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An Engaging Experience: Teacher Reflection on the Science of Sound and Music Workshop

Updated: May 28

Written By: Ashley Barron and Zoë Randall

“Many times, workshops provide teachers with so much information and not actual resources to take back to the classroom. Victor and Alec provide an entire unit with built-in supports that you can use to teach sound to your class.” - Ashley Barron, Middle School Science Teacher.


I interviewed Ashley Barron, who teaches 6th and 8th grade science at Clifton Middle School in Monrovia, CA. She highlighted some of her reflections about her most recent experience attending the Science of Sound and Music workshop led by UC San Diego researcher and curriculum creator, Dr. Victor Minces, and Dr. Alec Barron, Director of the San Diego Science Project. 


Here are some of her takeaways about her experience and what she hopes for others who might engage with the Science of Sound and Music in the future.


What brought you to the workshop?

We recently adopted Amplify, which focuses its unit on light waves rather than sound. A coworker brought up this opportunity, and I said, “Yes, it sounds great!” It was a perfect time when we were transitioning between units and about to begin teaching waves. Plus, I’m always looking for new ideas and ways to make my lessons more engaging. 


We also thought this would be a great opportunity to do a cross-curricula unit with our music teacher. 


How would you describe the Science of Sound and Music workshop to someone new?

What I love about this workshop is that you get to work with an educator and a researcher, which is different from working with someone who has never been in the field.


For teachers, this is the type of workshop they can walk away from feeling more confident, excited, and eager to begin implementing what they learned in the classroom. This is not your typical sit-and-get workshop. Teachers actively participated with the material the way the students would in the classroom. 




I was engaged, so I knew my students would be engaged! It was a fun workshop to participate in.


Overall, it provides teachers with all the tools they need to teach middle school students about sound waves. By attending this workshop, you will learn how to implement these tools and consequently walk away with a better understanding of the content. 



What was a highlight or strength of the workshop?

Two things that really stood out to me are the flexibility and knowledge that Alec and Victor bring to the table. So many times within the workshop, they pivoted to address teachers’ needs/concerns and still meet our objectives for the day. It’s nice to attend a professional development (PD) session that is not so stuck on its agenda that it ignores what its audience asks for. 


It’s not often I hear about workshops that are led by both a researcher and someone who has been in the K-12 education system. As a researcher, Victor explained things in depth to the teachers when discussing the content relating to the NGSS standards. As an educator, Alec Barron demonstrated his depth of knowledge in instruction and pedagogy when teachers asked for differentiation strategies. 




Another strength of their workshop was the way they structured it by having us go in and out of student mode. This means you get to participate in the lessons. At one point, we were having so much fun using Victor’s science of sound applications that the room did not stop when they asked for our attention. Seeing it from a student perspective before teaching the unit allows teachers to understand better how to guide the lessons and anticipate where their students will need extra support.


After the workshop, Ashley was prepared to launch her students into the unit that the workshop introduced. 

I asked her to share how her students engaged with the unit and what she hoped they walked away with.


How did students engage with The Science of Sound and Music?

My students really enjoyed it. There were times when the class was loud, but it was a good loud. Students were engaged and having fun! They were excited to use the applications in the lessons. 


The Science of Sound and Music is designed to fit a multitude of learners and was engaging for our multilingual students as well. Since the lessons did a good job of scaffolding the content, by the end of the unit, my students had a good understanding of the concepts. The unit begins with several fun activities that involve simple materials to investigate vibrations. This was a great attention-grabber that also sparked curiosity for my students. 




In addition, those who play an instrument felt more connected to the unit because of its real-life applications. Even those who do not play an instrument were engaged since many, if not all, of my students listen to music.


I think my students would probably say that a lot of it (when using the apps) felt like they were playing a game like they were learning without knowing they were learning. It didn’t feel stressful—it was fun!


Throughout piloting the unit, Ashley shared another aspect of the workshop that made it unique.


Another strength of this workshop became apparent after I started teaching the lessons. Whenever I had questions, I asked either Alec or Victor, and they responded promptly, providing the support I was looking for. The personability and helpfulness of the facilitators made the whole experience even better. 


In addition, Alec and Victor connected us with other teachers who were also implementing the lessons. We would then be able to share resources with each other and discuss progress. We were part of a community that was able to help each other. 


What do you hope your students gain from learning about The Science of Sound and Music?

Along with a clear understanding of sound and waves, I hope my students will walk away feeling inspired and empowered. At the end of this unit, students watch a series of mini-documentaries of “young people in a STEM career path related to sound or waves” (https://listeningtowaves.com/wavemakers). These mini-documentaries show students how people are using science and music in their real lives (major /occupation).




I hope that those videos will help kids expand their scope of what is available to them. Too often, I feel the career choices we expose our students to are limited. I want my students to know there are so many opportunities and careers linked to science, many of which I am sure they did not know existed. 


Finally, I asked Ashley to share her hopes for others reading her story.


What do you hope others gain from your story?

I hope that they will hear what a great resource this is. As teachers, we cannot become stagnant in the classroom. As the world changes, students change, and we should, too. 


This program was developed by a researcher with a passion for making science accessible to all students, and the San Diego Science Project to build that bridge to make it happen. They hit the mark in making the science lessons fun and engaging for students of all backgrounds. The lessons are comprehensive and aligned with NGSS, fitting seamlessly into your current curriculum. 


As a bonus, attending the workshop is also a great opportunity to collaborate with other teachers who want to grow professionally and provide fun and engaging lessons in their classrooms. Check it out! Try it!


Thanks to Ashley for sharing her amazing reflection! If you’re interested in experiencing the Science of Sound and Music and bringing the unit to your students, check out our promo video and our website: https://www.sdscienceproject.org/science-of-sound-and-music.



For more information on how you can get involved, reach out to sdsp@ucsd.edu.

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