103 Westgate Road, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481

Rain Sticks / Rain Makers

Kelli Sacher | 21 November, 2020

            Rain Sticks / Rain Makers

In many cultures, summoning rain often included the use of musical instruments. One well-known example is a rainstick, an instrument that mimics the sound of rain. They are traditionally made from dead cactus tubes with cactus spines hammered to the inside and filled with tiny pebbles.

Since the dawn of civilization, humans have relied on rain so they could grow crops and have drinking water. But as important as rain is, we humans haven’t had much knowledge of how weather worked for most of our history. Without scientific knowledge or instruments, people came up with other solutions. Rituals and superstitions were all we had for thousands and thousands of years.

The origin of the rainstick is not fully known, but many people think that it probably came from a group of indigenous people known as the Diaguita from the deserts of northern Chile. The ancient Mayans had ‘rain-makers.’ According to information found at  www.climatekids.nasa.gov , these important members of society were thought to have special knowledge of the ways of the rain god, Chaac. In times of great drought and famine, they created elaborate banquets for Chaac in an effort to persuade him to bring more rain. Native American tribes of the Southwestern United States, are known for performing elaborate rain dances in an effort to bring water to their dry lands. The Guajiro people of South America are known for shooting arrows at the clouds to pierce them and cause them to spill rain over their land. Many cultures still practice these traditional rituals today, either to stay connected to their heritage or as a way to hope for rain.

A rainstick seemed to be a likely craft when thinking of projects for my Rainforest theme last fall. After all, we hope our rainforests continue to have heavy rains to keep their myriad of life forms alive and thriving. Follow along to learn the steps my young artists, ages 5-9 took to complete these fun, musical toys.

 You will need the following materials:

poster mailing tube (https://www.amazon.com/Create-Box-P2024K-6-Mailing-24-Inch/dp/B0095IGRIM/ref=sr_1_2?crid=20D3Q4AFG12NI&dchild=1&keywords=poster+mailing+tubes+24+in&qid=1611865247&sprefix=poster+maili%2Caps%2C159&sr=8-2)
tempura paint sticks (https://www.amazon.com/Pencil-Grip-Tempera-Drying-TPG-602/dp/B013HO4OR0/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=2NO28CHWX7MOX&dchild=1&keywords=kwik+stix&qid=1611864290&sprefix=kwik%2Caps%2C182&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzNUhNTzRWV1VXM1k4JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwODUyNDQyMVdJOFI4NjBSUzZRWSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwODY5MDA1WUVRSllKWUZNRUNCJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==)
hammer and nails (I used 1-1/2" nails)
decorative papers, handpainted papers, or these: https://roylco.com/shop/r15256-amazing-animal-paper/)
dried beans, rice, corn
beads, feathers and other embellishments of your choice
low heat glue gun or white glue

To begin this project I hammered nails into the poster tubes before the students arrive so that all they had to do was fill the tube and decorate. The tubes were quite thick and I knew that these student might hurt themselves trying to hammer the nails into a cylinder--heck, I almost hurt myself doing this!

I spaced out the nails along the seam of the tube creating a spiral of nails the whole length of the tube. 

For the workshop, I set out trays of paper, collaging materials, and embellishments and the children began decorating at once. Everyone let their ideas lead them in their designs. No two sticks were alike. 

Despite the fact that we were working in the garage (thanks to Covid-19) the artists seemed enthralled with this quick project and definitely enjoyed the noise that they were able to make!

November 2020


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