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How to Combine Music and STEM Activities for Kids

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As we embark on a new school year, we’re excited to share insights from educators who are using Splats STEM activities for kids to engage their students in both virtual and hybrid learning.

Cathy Truesdale, a PreK to 4th Grade Music and Performing Arts teacher at Canterbury School in Florida,is leveraging Splats to combine coding, music, and play in her hybrid and distance learning classes.  Truesdale, along with many music teachers are coming up with creative ways to teach music given that in many instances, they aren’t able to sing or play instruments in person or in class. 

Exploring Music and STEM Activities for Kids During Virtual Learning

Ms.Truesdale is exploring new innovative ways to support students online during COVID-19 and heard about Unruly Splats through an edWeb webinar on virtual STEM activities for kids.

“I went online to look for webinars and I saw one about mixing STEM and play. I’m always looking outside the box for ways to work with my students. I attended the webinar and was fascinated by what I saw,” said Truesdale. 

After attending the webinar and applying for the Unruly Splats summer grant, Truesdale received two Splats and used online resources to explore using them for virtual learning. She worked with her school to offer a week-long summer program for rising 3rd graders using Splats to combine virtual learning and hybrid learning. Her goal was to test the summer program experience and incorporate Splats for virtual and hybrid learning in the fall when all students would return to school. 

“I’m always thinking about the big picture and after looking at the Musical Splats Activity Pack I saw the possibility of extending it even further. We experimented and tried different things over the summer. We started out with two Splats and used a MIDI conversion so that every note had its own number. One student was so into it that he re-created an Imagine Dragons song,” said Truesdale.
STEM activities for kids MIDI conversion chart with unruly splats
Using MIDI conversions, students can code their own songs using virtual Splats. Our Musical Splats Activity Pack walks students through how to do this with step-by-step activities and videos.

Cathy connected with families upfront to share information about the week-long experience, including equipment needed (a Chromebook or iPad), and the kids got started right away. She began her program with a lesson on coding, tutorial videos, and some simple coding activities to get started. 

musical splats stem activity for kids

Mixing Coding & Creativity to Boost Student Engagement

The summer program was a huge success and Truesdale was thrilled when her students from the summer experience started asking when they would be able to use Splats this fall. 

“The response to the summer program was exciting. The students loved it. They love being able to solve problems and fix bugs in their code. The platform really gives them a lot of creativity,” said Cathy. 

Cathy is in the process of bringing the Splats STEM activities to her 3rd grader class this year. So far the students have turned the Splats into musical notes and incorporated them into other instruments for songs. It’s still a work in progress, but they have a lot of opportunities coming up for students to explore creativity through Splats music and STEM activities! 

mixing stem activities for kids and music with unruly splats
Students from Ms. Truesdale's grade 3 class are using Splats to code music songs. Each Splat is associated with a note and when they stomp on it, that note plays!

Now that students are back in the classroom, Ms. Truesdale plans to try a number of Splats STEM activities for kids leading up to Halloween, including coding spooky songs and encouraging students to create special effects with Splats. Currently, her 4th grade students are starting on musical creations and are creating music games for younger students. Truesdale likes to encourage collaboration between grade levels and empower students to take the lead in their learning.

“I was so happy I got the full Splats pack with a grant through my school,” said Cathy. “I’m starting to explore ways to collaborate with the technology teacher and explore new topics that I hadn’t considered before.”

Why STEM and Music are a Perfect Match

Growing up in a home with two computer engineers, her father and brother, Cathy has always been tech-savvy and enjoys the interplay between music and tech. She was raised with a classical music background, but as she went further in her teaching career she noticed her students were interested in electronic music and enjoyed creating music with samplers and synthesizers. Early on, the software was really cumbersome and generally made for professional use. Over time, student-focused programs began to emerge. 

code musical notes with Splats with our STEM activities for kids pack
Students in Ms. Truesdale's class take turns coding music with Splats

Truesdale explored programs that she could adapt, such as GarageBand®. She’s been using technology for 15+ years in her music classroom and encourages her students to manipulate sounds using computers and recordings. Early on in her effort to connect music and STEM activities, Cathy taught students to create their own ringtone so they could share it with their families and who could use that ringtone for their child. She is always keen on trying out new things and helping students make meaningful connections in their learning.

“When I saw Splats I knew there was so much we could do with them, especially as I knew we could have to find ways to reach them virtually,” said Truesdale. She knew right away that she wouldn’t be able to use a number of the traditional music making tools, because there wouldn’t be a way to sterilize and sanitize them as she moved class to class. 

“Splats are durable and they are fascinating. As soon as the kids saw them, they got so excited to learn that they could step and jump on it,” said Truesdale. “The kid's reaction was ‘WOW!’ and as soon as they stepped on it and got a sound there was instant gratification!” 

Cathy notes that Splats are super easy to sterilize. She cleans them with Clorox wipes and then they’re ready for the next group. What’s more, she found them to be extremely portable and uses a plastic bin and a cart to take them from class to class. 

Cathy's Tips for using Splats for Hybrid and Virtual Learning

Ultimately, students are really enjoying their experience with virtual Splats STEM activities and Cathy finds the resources provided by the Unruly Splats team extremely helpful. As teachers prepare for virtual learning, Cathy shares a few tips from her own experience.

1) Learn with Your Students: “I didn’t have all the answers, but I simply explained to my students, ‘I’m not sure, let’s learn about this together.’ Then, they took the initiative to go over their work, explore on their own, and came back to our sessions to share something new they found,” said Cathy. 

2) Begin with the Basics: Truesdale also recommends breaking up the learning opportunities to help students build confidence. Each day, she reviewed what they did the day before and would explain how they would build on that learning.

3) Advocate for Cross-Curricular Collaboration: Students benefit when educators find ways to create meaningful experiences, such as taking technology and music or history and bundling those together to help the kids make connections — that is authentic learning!

“I’m really excited right now, there’s so much more to do! I’m creating a new curriculum because I have certain concepts that I work on with the students and I’m also developing new programs,” said Cathy. “One of the big things that our school does each year is that every grade has a performance, but we can’t do it this year. I’m already thinking of new ways to do it in this environment and want to see how I can use Splats for that.”

guide to stem activities for kids during hybrid learning

Unruly Studios makers of Unruly Splats, programmable, stompable floor tiles that help kids learn fundamental coding skills through recess-style play. Best for elementary and middle school students from PE to science or coding class, a great addition to the classroom for active STEM coding and play!

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