Mexican Clay Whistles
Term: 3 Year: 2011
In 2009, our year 9 students did an amazing clay workshop with Vipoo Srivilasa, making wild creatures which they
In the same year I decided to try making a traditional Mexican whistle or “Ocarina” which is, in
actuality, a real musical instrument. A proper musical scale can be achieved by adding in 5 additional holes. Our
first whistles with year 7 were a tremendous success but not all whistles made sound. By the beginning of 2010 we
were able to get a success rate of 100%, with every student in the class producing a whistle that made the correct
This was achieved by carefully studying the “V” shape over which the air flows, thus making the sound.
It was also achieved by utilising the brilliantly clever clay students who, once their sound was achieved, went
around the room helping everyone else. This whole exercise became a fun race against time with various rewards. In
the years since, without fail, we never leave the room without every whistle performing. We are always able to attain
the sound in 90 minutes – one double period.
Students can take another more leisurely double period after that to turn their whistles into marvellous
creatures, by affixing arms, legs, eyes and various textures. They then spend some theory time exploring glazing
techniques. Sometimes we have a theme, such as dragons but students are never deficient in imagination and are
rewarded by owning a beautiful glazed musical instrument. We now have all year levels making whistles, investigating
their history, constructing outsized ones, cute petite ones which produce a very high pitched note and outrageous
ones. Our predicament now is how to prevent students from coming up to the art rooms every lunch time, such is their
passion to produce more. I have found that whistles made by grade 6 perform as well as ones made by year 11.
Jenny Hodge, senior Art teacher
Maranatha Christian School, Endeavour Hills
Suitable for Level 5