instructions:
- The word ‘slowly’ has 2 syllables and when the word is said, can represent the movement of the sloth.
- The word ‘slow’ with its single syllable has a slightly quicker pace with the movement of a Jaguar with its sharp claws.
- ‘Medium’ has a separate distinction from ‘slow’ and with its 3 syllables it is separated and distinctive on its own.
- ‘Very quickly’ is not the same as an ‘out of control’ fast rhythm, as the word is spoken continuously and an organised tempo is identified and established.
- A variation can be the words being replaced with the sound eg, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz for ‘Ve-ry quick-ly’
- Controlled ‘sound level’ recognition is important, for example; Softly helps children to listen out to themselves and others. Balanced gives the experience of hearing others as well as ourselves. Loud fills the space with sound (but remember to conduct the length by bringing it to a stop with either a hand signal like a conductor; a high hand gesture for loud and a low hand gesture for quite/silent)
During the programme the children will take part in the following musical and sound activities. They will;
- respond to recorded environmental sounds as a stimulus for a discussion about the natural environment and animal diversity
- respond to recorded environmental sounds and narrative as a stimulus for imaginative work as they perform the roles of animals in a story
- take part in improvised group work using percussion to fulfill an instruction “Can we create the sound of a thunderstorm?”
- use improvised group percussion as a stimulus for discussion about how weather events and sound are linked
- use improvised group percussion as a teamwork activity
- use song, chants and rhythm during group story-telling
- respond to recorded and live music as an exploration of an indigenous form of music (e.g. Salsa) and make connections between a musical form and a geographical location
- perform live music as a means of creating a spontaneous celebration of their achievements during the programme.
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