In which Miss Molly uses a Mess to create music.

Mangled Messes programs really seem to sneak up on me. I’ll finish one, think i have a good 3 weeks to plan the next one, and then BAM, it’s MM time again! Where did the time go?! What have I been doing? (Story times, summer planning, collection management…)

The last few sessions of MM that I’ve done have been great. I have a super group of kids that really love to experiment. They know they are there to have fun, and are willing to try my, at times, hare-brained schemes. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously, I love the 9 to 12 age group. They are still young enough to be able to have fun, but have deeper thinking abilities, not to mention manual dexterity to get tougher projects accomplished (yet are still mostly cute, not too snarky, and willing to be silly). And with the broader age range, the older kids can help the younger ones. At least, that’s the theory.

Usually my programs are pretty well detailed. I don’t like to leave anything to chance. Some of my friends would say I am a pessimist, but I’d like to think of myself as more of an expert in every possible scenario that could go wrong. That doesn’t make me a worrier, it makes me prepared.

But, as everyone who’s ever had a plan knows, the more detailed the plan, the greater the likelihood the plan will go awry. This is the story of my life sometimes. It is also what makes library life so much fun!  While I do admit to being a planner, adaptability is key in a children’s position.

So, when I found myself, the day of my program with nothing but a broad idea of what my program was going to entail, did I freak out? No. I sat down and planned. It was rough, but it was enough to get me through.

I went into the program a little worried. The previous program I did was on the physics behind balloon jousting. It went so well it was insane. How could I come off with that kind of success? I usually get roughly the same bunch of kids, and when that happens, they come in with expectations. They know what I’m capable of, and hold me to it. Maybe that’s just me putting my own spin on how I view my kids seeing what we do, but in any case, there is a standard to meet. How was I going to top balloon jousting?

I had a basic plan which revolved around the science of sound: sound waves, frequency, pitch, and tone to be precise. While I find that interesting, I didn’t know how I would hook the kids. If I didn’t do it right, it would be a loooooong hour.

I had been shown a video about the Landfill Harmonic. I don’t know if you know what that is, but check out the video I’ve posted below. These people are astounding and really inspirational.

I used the video to talk to the kids about the pitch and tone of instruments made of metal versus their counterparts made of wood. We talked about why they two instruments sound different because of the material they are made from and how that affects the sounds and the music in general.

Then it was experiment time. I took the idea of using everyday objects to make instruments. I don’t have the tools, or the know how, to create a cello out of an old oil drum, but we did make panpipes out of straws, a harmonica out of Popsicle sticks, and several other music themed projects.


I thought I’d share how we did our harmonica, since it was awesome. I had read several how-tos about creating such a harmonica, and combined them to form what I think is the perfect version of the harmonica. I’ll let you be the judge of that.


  • 2 Popsicle Sticks
  • 2 Rubber Bands, any width
  • 1 Wide Rubber Band, about the same width as your Popsicle stick
  • 2 toothpicks cut the width or just wider than the Popsicle Sticksupplies


  1. Wrap the wide rubber band around 1 of the Popsicle Sticks, so it is stretched along the length.
  2. Slide a toothpick between the rubber band and the toothpick.
    band w stick
  3. Place the second Popsicle stick on top of the rubber band wrapped one. Wrap one of the thinner rubber band around the end that has the toothpick until it is snug.
  4. Place the second toothpick on top of the rubber band, so it is touching the top Popsicle stick.
    2nd band
  5. Wrap this end with a rubber band.
  6. Play!

We didn’t have time to dress the instruments up much, but that’s ok. They sounded great!


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