When you’re in fourth grade, not much beats building your own guitar from scratch and then hoisting it up like you’re a rockstar.
For the past four weeks, fourth-graders at Bay Haven School of Basics-Plus have been building, painting and stringing a one-string Spanish guitar called an amigo. The project integrates several subjects, including art, math, science and music, and is the result of a grant that science teacher Rolf Hanson received from the Education Foundation.
Last year, Howlin’ Bob (Bob Fieberts) did the project with another fourth-grade class at Bay Haven, in which Hanson’s daughter, Lis Sundberg, was a student. Fond of the guitar because it is simple to learn and easy to play, Hanson thought the entire fourth grade might enjoy it and brought it to the school staff’s attention.
“To me, it’s important as a science teacher for the students to have as much hands-on activity as possible,” Hanson said. “In third grade, they learn the recorder, but some struggle. It’s nice to be able to give them an alternative to play the same songs.”
The project began with teachers asking students to bring in and decorate a cookie tin that would become the resonating box for the amigos. The size, shape and design were the students’ choices — the larger the base, the lower the sound.
“We painted our amigos with Mexican designs and colors,” Carleigh Coffin said. “We are going to learn how to play songs for our cultural fair during Mexican Heritage Month and have our classrooms set up as the Honduras.”
Students then sanded down the wooden neck of the guitar, using a real amigo to measure out the placement for the frets. Hanson assisted the students with placing the frets and stringing the instruments in the science lab.
“You usually see guitars in stores, but it’s different to make it — it’s cool because it’s your own,” Alexcia Cavanaugh said. “I like playing music with a string instead of putting my fingers over the holes.”
This week, Fieberts taught students how to play “Smoke on the Water.” When Fieberts started out playing music, horns were more popular, and he said being in band class was more fun.
“String instruments are so much a part of our culture because of rock music,” Fieberts said. “As soon as kids get them in their hand, they’re posing like they’re in a band.”
Contact Loren May at [email protected]