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  • All musical instruments work by making vibrations. We make sounds by actions such as striking, blowing, plucking, swinging, shaking or scraping the instruments. Individual instruments have features that allow them to make different sounds.

    In this set of activities, students are introduced to basic Physical World concepts about sound and music through the use of play and exploration.

    This resource is designed for students working at New Zealand Curriculum levels 1 and 2. It also supports the Exploration – Mana Aotūroa strand in Te Whāriki. It identifies key science concepts and ways in which students can explore, experience and build their understanding of vibrations, sound and music. It also provides pedagogical information to guide educators as they shape questions and discussions during the exploratory activities.

    The article Building Science Concepts: Exploring sound provides background information about basic science concepts needed to understand sound and how we make and hear them.

    This activity provides opportunities for students to investigate:

    • the parts of musical instruments that vibrate
    • the actions musicians take to make the instruments vibrate to make sounds
    • simple home-made musical instruments to observe vibrations and sound
    • how combinations of sounds that we like create music.

    You will need:

    • flexible, plastic rulers
    • a variety of musical instruments for students to use (shakers, stringed instruments, drums)
    • materials to make simple instruments (combs, jar lids, rubber bands, tins, bottles).

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content and activities

    Building Science Concepts: Exploring sound is a partial replication of the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s Building Science Concepts Book 18 Exploring Sound: Using Sound-makers and Musical Instruments. The article and interactive cover the science notes provided in the original BSC book.

    Sound – lower primary is a collection of resources and notes for educators. You are welcome to copy the collection to your own profile, where you can edit and curate additional resources. The article Creating collections tells you how to get the most out of a collection.

    Sounds of Aotearoa is a recorded PLD session that features educators from the New Zealand Association of Primary Science Educators (NZAPSE) exploring fun ways to learn and teach about sound.

    Additional activities for investigating sound with younger students:

    Useful links

    Make a bottle organ. The story and instructions are in Make a bottle organ, School Journal 3 (2); 1985. TKI has an exemplar: Sounds of a bottle organ. has a wide selection of home-made musical instruments. has illustrated instructions for making musical instruments with recycled materials.


    This resource uses information from the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s Building Science Concepts Book 18 Exploring Sound: Using Sound-makers and Musical Instruments.

      Published 16 August 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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