Fort Wayne children, parents build homemade ukuleles

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Students at Southwest Allen County Schools’ Deer Ridge Elementary School have gone a little crazy over the lowly ‘lele.

Ukulele, that is.

The stringed folk instrument, accompaniment to countless Hawaiian hula dances, has lately been discovered by pop musicians including Bruno Mars and Jason Mraz.

Now, nearly 100 Deer Ridge children and their parents have discovered the uke, having spent an evening building ukuleles from kits – after being inspired by fifth-grader Sam Norwood.

Sam, son of Deer Ridge computer specialist Sara Norwood, bored while waiting for his mom to finish work, built a rudimentary shoebox guitar from materials he found around the school. He showed the instrument to his music teacher, Sue Caudill, and she started using it in classes as part of a schoolwide music unit on stringed instruments.

After seeing how stringed instruments are designed and constructed to produce sound, other students soon began making instruments out of items as varied as tissue boxes and buckets.

“Table after table” of student-made instruments began accumulating at the school.

“This was never an assignment,” Caudill said. “We just planted the idea and gave students the freedom to discover and share.”

Then, Caudill took the idea a step further. With the aid of her husband, Keith, an engineer and luthier, the idea for a uke-building event developed.

The Mega-Ukulele Build on Nov. 8 followed. Keith Caudill helped with construction and son Cai, a high school senior who built a uke as a ninth-grader, taught students how to start playing their ‘leles. Participants paid for the 40 kits used.

Sue Caudill said the unit taught not just music but also how it interfaces with science, technology, engineering and math. She said music can inspire students to pursue those subjects.

“It was truly remarkable to see how one handmade instrument inspired innovation, creativity and connections in students of all ages,” she said.


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