Make a Fall Harvest Man
And His Name Was Aiken Drum
This activity is based on the old Scottish folk song Aiken Drum. As a music teacher, I sang this with children during autumn months and Thanksgiving time. This patchwork character fits into the fall theme of food and fun. You can also adapt this to a family activity at home.
Children enjoy making a man out of something you eat. There is much creativity in connecting different foods to different parts of the body. You could also say it's a vocabulary lesson. I've heard everything from toes made of french fries to a head made of a peanut.Just as you can improvise on the food, you can change the actual activity. Initially, we sing the song as it's written while doing movements. For example, when we say 'his nose was made of carrot', we put a closed hand up to our nose like it's a long carrot. Then later when we sing the song, we add the children's own ideas.
Here's my drawing of Aiken Drum for you to print out for personal use only. Just add the song and you'll have a great start for your autumn harvest revelry.
The Big Man Himself
Two years ago, I came up with the idea of each music class making a collaborative Aiken Drum. Children in turn suggest a food and a part of the body and I would draw it on the white board until we had a wondrous food creature looking back at us. I didn't get this far, but I could've taken a picture of it, printed it out and displayed all the Aiken Drums from all the music classes for the kids to see. In a classroom setting, you could have children draw their own Aiken Drum and be able to show and describe to the class all the different parts.You (the teacher or parent) don't need to be able to sing or draw. You can use a recording of the song that everyone can sing along with and you could have the kids draw their foods on the board or on a piece of paper.
Raffi singing Aiken Drum on MP3
Brief Historical Overview
This song has been traced back to the early 1700's. It started out as part of a Scottish battle song. Printed references to Aiken Drum have popped up here and there. Eventually, it became a children's song.
Wikipedia has a well written page on the origins of Aiken Drum. It has lyrics there as well.
Smithsonian Page About Aiken Drum
- Smithsonian Folkways
I found this inspiring site on a music group that plays the Aiken Drum.
This is a wonderful collaboration between two experts in folk music research; John Feieraband and Jill Trinka.
His Breeches Were Made of Haggis Bags.
My Favorite Line in the Song
It’s fun to teach children vocabulary words that are totally out of their life experience. First, we figure out what breeches are (pants that buckle below the knee) and then what haggis bags are. Haggis bags are a traditional Scottish dish made of minced sheep organs mixed with spices and cooked. The bag is the intestinal casing that holds the meat mixture in a sausage-like ball. I explain that people don't wear breeches as much anymore but in Scotland they still eat haggis bags! Just like in the U.S. we eat liver and onions, cow’s tongue or giblets and gravy, this type of eating is a meat lover's tasty treat.
Other Teaching Ideas
The fun thing about making Aiken Drum is the variety of ways you can teach it. You could draw or get cardboard pictures of food, laminate them and add magnets. Then your students could pick a food and everyone sings while they place it on the body part they want to use it for.