BVR academics: The Paper Instrument Project, Year Two

The laser cut pieces of a bass.

Class: Music (in partnership with the Hiatt Center)
Grades: 7th & 8th Grades
Teacher: Amelia Walske and Nate Guevin

Building off the strong foundation of its inaugural year, faculty Amelia Walske and Nate Guevin worked with Christopher Schroeder, Executive Director of the Boston Music Project, to reimagine the Paper Instrument Project in our hybrid learning environment. The core components of this project remained intact—opportunities for deeper learning, authentic outputs, and meaningful community building. Beaver students improved the paper instrument assembly instructions that were delivered (along with materials kits) to families of 4-5-year-old students involved with the Mozart Orchestra at the Boston Music Project, streamlining the process for families who built the instruments together over Zoom with Beaver faculty and students coaching and cheering them on step-by-step.

Watch 7th-grade student Nora McBride talk to the Mozart Orchestra students about the project

Read some reflections on the project  from Amelia and Nate:

What is one highlight from your perspective?

Amelia: Being able to connect with Mozart students. Connecting with the Boston Music Project (BMP) is such a major part of the project, and the assembly event was such a highlight last year. It was great to maintain this connection, albeit over Zoom. We were still able to see faces, answer questions, share ideas, etc.
Also, everyone got to build an instrument! No matter where the students were (BVR and BMP), everyone was able to build and decorate an instrument to take part in the process.

Nate: Making decorating possible and getting to see the individuality of each student shine through their instruments. This idea came from a feedback session with the 4-year-olds who participated last year.

From your perspective, what was a challenge?

Amelia: Logistics. Making sure everyone had the right materials at the right time (a total of 35+ kits assembled and delivered). It was also different to demonstrate how to build on Zoom/Google Meet rather than in person. We worked hard to find ways for students to learn about the project and participate in this new iteration. There is so much to cover; it was challenging to pare it down to the essentials because it all felt so important.

Nate: Seconding logistics. Delivering kits to students who are online was tricky, and making sure each student had everything they needed for every class did not always happen (forgetting kits at school, not having enough plugs for the hot glue gun, etc)

What was something that surprised you this year?

Amelia: Doing something creative as a group brought us closer. Teaching online changes the classroom environment. When we were building, we had students asking questions, helping each other with tricky steps, and showing off their creations—it brought back a bit of the collaborative classroom experience.
Students are flexible and resilient. When students forgot their kits at school, they offered to make a logo. When students didn’t have a plug nearby, they rearranged their workspace. Students used their own materials to decorate and add their own flare to their instruments—despite the challenges of remote learning, the kids are adaptive and help us make it work.

Nate: I was surprised by how well the students handled this project online. I thought not being in a room together would make this very difficult for the students, but they really made the instruments their own and had a lot of creative energy.

Something you are looking forward to doing next year?

Amelia: Still trying to make the no-glue option work. Nate and I are always thinking of ways to enhance the design and simplify the building process. I think we would both like to involve students in that process.

Nate: I am currently brainstorming improvements for the endpin to make it more stable. On a broader scale, we could potentially translate the directions into other languages to help with accessibility and make the project more cross-disciplinary (language classes could do translations, maybe an ASL version?). We could also assemble repair kits so students can make any necessary changes

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Amelia: This was such a team effort!! None of it would have been possible if we didn’t work so well together. From Nate designing the pieces, coordinating with black cat labs, and picking them up, to Liz, Tina, Tiffany, Ann Bevan, Matthew, Chris, and Pilar organizing events and getting all the current schedules and information to everyone, there was help from all around. Talia and Tara picked up supplies and sanitized them while I was in quarantine. Lizzie assembled the last pieces of the kits. It took a village, but it all worked out!

Nate: I am so impressed with everyone who was a part of this project in any way. It is a feat in and of itself to get this project to run virtually. Amelia deserves all the credit and praise in the world for the amount of time and effort she put into this project—it certainly would not have been possible without her. A huge thank you to Boston Music Project as well for making the time to meet with our students and giving them such an amazing opportunity to be involved with their community.

Learn more about the Paper Instrument Project, how it got started, and the impact it’s made on both Beaver students and our local community.

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