Learning About the Natural World Through Music

A children's playground in Minnesota is helping kids learn about ecosystems through the use of Percussion Play outdoor musical instruments.

Thompson County Park, based in Dakota County, has recently installed a playground themed around pollination to engage children from an early age about the importance of looking after the environment. Funded by Dakota County, the playground was installed in late October 2021 by St Croix Recreation, a family-run business and partner of Percussion Play specializing in commercial playground equipment in Minnesota.

The design is based around the life of an ecosystem and how pollination works with the help of insects and animals, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. There are markers for children to find certain aspects of pollination throughout the playground, including finding the 'yellow pollen grains' and 'finding the flowers which help pollination.'

At the center of the playground are flower-themed outdoor musical instruments. Included are a Minor and Major bunch of Harmony Bells, both in a bespoke red color to resemble the Cardinal Flower. Cardinal Flowers are one of the few plants native to Minnesota with true red flowers and are a striking welcome addition to late-summer landscapes and loved by Hummingbirds.

Two 'posies' of Harmony Flowers, again in a major and minor chord, were installed in a bespoke vibrant pink to resemble Milkweed, which plays a key role in the wetlands, prairies, savannas, and forests of Minnesota. In addition to being a host plant for monarch butterflies, Milkweed also attracts other butterflies, honeybees, bumblebees, and other pollinators.

A Petal Drum tuned to an A-Minor pentatonic scale was included within the design to complement the Harmony Bells and Flowers. Again, made in a bespoke color for the park, this time to resemble a Coneflower, a wildflower native to the prairies of western Minnesota with a long history of medicinal uses by Native Americans. The Petal Drum contains a small yellow Babel Drum encased within the daisy-shaped purple aluminum 'petals.'

To add further drum percussion to the playground, a trio of Djembes, with their distinct goblet shape were added. Djembes with their large 'heads' allow multiple beats from low to high to be made, with players able to create unique and versatile sounds simply by hitting or slapping the different areas of the Djembe's head with their hands.

Finally, a Rainbow Cavatina was included. Diatonically tuned, the xylophone's versatility provides a vast range of expression suited to beginners and experienced musicians alike, making it perfect for the Thompson County Park's children's playground. To help budding musicians, the eight-page Music Book was also included, allowing players to simply follow the colors shown on the book which correspond to the colored notes on the Cavatina.

Christopher Johnsen of St Croix Recreation comments on the new playground; “We try to make all of the playgrounds we design fun and educational. Children are like sponges, constantly absorbing information, so helping them learn about our environment while having fun in the playground is always our aim when thinking about the make-up of a playground. I knew instantly that I wanted to include the flower-themed musical instruments from Percussion Play because they really help to communicate the story of pollination through the fun of making music!"

Bespoke Designs and Product Tweaks

With over 80 standard outdoor musical instruments available, we are confident that there is something for everyone within our range. However, we recognize that sometimes a product can be ideal in every way but may require a slight tweak to make it entirely fit-for-purpose to work in a specific design or project. Tweaking a product to change the color, adjust the height, or use a different musical scale can make all the difference. With our 'Bespoke Service,' we work collaboratively with our partners and customers to achieve their exact desired product.

We take pride in supporting our partners like St Croix Recreation, and together, we can remove the frustration of telling customers that we can't entirely meet their needs. By blending our flexible approach with our design skills and craftsmanship, we can help them achieve their projects and ultimately fulfill their customer's wants and needs.

If you have an idea which you would like to bring to life which is not within our standard product range please Contact Us. We have a passion for new ideas and we're constantly innovating to create exciting new outdoor musical instruments, large or small. We can make your order just for you in our workshop, with no minimum order quantities. We are confident that working together only our imaginations are the limit. Let us help you bring your sound sculpture to life and have some fun along the way!