They don't squeal like pigs, cluck like chickens or quack like ducks. In fact, you scarcely get a sound out of them unless you pick one up and try your hand at music.
That is why teachers at Glenwood Middle School in Howard County are hosting an "instrumental petting zoo" on Saturday, hoping that area youngsters take to a cafeteria filled with orchestra instruments they way they do to barnyard filled with animals.
Exposing students as early as first grade to the instruments could spawn an interest in the school's music program when they reach third or fourth grade, said Trish De Orio, strings teacher at Glenwood Middle and Gorman Crossing Elementary schools in Laurel.
The event is an offshoot of Glenwood's launch of a chapter of Tri-M, an international music honor society for students. Part of the nonprofit National Association for Music Education, Tri-M has more than 5,500 chapters and funds summer music programs for students.
"This is an opportunity for people in our community to try instruments in the orchestra and play around and see what they like," said De Orio, 28, a violinist who took up playing the instrument in the third grade and went on to play for the Columbia Orchestra.
Among the instruments that will be on hand for students to try are violins, cellos, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, French horns and bell sets. De Orio said that Tri-M students at Glenwood will be at various stations with the instruments, and they will teach the youngsters how to hold them and play them for about 30 seconds.
"We will have a worksheet for them to complete, and they can circle or color the instrument they like and take it to their teacher at school and have a better idea of what they'd like to play," said De Orio.
"The [Tri-M] students are also going to be performing," De Orio added, "so that students can hear what all the instruments sound like."
De Orio said that she did something similar in college as part of a music fraternity at Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C.
Sharon Johnson, vocal/general music teacher at Glenwood, said the school already has developed a band and strings department. She is hoping that next year the school can form a quartet through exposing students to various aspects of music.
"We're hoping they become more involved in the school and that we start acting more as a music department and collaborating and doing more events," she said.
"For the students that come to the petting zoo such as the elementary students," Johnson said, "we're just hoping that they take an interest in being in music, whether it's playing an instrument, being in the chorus, as long as we can promote music education."