Lesson Plan: Rain Sticks

Written By: Sue Anderson

Time Allotment

1 lesson: approximately 1 hour per lesson over a 2 period allotment


Rain sticks were believed to be invented by the Aztecs and were played in the belief that it could bring about rain storms. A rain stick is a percussion instrument that when shaken, sounds similar to a rattle or the maracas. Students will incorporate art with the study of another culture, acquire a deeper knowledge of the traditions of Mexico, and create a 3-D rain stick that makes a sound reminiscent of rain. Sue_Anderson_Rain_Stick_Lesson_Plan.docx

Learning Objectives

  • Be able to create a hands-on 3-D rain stick
  • Study the history of the rain stick and the cultures they come from
  • Study the effects of rain in Science
  • Read, “Who Likes Rain” by Wong Herbert Yee and write a reaction paper in Reading class

Media Components - Video/Web

  • THE RAIN PROJECT – Create a Book About Rain. With a little investigation, children will come to appreciate and learn about rain in new and different ways: http://prairiepublic.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/arct14.pre.artproject/rain-project/
  • DRAGONFLY TV CACTUS VIDEO – The study of the cactus along with Science: http://prairiepublic.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/fd6d153f-d941-49c6-b4cf-7e564e51967c/fd6d153f-d941-49c6-b4cf-7e564e51967c/
  • THE SCIENCE OF SOUND – The physics of sound, lesson plans. Science, human biology and sound waves. Social Studies, cultural awareness. Writing, reflective, informational: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/lesson2.html
  • HOW TO PLAY THE RAIN STICK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXLP6z8B0i4
  • RAINSTICK – ABORIGINAL MUSICAL INSTRUMENT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRrri6bTDCw
  • The Ancient Mayans had “rain-makers”, Native American tribes of the Southwestern United States are known for performing elaborate rain dances. Science uses the latest technology with the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite. See link below: http://climatekids.nasa.gov/rainstick/
  • Materials

    1. Paper towel rolls
    2. White glue
    3. Rice and beans in pre allotted cups
    4. Aluminum foil
    5. Multi colored construction paper pre traced in 3” circle shapes
    6. Brown craft paper pre-cut into 8”x5” pieces
    7. Pencils and erasers
    8. Scissors, and rulers
    9. Rubber Bands
    10. Markers or color crayons
    11. “Who Likes Rain” by Wong Herbert Yee
    12. Examples of rain sticks if available
    13. Bright colored feathers and beads for decoration (optional)

    Teacher Preparation

    • Computer
    • Avervision (document camera)
    • Lesson on hard drive or flash drive
    • Projector that will allow computer hook-up
    • Screen or wall to project images
    • Art materials and supplies ready
    • Paper pre-cut and beans pre-measured out
    • Handouts on step by step rain stick directions

    Introductory Activities

    1. Students will be shown various power points, images, examples and explain how the rain stick works
    2. Students will be shown various patterns and symbol ideas for decoration
    3. Students will be given step by step rain stick demonstration and construction guidance
    4. Students will be read the story, “Who Likes Rain” by Wong Herbert Yee
    5. Students will identify the main idea of the text, and talk with others about the important details of what they read

    Learning Activities

    1. Instruct students on cutting the pre-traced circles and how they will be used on the ends of the paper towel rolls with rubber bands
    2. Hand out the paper towel rolls and the colored circles for students to start
    3. Demonstrate that after cutting out the circles, students will glue one circle to an end of the paper towel roll
    4. Instruct the students on how to wrap the rubber bands around the glued circle end to keep it secure
    5. Hand out the rubber bands for student use and assist where necessary
    6. Instruct the students on how the aluminum foil will be used in the paper towel rolls, and why you make it swirled
    7. Hand out the aluminum foil pieces to use inside of the paper towel rolls
    8. Distribute rice and bean mixture and instruct the students on how their rice and beans will be poured inside the paper towel roll
    9. Have students cut and glue the other colored circle to the other end of the paper towel roll and secure with another rubber band
    10. While paper towel roll is drying, instruct the students on patterns they can draw on their large colored paper to cover up the brown part of the paper towel roll
    11. Hand out the large colored pieces of paper and instruct the students on how they will glue the paper onto the paper towel rolls when finished decorating

    Culminating Activity

    After creating the hands-on art work assignment, the student will be able to:
    1. (Visual Art)
      • Display their finished art work within their school
      • Share their art piece with their peers. Assess the merits of their own artwork, and the artwork of others
    2. (Social Studies)
      • Identify the location/region studied or represented on a map.
      • Explain how the native people used plants and cactus indigenous to their region in creating their rain sticks
    3. (Music)
      • Create a hand percussion instrument and study the history of rattles
      • Participate in a mock group ceremonial rain dance
      • Play various rain dance songs and have the class analyze their interpretation
    4. (Literature)
      • Students will read the book “Who Likes Rain” by Wong Herbert Yee, and write a brief reaction from their viewpoint on the story after creating their own artistic rain stick
    5. (Math)
      • Use a variety of strategies to solve design problems
      • Use various tools to measure straight rows and patterns for designing

    Cross-Curricular Activity

  • Science – Investigate the physics of sound
  • Math – Discuss patterns and repetition in design
  • Language Arts – Write to understand and improve comprehension
  • Social Studies – Study climates and characteristics of significant features of other cultural regions
  • Music – Research South American hand percussion instruments
  • Community Connections

    • Invite parents and family to join the class for a gallery show of the student artwork
    • Display the art at a local library or business
    • Visit with local science, art and music teachers in your district. Compare findings