MARSHALL - If the southern part of Minnesota continues to experience drought conditions, help is on the way. Young artists from around the region can make use of their newly-made rainsticks which simulate the sound of rain to remind the gods to release the rain.
"The Legend of the Rainstick" is one of the classes students could attend Wednesday at the 19th annual Conference for Young Artists at Southwest Minnesota State University sponsored by Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative in Marshall.
"Nowadays the rainstick is used as a musical instrument more than to bring the rains in," said the instructor Chrystal Dunker, the executive director of the Prairie Ecology Bus Center.
Photo by Karin Elton
Anna Viergatz, a Yellow Medicine East sixth-grader, decorates the rainstick that she made. The rainstick was used by indigenous cultures to bring rain by simulating the sound of rain.
Dunker told the class of sixth- through eighth-graders that rainsticks used to be made from logs, animal skins, hollowed-out reeds or cactus. Since those items aren't easy to come by, she uses a mailing tube. If a cactus is used, the thorns are tapped so they face the inside and gravel, sand, pebbles or seeds bounce against the thorns which makes a rain sound. In lieu of cactus thorns, Dunker uses chicken wire. She folds a length of chicken wire inside the tube so the sand grains can fall against the wires to make a sound like rain.
Dunker had rice and gravel at hand for the students to use.
"You could do all rice or all gravel," she said. "But I recommend you do a little of each so you get a bigger range of sound."
She said they could hold the rainstick vertically which would make the material inside move faster and louder, or they could move the instrument sideways to produce a slower reaction for a softer sound.
"Or you can just shake it," she said.
Dunker then directed the students to decorate the outside of their rainstick in a water-related motif.
"Tell a story," she said.
One girl drew pictures of a trip to Virginia Beach where she found sunglasses in the surf, went tubing with her family and also fished.