Making a wind chime is the perfect springtime activity. Have children search for materials in nature — seashells, sticks, and more — and then help them use those items to create whimsical chimes for your outdoor play space. This activity gives children the opportunities to compare the size and shapes of objects and observe the different sounds various materials make. These explorations help build science and mathematics content skills. This idea is from Teaching STEM in the Early Years: Activities for Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
- Thick stick, approximately 12 inches long, for each child
- Selection of metal, wooden, and natural objects, as described in the activity
- Cord or wire
Many natural objects make lovely sounds when they are tapped together. In this activity, children discover that the force of moving air has the power to move objects, which can create sounds when the objects touch one another. To make wind chimes, children can select various sizes of metal washers, brass hoops, seashells, bells, pieces of bamboo, small sections of metal pipe, and sticks or wooden dowels. They can even include shapes or letters made from self-hardening clay. Brass hoops, seashells, bells, and bamboo are available in craft stores, and metal washers and steel pipe can be found in hardware or building supply stores. Long pieces of bamboo, dowels, and metal pipes can be cut to various lengths and sanded to remove sharp edges. Holes can then be drilled through the pieces so that they can be suspended. Small holes can even be carefully drilled through seashells.
A major goal of this activity is for children to observe the difference in the sounds that various materials create. This is related to both the size and the material of the object. Plenty of time should be allocated for children to gently tap objects and listen to the sounds they create. To create pleasing sounds, the objects must be able to vibrate freely. For this reason, teachers should tie loops of wire or string through the objects before the activity begins. Children can hold these loops to suspend the objects while they gently tap them with a pencil or stick. After children have selected the objects they want to use for their chimes, they can attach their chimes to a stick. The wind chimes can then be hung in places on the playground where they can move freely in the wind.
The material that an object is made from affects its tone quality, which is called timbre in music. This is why a violin and flute sound different from one another even when they play the same notes. Another physical property that affects sound is the size of the vibrating object. Larger objects produce lower tones than smaller objects even if they are otherwise identical. All of these variations in sound are encompassed in the scientific area of acoustics.
Another science concept explored in this activity is the force of moving air. While children can’t see air, they can feel its movement when a breeze blows. The wind chimes give children another way to measure the force of moving air, since the chimes jingle louder when the wind is stronger.
Children have many opportunities in this activity to compare the size and shapes of objects, which connects this learning experience to measurement and geometry.
Connections to Technology and Engineering
Technology is increasingly being used to harness wind power. Engineers have designed wind turbines to maximize the power that moving air can generate. Some children may have seen wind farms with thousands of wind turbines. Photographs of older windmills and more modern wind turbines can be found on the Internet.
Comments and Questions to Support Inquiry
- The bamboo and the pipe are the same length, but they make different sounds. Why do you think that is?
- I want my wind chime to make quiet sounds. What materials do you think I should use?
- Close your eyes for a minute while I play the long pipe and the short pipe. See if you can tell which one I’m playing.
- Our wind chimes were loud yesterday. Why don’t we hear them today?
For more activities like this, check out Teaching STEM in the Early Years: Activities for Integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by Sally Moomaw, EdD.