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Can you make a whistle out of bamboo?
Learning to create something with your 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 had collected over the years to study the holes and reed placement. What were they made of, and which ones worked better?
Grayson quickly decided that wood was not the best material for a whistle. So, he decided to try bamboo. Luckily our neighbors across the street have plenty to spare and were delighted when he offered to cut some down. You can make several whistles from one stalk of bamboo. Also, working with bamboo while it is green works well.
These are the tools you will need.
A hand saw
flat metal files
a round metal file the size of a pencil
Grayson starts by cutting near a joint in the bamboo to have one solid end and one open end.
Next, he carved 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 enjoyed making the whistle so much that we decided to teach a class.
Grayson is an immersion kid, meaning when he has ideas, he barrels in and works at them in all his spare time. The process of developing his bamboo whistle technique had 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 whistle-making, and used tools to create his design.
Grayson has made whistles that do not work and has studied the reed and what went wrong. He also realized that he could 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 curriculum where he would learn what he taught himself.
New ways to learn
I share this as a reminder that learning takes place in many forms and, sometimes out of the ordinary, can produce the most knowledge. My husband and I decided long 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!
Holly Giles is a wife, mother, and storyteller. As an author and Florida Master Naturalist, she writes about heritage homemaking skills, motherhood, and why Florida offers the best hidden natural gems to explore as a family.