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Kids Listen Activity Podcast, Episode 1: The Past and the Curious Presents Bridges!

In our inaugural Kids Listen Activity Podcast episode, we hear from The Past and the Curious, a history podcast designed for kids and families.  This episode features a real woman named Emily Roebling who made sure that the Brooklyn Bridge actually got built.  You'll also learn about the musician Sonny Rollins. What does he have to do with bridges? Listen to find out.
After you listen, do the activity! Engineer and make your own bridge. Here's how!

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Kids Listen Activity Podcast 

The Past and The Curious Activity


Emily Roebling Bridges


Just like Emily Roebling - we’re going to engineer and make bridges. This is an activity I’ve led for kids in person and it is really fun. 


Material (super flexible)

Part of the fun of engineering is being resourceful. Look around the house and use your imagination. Here’s some stuff I’ve used in the past: 

-masking tape


-books of various weights 

-a couple of chairs with hard seats (TV Trays work even better) 

-some recycled material or craft items from your home - maybe some cereal boxes, some straws, aluminum foil, and my favorite - popsicle sticks. 

Other options: 


-hot glue 


-pipe cleaners 

-plastic bottle caps 

-WHATEVER. Just remember to make it challenging - there wouldn’t be any fun in making this out of a giant log - use small, light random things and see how you can construct a strong structure. You might even do it with legos! 


Here’s the big idea:  

You are going to build a bridge from your materials to span the distance of two surfaces (two hard chairs, or TV trays - or any two surfaces of the same height) Start with them about 18 inches, or so apart. You will connect them with your bridge - but not only do you want to build the bridge to connect the two, you also are going to test how much weight it holds. 


Consider different designs. Can you make something like a suspension bridge? Something like a truss bridge? Remember: you’re going to stack books on top!


Once your design is complete, very carefully test the weight it can hold. Stack one book at a time on top. Eventually it will break - that’s okay! It’s the fun part! This is a great time the ask the scientific questions: What did I learn about my design, and what would I do differently if I tried again. Then, try again!  



Sonny Rollins Improv Art Fun

We’ve also got an art project recommendation related to Sonny Rollins, who is also features in Episode 20 of The Past and The Curious. Sonny, who is still around these days, is one of the most important jazz musicians in history. Jazz is an improvised music. Meaning, a player uses their skills and knowledge of music and techniques to improvise. This means they are often making it up on the spot, and communicating with each other without words. It’s pretty amazing. 


This activity is simple. Get anything that you like to make art with: markers, crayons, paints (for the brave parents). You’ll also need a way to play music, in addition paper - or one of our favorite things for art: pieces of old cardboard boxes.


If you have Spotify, or a similar platform, find some music by Sonny Rollins. I recommend his album Saxophone Colossus.


If you don’t have a music streaming service, there is lots of Sonny’s music on Youtube, and also streaming from some libraries. If none of that works, any music will do - but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY recommend listening to some jazz. When you know just a bit about it, it’s pretty amazing. 


Once you have music and your supplies, just turn on the tunes. You are going to improvise a piece of art on your paper. Take your time. Listen to the sounds you hear. Is it fast?  Is it slow? If it was a color, what color would it be? 

Does a song like Sonny’s “St. Thomas” make you think of any images (it certainly does for me, and I know I’m not alone).

Once you are hearing the music in a new way, react to it on the paper (or cardboard). It doesn’t have to be anything at all. Try to feel what Sonny was feeling.


This activity is super loose (maybe too loose for some!) but it can be a great way to appreciate a new kind of music. 




Share your activities with us with help from your adult! Use the hashtag #kidslistenactivitypod to post a photo on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.



Mick Sullivan

The Past and The Curious

Kids Listen

Kids Listen Activity Podcast, Episode 3:
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