Grades K-2
Grades 3-5
Grades 6-8
Social Studies

Sounds of Celebration: Engineering Challenge

Challenge students to imagine, design, create, and share a musical instrument that they can play as part of a special celebration.

Activity Partner
Total time estimate:
60+ minutes
Activity Objectives
  • Students will identify a holiday or festival that they celebrate, and consider what kind of music accompanies the celebration of this occasion  
  • After using the Engineering Design Process to imagine, design, and create a musical instrument for the celebration, students will share their instruments with others to test and improve their designs
  • Students will learn about about different holidays and festivals that are celebrated by their peers, and reflect on the holidays' similarities and differences

  • Items to create musical instruments, such as rubber bands, wooden sticks, cardboard boxes and tubes, beads, tape, metal cans, plastic containers, and fabric

This activity supports the development of the following social-emotional skills: relationship skills, responsible decision-making, self-awareness, and social awareness.


Engage students in a discussion by asking the following questions:

  • What is a holiday or festival that you celebrate? Why is it important to you?
  • Can you share your favorite traditions, stories, or memories related to this holiday or festival?
  • Do you listen to any special music as part of the celebration?
  • What does the music sound like? What instruments are played? Do people sing or dance?
  • How does the music make you feel?


Introduce students to the project: using the Engineering Design Process to create a musical instrument that can be played during their celebration!

Use this video to introduce students to the five steps of the Engineering Design Process, which are:

  1. Ask questions about the problem
  2. Imagine creative solutions
  3. Plan a design
  4. Create a prototype
  5. Improve the design

Ask students to work on their musical instruments, and display the slideshow below to guide them through the process. Distribute materials that they can use to build their instruments, such as rubber bands, cardboard boxes, metal cans, and beads.


Once students have created their musical instruments, share their projects with your Empatico partner class! For example, you might exchange photos or videos of students’ instruments, or facilitate a live virtual exchange and invite both classes to a joint musical celebration.

Encourage students to describe the process of designing their instruments, and share about the holiday or festival that they created their instruments for. Remind them to practice curiosity and kindness to carefully listen to each other, and ask thoughtful questions to learn more about each other’s traditions, cultures, and communities.

Afterward, invite students to share about their favorite holidays, and any new holidays that they’ve learned about, in this community Padlet board.


Guide students through a post-activity reflection by asking the following questions:

  • Did you learn about a new holiday or festival? What is something that you found interesting or unique about it? Is it similar to any holidays or festivals that you celebrate?
  • What were some similarities and differences between our musical instruments?
  • Was it helpful to work with others during the design process? What is the benefit of including multiple perspectives and ideas as we try to solve a problem?
  • What else do you want to try designing for a special celebration?

This activity was created in partnership with Engineering is Elementary.

Did you finish this activity? We'd love your input.