This Cicada Sound Machine Captivates Kids

May 24, 2021

How do you get kids to engage in the classroom? One way is to build an interactive cicada sound machine that plays the different calls of Brood X. A Kennedy Heights Montessori teacher did it and his students can't stop buzzing about it.

Adam Gerhardstein doesn't proclaim to be an expert when it comes to building machines requiring electrical connections. But as a teacher in training, he had to do a couple of projects and thought it would be fun to let the kids hear cicada sounds.

Then he found out what was involved. "You have to attach buttons to it and a power source and wire it properly, none of which I know how to do," he laughs. "But I overcame those and taught myself how to solder and it was quite an undertaking."

Here's what the inside of the box looks like:

One day, the cicada sound machine stopped working so teacher Adam Gerhardstein rewired the whole thing to find out it just needed new batteries.
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU

One of the project's biggest fans is six-year-old Caroline Krinov. Her grandparents are scientists and she had already listened to a cicada podcast when Gerhardstein introduced the machine in the classroom.

"I like looking for cicadas. They are cool because they have red eyes and wings," she exclaims.

See if you can tell the difference between the three species whose sounds are included in the machine.

Gerhardstein says the goal for his students isn't to learn to identify them in the wild but, "This is what we call in the Montessori classroom sensorial work. We train the senses because we know the senses are the keys to intelligence."
 

And with each day, the students got more curious. School is out now, but Caroline still has cicada questions. "Why when they emerge they are white and then they turn black?" she asks.

No word on what Gerhardstein's next school project will be.