Engineering Design Process Lesson 1

As an ArtsBridge Scholar, I’ve been thinking a lot about cross-discipline integration. My purpose in coming to teach at Edgemont Elementary is to integrate the arts- specifically music- into the everyday classroom. Mrs. Amesse has been wonderful in giving me a lot of freedom to decide what that means to me and how to approach Music Integration. She gave me the suggestion to focus on integrating music and science, since that is one of the major focuses in the first grade classroom this semester.

As I’ve developed my plan for the semester, I want to be careful not to undervalue either discipline. I don’t want to use music merely as a vehicle for teaching science; I believe music is important and valuable in and of itself, and that the students’ lives will be enriched by learning how to understand and interact with music. At the same time, I believe what the esteemed music educator Bennett Reimer said about integration (though he preferred the term interrelation):

“…understandings about music are deepened and broadened when related to other human endeavors both similar (although not identical) and different.”

Bennett Reimer, music educator

I have developed a series of lessons integrating Science and Music in a way that I feel honors both disciplines, helping the children increase their understanding in both domains. This lesson sequence is based around the Engineering Design Process.

The Engineering Design Process is one of the things Edgemont Elementary focuses on in their science curriculum. It is similar to the Scientific Method, but with a few clear differences. Through these integrated lessons, students will learn about and apply each step of the Engineering Design process in musical ways, increasing their understanding of both Science and Music.

 Each lesson will center around one step of the Engineering Design Process, using musical activities to help the students EXPERIENCE each concept.

Lesson One was all about Observation, which we defined as “Looking and Listening.”

Click HERE to view the complete lesson plan for Lesson 1: OBSERVE.

This lesson used a Music Map- a way of iconically representing how music sounds- to give the first graders experience with the concept of observation. This video demonstrates how Music Maps work (and it is the same piece of music, Coppelia Waltz, that I used in my lesson)

The idea of a Music Map is that it LOOKS like the music SOUNDS. The purpose of using a Music Map in this lesson was to encourage the children to use multiple senses- particularly their ears and eyes- to observe and make connections about what was happening.

After showing the music map, I asked the children what they had observed, and it was amazing to see how well they understood.

“You followed the music!” one child said. “You listen with your ears and you look at it, so you can follow it! We look at the lines so we could follow the music!” It made me smile to see how excited he was about his discovery.

“I noticed that you followed along, and the music went exactly where the lines were,” said another student.

They also noticed patterns, parts that went fast, parts that went slow… after giving the students a few chances to practice, I called a volunteer up to be the pointer so I could do some observing myself and assess the class. By watching them, I was encouraged to see that most of the kids were getting it; they were understanding the link between the music and the map, and this showed in their actions as well as the comments they made.

This is just the first step, of course. Additional lessons to come will teach more about what to do with the observations they made. I’m looking forward to teaching the rest of the steps in this Engineering Design Process!

%d bloggers like this: