A Magnetic Wall for Solving Problems

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How might you use a metallic wall to which you could attach magnets? At Boulder Journey School, the children have constructed a rollway made from open tubes, accentuated with hanging xylophone bars (the chimes), color-coded for pitch. In this video clip you see them listening to a recorded melody. They try to make the ball recreate the recorded rhythm as the ball rolls down the ramp striking the chimes. They do not try to recreate the pitches of the recorded melody. What is interesting about this game? The spacing of the hanging bars will determine the rhythm, given that the ball rolls at a fairly constant rate at a given angle of decline. So the hanging bars are both the source of the music and a type of rhythm notation, wider spaces creating longer time intervals between sounds. To change the rapidity of the sounds made by the rolling ball, Kira suggests that they reduce the angle of the ramp. This change has a slight effect. The rhythm played in the recording is still slower than the rhythm of the chimes. Reese offers another strategy: “Play them at the same time so we can compare them.” One wonders if her intuition is something like: "If we play them at the same time they will sound more alike." Or is she thinking, "It will be easier to hear the differences if we play the recording and roll the ball at the same time." What do you think? Notice the white paper underneath the ramps and chimes. The children have made colored marks on the paper to represent the spacing and pitch of the chimes. When these objects are removed, a form of music notation remains. The teachers help the children think about what marks to make, how to read them when the objects are removed, and how making the marks first can serve as a form of music composition, a plan for what and why to build. Clearly there are many other uses for a metallic wall covered in paper. Please enter our blog and let others know how you would use this versatile feature of the preschool classroom. Pay particular attention to the power of the paper and how it allows for reflection, symbolization, and planning. Length of video: 3 minutes 55 seconds Keywords: Fives, Children-Teacher, Sound, Ramps, Balls, Music, Environments