EdHeights K-12 guitar-making course teaches teens math and science

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Photo and story by Janette Turner

How do you make physics and geometry interesting to a teen? The answer, according to Edmonds Heights K-12 instructors Nancy Chang and Cathy Webb, is to turn those subjects into a guitar-making class. Recently, Chang and Webb filled us in on the class.

My Edmonds News: How did you come up with the idea to do this program?

Chang and Webb:  We were introduced to this amazing program through two fellow teachers in our Washington Alliance for Better Schools externship cohort. They took the course at the EMP last December and brought their guitars and curriculum to one of our professional development sessions.

My Edmonds News: What do you like best about engaging students this way?

Chang and Webb: The guitar building course meets students where they are and is relevant to their interests and passions. The math and science encountered in this authentic context has meaning and purpose. No one is asking, “When am I ever going to use this?” They’re using it now! Students are eager to learn math and science in this way because the knowledge and understanding is necessary if they are to build a quality instrument. We facilitate the connections that already exist in their world and lives to math and science. The students work with real-world tools and apply math concepts and science principles to create something personally meaningful. It is hard work and completing this project instills a pride of ownership and accomplishment that can be life changing for disengaged students.

My Edmonds News: What can the public do to support the program and the students?

Chang and Webb: The program requires materials, tools, and expertise. It would be a tremendous support if an individual or community business could sponsor a student ($185 class cost per student), provide tools or fund tools or materials purchases, or volunteer to mentor a particular skill.

My Edmonds News: Is there anything else that you would like folks to know?

Chang and Webb: The guitar building program is funded through a National Science Foundation grant. The Edmonds Community College Materials Science program and its director, Mel Cossette, in partnership with our principal, Danny Rock, made it possible to participate in the guitar building workshop. We thank them!

Janette’s note: The guitar class is in the design phase, and My Edmonds News will check in as the students acquire supplies and set up their workshop. To find out more about Edmonds Heights K-12, which supports parents as primary instructors, check the website.

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