Bringing the Sounds of Hawaii to the Foundry: Grade 1 Students Build Their Own Ukuleles

  • 2024
  • Primary
  • STEAM
Dean Lea, Foundry Specialist Teacher

The Foundry is a hub of creativity and innovation, and this was especially true during the Grade 1 students' recent intensive class on building their own ukuleles. This project not only allowed the young learners to develop their woodworking skills, but also provided them with a fascinating glimpse into the history and cultural origins of the beloved ukulele.

Most people don't realize that the ukulele has its roots tracing back to the 1880s, when small, guitar-like instruments from Portugal, such as the machete, cavaquinho, timple, and rajão, were introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants. From these modest beginnings, the ukulele has since become an iconic symbol of Hawaiian culture and a beloved musical instrument around the world.

In the Foundry, the Grade 1 students were able to continue honing their woodworking abilities as part of their science unit on sounds. While the basic shape of the ukulele was pre-cut using a laser cutter, the students still had the opportunity to cut, sand, and shape the remaining wood to create the full instrument. Other materials and tools used included screws, paint, hand drills, hammers, nails, a Japan pull-saw, sandpaper, and even rubber bands to serve as the ukulele strings - a clever and resourceful solution!

The activities the students engaged in were multifaceted, allowing them to develop a well-rounded set of skills. In the woodworking realm, they learned techniques such as cutting, sanding, shaping, joining wood using glue and nails, and using screwdrivers to secure the strings. The creative side of the project also shone through as the students unleashed their artistic flair, painting and decorating their ukuleles with unique designs that held personal meaning for them.

Throughout the process, the Grade 1 students continued to build upon the skills they've been developing in the Foundry, learning new tools and techniques along the way. This hands-on experience not only fostered their creativity and problem-solving abilities but also deepened their understanding of the science behind sound production.

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