MS Paper Instrument Project


The Paper Instrument Project

Glass Ensemble | 10/22/2019

This fall, 7th and 8th grade students in the Middle School Glass Ensemble spent six weeks designing paper instrument kits for the 4-and 5-year old students in the Josiah Quincy Orchestra Program (JQOP) in Boston.

When students start the JQOP, they spend their first three months learning about string instruments, developing general music skills, and building papier-mâché violins, cellos, or bass. These paper instruments teach the young musicians the mechanics of the real instruments and help them begin to form the muscle memory needed to play. In previous years, to build these cardboard instruments, either the parents of the JQOP students hand cut and glued each component or a small group of volunteers and administrators spent their limited time and resources laser cutting the pieces in bulk. Both processes took days (sometimes weeks) to complete, were quite tedious, and were not cost-effective.

To simplify the creation and assembly process, JQOP partnered with returning Middle School string musicians. Using their knowledge and experience with the instruments, students met three times per week with design coaches Amelia Walske and Nate Guevin to create paper instrument kits for JQOP families. They brainstormed the components needed for each instrument, discussed design challenges with JQOP Executive Director Christopher Schroeder, wrote instruction manuals, and iterated many (many) times. The final products were recently shared with families and, Schroeder said, the overall impact of the partnership has been “tremendous.”

BVR students are not just building papier-mâché instruments. They’re helping an organization within the Boston community focus on what is most important: the kids and education in the arts.
Building Paper Instruments at JQOP
For Beaver students, this partnership presented an opportunity for authentic learning of design and music. It led to a stronger understanding of the instruments that they play and of the real-world needs of the community around them.

“The process helped our students see how the skills they learn in the classroom are transferable to making change in our community. It is just one example of how Beaver inspires students to design with a purpose while empowering others throughout the process.

—Liz Latour, Director of the Hiatt Center

Want to see more? Watch the Beaver laser cutter hard at work on the JQOP blog.