Music class has lots of opportunities to integrate music and science. MENC member Bonnie Lomax finds that many songs naturally lend themselves to scientific exploration:
“Fuzzy Caterpillar.” Explore metamorphosis and how some insects change.
“El Coqui.” Discover this little frog, the sound it makes, and its habitat in Puerto Rico.
“Down by the Bay.” Visit a watermelon patch where students use their senses to experience a watermelon—including taste. Save the seeds for planting or making music-symbol pictures. In the fall, do something similar with a pumpkin song.
“Autumn Leaves.” Ask students to bring in leaves, and discuss why they change color.
“Inch by Inch.” Plant seeds, watch them grow, and take measurements.
Other music activities are perfect links to science concepts:
Vibration is key to sound for all musical instruments. When the class studies stringed instruments, Lomax:
- Tells students she brought a stringed instrument to class, and shows them a rubber band. They are not impressed, even when they take turns strumming it.
- Then she puts the rubber band on a sturdy shoebox. Students strum again; the sound is better.
- She then turns the box over to reveal a hole she’s cut. Students strum again, better yet.
- She adds a bridge and several more “strings” (more rubber bands) and she has a fair-sounding guitar. They’re impressed!
- She holds the rubber band down in different places—even more impressive.
Teaching breath control can lead to studying bones and muscles. Lomax uses a posture rap and a paper skeleton to show the sternum and other bones.
Tempo can tie in with animal feet. Using pictures, discuss how animal feet differ in design, movement, and size. Who’s the fastest? What tempo fits which animal? Classify animals by the tempo of their gait.
“We have to remember that music is the ‘thing’ we’re teaching,” Lomax says. “But I feel like we do a disservice to our students if we don’t add what we can from other disciplines.”
Lomax attends monthly grade-level meetings when a particular level is preparing for its music program. By requesting copies of classroom teachers’ weekly newsletters, she keeps up with units of study and makes connections to music.
Teaching in a rural area, Lomax found her county extension office to be an excellent resource. Representatives have come to school to
- Make guacamole as an activity for the Latin rhythm song “Guacamole” by Teresa Jennings.
- Make bread and do activities with wheat grains in connection with a musical play “The Little Red Hen.”
Billy B., the Natural Science Song and Dance Man, has CDs, videos, and teacher guides at www.billybproductions.com/.
The Songs for Teaching Web site has songs for science categorized by discipline at www.songsforteaching.com.
Some of the benefits:
- When you connect a concept to a song, it’s easier to remember.
- When students make an idea into a song, it’s theirs.
- Students see that all subjects are related.
- For English language learners especially, pictures, songs, and hands-on activities scaffold learning and increase understanding.
Lomax links music to various disciplines in her lesson plan for “Home on the Range.”
Bonnie Lomax teaches K–2 music at Hugoton Primary School in Hugoton, Kansas.
–Linda Brown, May 14, 2008 © MENC: The National Association for Music Education