Immersion Learning with Bamboo Whistles

By Holly Giles | Boy Crafting


Bamboo Whistles

Learning to create something with your own hands like Bamboo whistles, can be one of the greatest educational lessons.  Setting a goal, overcoming obstacles and developing a sound that can irritate your mother is all it takes to succeed in whistle making. Grayson loves to work with his hands. He is always building, figuring and crafting something that requires a saw and sharp objects. After a discussion with his aunt about what to do with the remaining wood from a branch after he finishes a slingshot, the idea of crafting whistles began.

Grayson dug up from the closet floor all the whistles he and his brother have collected over the years to study the holes and reed placement.

What makes it whistle?  

Grayson quickly decided that using wood is not the way to go for him and decided to try bamboo. Luckily our neighbors across the street have plenty to spare and were delighted when he offered to cut some down.

Grayson starts by cutting near a joint in the bamboo to have one solid end and one open end.

Next, he carves a slanted opening for the air escape.

He uses a file to smooth the edges.
Then he uses the file to open up the hollow middle.
Whistles usually have a reed in the blowhole to control the airflow and help create a distinct sound.  Grayson makes his reeds out of a dowel and splits it in half using a knife and hammering it down. Then he carves the half into a wedge to fit it into the bamboo whistle.
A little sanding and tuning of the reed and the bamboo whistle is ready to blow! In our homeschool, this is considered immersion learning. Digging in full force.

Grayson is an immersion kid, meaning when he has ideas, he barrels in and works at it in all his spare time.  The process of developing his bamboo whistle technique has many facets. He has researched books at the library, consulted face to face with a whistle maker he met at a library class, watched YouTube videos on whistles making and used tools to create his design.  Have you seen his handmade flower press on ETSY? It’s pretty popular.
Grayson has made whistles that do not work and has studied the reed and what went wrong. He also figured out that he can make different pitches by shortening or lengthening the bamboo.

Now he is studying flutes and how to create different tones. His new goal is to carve flutes for an upcoming conference.  This is real-life learning. I could not have even dreamed up this particular curriculum where he would learn what he has taught himself.

I share this as a reminder that learning takes place in many forms and sometimes the out of the ordinary can produce the most knowledge.  My husband and I decided a long time ago to let our boys be free to learn on their own when a talent or passion arises.  We have seen the results that this type of learning can create and I encourage you, especially when your homeschool may be struggling, to loosen the reins and let their passions take hold. You never know what they may come up with.

Although I really hope it isn’t a whistle. 
Your ears will thank you!

You might enjoy this story and the activities we have in this literature unit. It is all about a boy and his imagination. 

Gather Around

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