A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Russell Cave Elementary students get three new musical PVC pipe and steel instruments

Students at Russell Cave Elementary enjoy new instruments installed in the playground. (Photo from FCPS)

Recess at Russell Cave Elementary now reverberates with more than the sound of children’s laughter as students enjoy three percussion instruments newly installed near the traditional playground equipment.
“They can experiment and just play because that’s how kids learn this stuff,” said music and orchestra instructor Scott Hiner.
The simple instruments include a set of PVC-pipe drums, a PVC tubulum (think Blue Man Group) and a xylophone made of galvanized steel pipes. Kids use colorful rubber flip-flops to strike the tubulum and short pieces of garden hose on the xylophone. Hiner was not happy with the drums’ muted sound, so he will make some adjustments to the drain pipes. He also plans to extend the xylophone’s range and add more wind chimes and other elements.
Youngsters who first tried out an instrument during Parents’ Night activities were encouraged to “just bang on it.” Some were enthusiastic; others a bit shy. Hiner expects the pieces will be well-used as students become familiar with them.
Hiner and science lab teacher Julie Jones teamed up on this project, made possible mostly by a Blue Grass Community Foundation mini grant and in part by VSA Kentucky, the State Organization on Arts and Disability. “I did the paperwork part and he did the building,” said Jones, who has grant-writing experience.

Scott Hiner, music teacher at Russell Cave Elementary, wrote the grant for the instruments and helped design them with science lab teacher Julie Jones. (Photo from FCPS)

In deciding on these basic instruments, they tried to gauge what would work best at Russell Cave and what would be most feasible moneywise. They only spent about $400.
“This was a way to add something fun and engaging on our playground at minimal cost,” Jones said.
Some supplies were contributed by Wise Recycling, and volunteers from Serve the City turned out on a Saturday work day to dig holes and set the wooden posts in concrete. An artist-in-residence who recently taught the kids about the gamelan, an orchestra in the Indonesian musical tradition, also donated time and materials for the new playground instruments.
Hiner pointed out that as with a gamelan, the tubulum and xylophone pipes are numbered rather than lettered. That makes the pitch scale easier to grasp for ELL students (English language learners) at Russell Cave, where about 75 percent of the youngsters are Hispanic.
In addition to the kids’ free play at recess, teachers are welcome to use the instruments in their classroom instruction.
“We’ll talk about the physics of sound, and I’ll bring classes out here and we’ll compose,” Hiner said.
Jones will also make sure students see the science connections, noting for instance how the sounds produced depend on the length, diameter and material of the PVC and metal pipes.
“I talk about how sound is created by vibrations and how we can build different pitches,” she said.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment