Musical Digestive System

This unit of work for primary school classes explores the digestive system through scientific investigation and musical activities.

Activities:

1. Digesting a Crisp (or other loud food!)
2. Banana Fanfare

3. Food Music – texture

4. Food Mixture

5. Digestion Music

6. Energy, Growth and Health

7. Waste Products

8. Performance – The Musical Digestive System

1. Digesting A Crisp

Focus: Science – The Digestive System.
Curriculum Links
: Science – about the need for food for activity and growth, and about the importance of an adequate and varied diet for health; Nutrition.
Achievement objectives
: Students will understand the basic principles of the digestive system and what happens to food and drink as they travel through the body.
Resources
: Packet of crisps – enough for one each, small whiteboards and pens, large whiteboard and pens, (research materials – digestive system)
Safeguarding – check for allergies. Carrots would be a healthier option!

  • Hand out the crisps. Everyone to eat at the same time. While they’re eating, feel, hear and imagine what’s happening to that crisp.
  • Take suggestions, build up a picture of what they already know or think they know.
  • Discuss why we eat food – what are the products of us eating? Energy, growth, good health, poo, wee.
  • Discuss balanced diet, how we need elements from all food groups for the good products above.
  • Discuss or research these : stomach; small intestine; liver; kidneys, large intestine, bladder (see chart below)
  • Explain how this fits into our music plans (see chart below)
  • Have another crisp!

The Digestive System

Process

Musical Transformation

Food Basic requirements Elements form ideas
Chewing/teeth/lips Broken down into soft mess Ideas become mixed together
Stomach Some elements are removed Development – dynamics, tempo, texture, timbre.

Fragmentation

Harmonisation, augmentation, elongation

Favourite ideas kept, not so favourite ideas removed.

Small intestine Food is broken down into its constituent parts
Liver Chemical factory – nutrients stored until required by the body
Kidneys Filters impurities from the liquids in the body
Energy and growth and health Good products of the digestive system Transformed musical ideas – imaginative
Large Intestine Stores waste solids Unpleasant sounds – still well structured!
Bladder Stores waste liquids
Poo and wee Expel waste products

2. Banana Fanfare

Focus: Music – singing, learning about structure through performance.
Curriculum Links: Music – to sing songs in parts with clear diction, control of pitch a sense of phrase and musical expression, and rhythmic accuracy; how the combined elements of music can be combined within musical structures.
Achievement objectives
: Students will understand how to compose music using one word and include elements of pitch, rhythm and textures.
Resources
: Score/Recording of Banana Fanfare II

  • Divide class into three groups, teach Banana Fanfare II and perform together.
  • Learn each element separately then put together. Repeated D part and semiquaver part should be able to be independent eventually leaving you to conduct with signals, bringing in each part and stopping each part.
  • Discuss structure of the music. How has the word banana been used in the music? Small parts of the words, different rhythms and melodies, combined with clapping, contrasting music performed together, thin and thick textures – sometimes all three groups together, sometimes, one, sometimes one person.

 

3. Food Music – Texture

Focus: Music – composing music
Curriculum Links
: Music – to explore, choose and develop musical ideas within musical structures; to improve their own and others’ work in relation to its intended effect; how the combined elements of music can be combined within musical structures.
Achievement objectives
: Students will compose music in small groups focussing on texture, and will improve their own work.
Resources:
Classroom percussion instruments, paper and pens for music scores

  • Recap Banana Fanfare and discuss how it is composed.
  • Divide class into groups of 3-5
  • Each group to think of a food and compose some music using that word. Each group is allowed their voices, body percussion sounds and one instrument.
  • Focus on varied texture – sometimes one person, sometimes all etc.
  • Groups can write down their ideas to help with memory and as a reminder for the next activity.
  • Each group performs their work to the rest of the class, and is given feedback from the teacher, and a target to improve on. Comments could centre round creative use of the word or instrument, use of different textures. Targets could be to have more variety in the texture, be more organised, think of a great ending…
  • Groups go away for a few minutes to improve their work, then perform again, with feedback on the improvements they’ve made.

4. Food Mixture

Focus: Music – composing music.
Curriculum Links
: Music – to explore, choose and musical ideas within musical structures; to improve their own and others’ work in relation to its intended effect; how the combined elements of music can be combined within musical structures.
Achievement objectives
: Students will compose combining different musical ideas, and will improve their own work.
Resources
: Classroom percussion instruments, paper and pens for music scores, scores from previous activity.

  • Using one element of, or technique found in, Banana Fanfare, compose three contrasting musical ideas using different foods/drinks such as something crunchy, something liquid. Then combine the ideas using a variety of techniques such as all three at the same time, fragments of each, repeating while another starts.
  • This is what happens to the food as you start to digest it in your mouth, crunching it into bits and mixing it with the other foods.
  • Each group to compose three musical ideas based on three foods or drinks, then combine the ideas together.
  • The groups can once again write down their ideas to remind them for later.
  • Each group performs their ideas, explaining how they have combined the three ideas.
  • Feedback should be given on how the ideas have been combined.
  • Groups have the chance to improve their work based on the feedback, and perform them again.
  • Science Extension Activity – Students should create a meal of food to be digested, which represents a balanced diet. I did this using the lyrics of Food Glorious Food from Lionel Bart’s Oliver – we noted down all the food listed in the song (listening activity) then selected items from the list to create a balanced meal or series of meals.

 

5. Digestion Music

Focus: Music – composing music.
Curriculum Links
: Music – to explore, choose and musical ideas within musical structures; to improve their own and others’ work in relation to its intended effect;  how the combined elements of music can be combined within musical structures.
Achievement objectives
: Students will compose and develop musical ideas, and will improve their own work.
Resources
: Classroom percussion instruments, paper and pens for music scores, scores from previous activity.

  • When the food is digested it enters the stomach, and small intestine, and is fragmented into its component parts: vitamins, fats, minerals, starches and sugars, proteins carbohydrates etc, and sent to other parts of the body to be put to good use. We’re going to fragment and transform our music in a similar way.
  • Use elements of Banana Fanfare to demonstrate different development techniques: changes in tempo, dynamics, texture, timbre, fragmentation, adding notes, taking notes away etc.
  • Students compose a musical idea based on the food again, this time they have to transform the idea in a variety of ways, then mix their new ideas together into a new piece of music.
  • Once again students perform their music to the rest of the class, are given feedback based on their development of the idea, then given a chance to improve and perform their music again.

 

6. Energy, Growth and Health

Focus: Music – class composing and performing.
Curriculum Links
: Music – to explore, choose and musical ideas within musical structures; to improve their own and others’ work in relation to its intended effect; how the combined elements of music can be combined within musical structures.
Achievement objectives
: Students will compose musical ideas that are characterised by high energy and which are combined into a structure that grows.
Resources
: Classroom percussion instruments, paper and pens for music scores, scores from previous activity.

  • Class discusses and makes a note of the characteristics of music that are energetic – fast rhythms and tempo, syncopated rhythms, melodic leaps, sudden changes in timbre, frequent crescendos and diminuendos, actions or movement as part of the performance….
  • Class composes the music together. Focus ideas on all that we’ve learned so far – beginnings and endings, development techniques. Final product should grow, so use development techniques that grow.
  • Vary the texture – perhaps some small group work could be included in the final product.

7. Waste Products

Focus: Music – small group composing.
Curriculum Links
: Music – to explore, choose and musical ideas within musical structures; to improve their own and others’ work in relation to its intended effect; how the combined elements of music can be combined within musical structures.
Achievement objectives:
Students will compose musical ideas that are characterised by “unpleasant” sounds and will organise them within musical structures.
Resources
: Classroom percussion instruments, paper and pens for music scores, scores from previous activity.

  • Class discusses and makes a note of the characteristics of poo and wee – waste products of the digestive system.
  • Also discuss musical ideas that could be described in the same way. Class demonstrates ideas to each other.
  • Small groups compose music using these ideas. Remind them of the process from the last activity.
  • Once again students perform their music to the rest of the class, are given feedback based on their interpretation of the waste products description, then given a chance to improve and perform their music again.

8. Performance – The Musical Digestive System

Focus: Music – performance, Science – The Digestive System.
Curriculum Links
: Science – about the need for food for activity and growth, and about the importance of an adequate and varied diet for health; Nutrition. Music – practise, rehearse and present performances with an awareness of the audience.
Achievement objectives
: Students will use musical composition and performance to illustrate the digestive system.
Resources
: Classroom percussion instruments, paper and pens for music scores, scores from previous activity.

  • Class rehearses and performs samples of their work to an audience, using a narration that ties together the musical composition processes they’ve gone through to the process of digesting food.

Sample Narration for Performance

Science Music
To be healthy, full of energy and to grow we need to eat food and drink. If we eat a varied and balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals. We have composed some music using food words. We have explored all the different parts of the words to make musical ideas, and have joined the ideas together into a short piece of music. We concentrated on making a memorable beginning and ending to our pieces of music, and varying the texture.
Food Music – Texture
We put the food into our mouths and chew it so that it is easy to digest. The food become mixed up and is a gooey mess when we swallow it. Our lips stop the food spilling out of our mouths. We have composed some music that represents two or three sorts of food being mixed together, and munched into bits. We concentrated on combining contrasting musical ideas.
Digestion Music
Once we have swallowed the food, it ends up in our stomachs and small intestines where it is separated into all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals we need for energy, growth and good health. These nutrients are stored in our livers until we need them. We composed some short musical ideas, then used some development techniques to transform them into new music. This represents the changing of the food we eat into the nutrients.
Energy, Growth and Health
Once the food is digested our body starts to use the nutrients for good things like helping us to grow bigger and stronger, keeping us healthy and helping us to recover when we are ill, and giving us energy to do all the exciting things we want to do in our lives. We have composed some energetic, healthy musical ideas, and have joined them together into a musical structure that grows like our bodies when we eat food. We’ve used some development techniques and worked together as a class to create this composition.
Waste products
Our bodies don’t need all the food we eat and there are usually some waste products that we store in our large intestine and bladder until we eventually get rid of them. We considered the waste products of the digestive system and created a bank of words and phrases to describe them. We composed some music that could be described in the same way.
We hope you have enjoyed our musical journey through the digestive system, and that our music will help you to remember the science.

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