STEAM Saturday – Rainbow Xylophone! (3/2/2024)

Rainbow xylophone

Rainbow xylophoneSpring is almost here! Spring means lots of rain, and rain leads to… RAINBOWS! In mid-March, we also celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which means searching for the pot of gold at the end of… You guessed it, a RAINBOW! In honor of the most colorful of months, you and your child can explore the science of sound this week as you create your very own Rainbow Xylophone!

Here’s what you’ll need for this simple musical experiment:

  • 7 mason jars (or other glasses)
  • Food coloring (different colors to make the rainbow)
  • Water
  • Chopsticks, knife, or spoon (to tap on the jars)

How does the water xylophone work? Sound is created by the movement of the air, or sound waves. When you tap on a mason jar, it creates sound waves. When you fill each jar with a different level of water and tap on it, the sound waves travel through the water differently, generating a different pitch depending on how much water is in the jar.

Before getting started, have your child tap on the jars first to get an idea of the starting sound. Have them predict what will happen when water is added to the jars.

Next, fill each jar with a different amount of water. You can either do this by eye, or use measuring cups to be more exact. Use the food coloring to make each jar a different color. Consider placing your jars in order based on the pitch they create and then coloring them to match the rainbow. The jars with the most water will have the lowest pitches, while those with the least water will have the highest pitches. You can color the water in the highest pitched jar red, and work your way through the rainbow so that the lowest pitched jar is purple.

In addition to sound exploration, this activity is wonderful for learning about colors. You will have to mix your food coloring together to achieve some of the colors of the rainbow, which is the perfect opportunity to talk about color mixing!

Rainbow xylophone

Once your xylophone is lined up, colored, and ready to go, it’s time to make some beautiful music! Your child can tap on the glasses, explore the sounds, and even compose songs! Here are some prompts to help your little scientist get the most out of the experiment:

  • Is there a difference in the sound if you tap the sides of the jar versus the tops of the jar?
  • Try the experiment again, but using different types of liquids. How does that affect the sounds?
  • Does changing the water levels change the sounds?
  • What happens if you use different tools for tapping the jars? Do the sounds stay the same, or change?

Check out the full experiment and more about the science behind if from Little Bins for Little Hands HERE.

As always, get as creative as you want, and above all, have lots of fun learning together!

We’ll see you right back here next Saturday for another STEAM Saturday activity!  Scroll through the rest of our website to learn how Critchlow Adkins is Building Brighter Futures for the children and families we serve!

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