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As part of Physics 6B at UC Santa Cruz, students learn about the physics behind musical instruments. The sounds made by musical instruments are possible because of standing waves, which come from the interference between waves traveling in both directions along a string or a tube. During Spring 2018, in an effort to incorporate service learning and art into the physics curriculum, Lecturer Dr. Stephanie Bailey tasked her students to design and build musical instruments to donate to a K-6 school in Southern Leyte, Philippines. This school was built by the Associate Dean of Physical and Biological Sciences at UCSC, David Belanger and his wife.


As the name suggests, the goal of service learning is to combine learning goals and community service in ways that enhance both student growth and the common good. Service learning is a philosophy by which students make meaningful contributions to the benefit of others while at the same time developing their own knowledge and expertise in an area of academic study. Consistent with the university’s commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility, instruments were made from recycled “junk” materials and not from materials commercially designed for producing music or sound.

In regards to art, the Board on Higher Education and Workforce of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a report recommending that humanities, arts, crafts, and design (HACD) practices be integrated with science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) in college and post-graduate curricula. A preponderance of evidence converges on the conclusion that incorporating HACD into STEMM pedagogies can improve STEMM performance. The NASEM report on STEMM-HACD integration repeatedly emphasizes that every real-world problem spans disciplinary boundaries. To quote the embryologist, dancer, and artist Conrad Hal Waddington, “The acute problems of the world can be solved only by whole men, not by people who refuse to be, publicly, anything more than a technologist, or a pure scientist, or an artist."

Students used this opportunity for reflection, self-discovery, and the acquisition and comprehension of values, skills, and content knowledge. It was a chance for students to deepen their commitment to service and focus on understanding social complexities and the impact they are making on the world.





"Introductory physics students test their knowledge and get exposure to the wider world in a class project in which they create musical instruments to be donated to kids in need."

June 12, 2018

By Peggy Townsend

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