Some of the most meaningful and popular art projects for my young blind students are the ones in which we make instruments or objects that make sound. This week's rain stick project was a great way to combine visual art, with culture and science. Rain sticks were originally made by the Aztecs out of dried cacti and little pebbles. The cactus grows with the needles, forming a helix.
If you'd like to make a rain stick that lasts for years, a large piece of PVC pipe is perfect. This 18 inch piece of pipe has 50 holes drilled in a spiral shape, about 3/4" apart. Tiny brads (headless nails) were pounded but tooth picks with hot glue work as well.
I had dozens of empty paper towel rolls left over from last year's projects, so I decided to use those. Students decorated the cardboard rolls using paint or marker, followed by strips of tissue paper and colored masking tape. The process involves painting, cutting, gluing, and taping. But wait, there's more! For the ends of the tube, we used tooling techniques on foil.
To create obstacles for the grains of rice, I curled strips of cut toilet paper roll, and hot glued them to the inside of each tube. I could only reach inside a short distance to glue the strips, but I found 3 or 4 of them were enough.
After one end was ready, we'd tape it to the tube, and then place it in a bag of rice before scooping several little cups or handfuls into the open end. Miraculously, there were no major messes given the number of students who fulfilled this task in the last two days. We topped the other end with foil and tape.
We talked about where rain comes from which is a great way to reinforce water cycle words, like condensation. For our next step, we created our own little class rainstorm which included stomping for thunder, gentle tilting of the rain sticks for a sprinkle, and tapping the sticks on the table for a downpour. We used some dried lentils and white beans with our dried rice to make it sound like some raindrops were bigger than others. So put on a raincoat, get out the craft supplies, and get ready for a downpour of fun.