Music

The Smith

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The Smith
by Tim Griffin, copyright 2010

Sometimes when you go walking you’ll find evidence of life
From a time when tools were made of stone, an axe-head or a knife
Our forebears made their tools of obsidian and flint
‘Til a neolithic genius found a shiny greenish glint

He kept the shiny rock he found, he kept it by his fire
When he found the heat had made it soft, with that he grew inspired
He beat it into shapes that we can recognize today
Tools and weapons made of copper swept the stone age clean away

So let’s hear it for the smith working in his forge alone
For he gave us tools and weapons that are better by far than stone
In the march of human progress through the mist of time and myth
There are many men we have to thank-– but most all the smith.

So copper was a huge advance but soon the smith could tell
That though copper takes an edge it doesn’t hold it very well
Your sword may be the sharpest when the battle shall begin
Ah, but once your blade is blunted you will find it hard to win

Now tin’s a brittle metal, not much good for work or war
But it lets you make an alloy that you didn’t have before
If you melt down eight parts copper in your fire with one part tin
You can make a stronger metal and the bronze age can begin!

So let’s hear it for the smith working in his forge alone
For he gave us tools and weapons that are better by far than stone
In the march of human progress through the mist of time and myth
There are many men we have to thank-– but most all the smith.

Now bronze was quite the cutting edge, but every age must end
And once our fires were hot enough, the iron we learned to bend
We forged it into swords and spears and tools to plow our fields
And we melted it down with carbon then and so invented steel.

Now steel’s the finest metal that the smith had ever made
And it worked so well, we use it still in our buildings and our blades
We bend and shape our steel to any purpose we desire
And as we do, remember those who mastered earth with fire!

So let’s hear it for the smith working in his forge alone
For he gave us tools and weapons that are better by far than stone
In the march of human progress through the mist of time and myth
There are many men we have to thank-– but most all the smith.

In the march of human progress through the mist of time and myth
There are many men we have to thank-– but most all the smith!

Print Notes Notes

Most of my songs can be classified as Science or History; this is one of the few that works as both.

Suggestions for the classroom:
A hands-on metallurgy workshop with elementary students… what could possibly go wrong? Seriously, though, you can find some creative ways to bring this into the classroom without actually forging steel. Find out if your local high-school has a metal shop. If so, see if you can persuade them to craft some thin pieces of different metals for you to experiment with. Your students can test for tensile strength, flexibility, etc. Toss out some questions such as: why do we use copper for electric wire, steel for a fork, bronze for musical instruments? You can really dig into the engineering standards when you study different materials for different applications.

History offers some good openings for early engineering: why was copper the first metal people mastered? What technological advances had to happen before we could make bronze? How and why did we switch over to iron? Who had the best steel, and when? I find that most history standards direct us to look at culture, religion, economics, and other social factors; those are certainly important but we tend to overlook the huge role technology has played in our history.

Here are some standards from the NGSS, Common Core, and the state of California addressed by this song:

Second Grade
2-PS1-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties.
2-PS1-2. Analyze data obtained from testing different materials to determine which materials have the properties that are best suited for an intended purpose.
K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
K-2-ETS1-3. Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
RI.2.1 Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
RI.2.3 Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

Fifth Grade
5-PS1-1. Develop a model to describe that matter is made of particles too small to be seen.
5-PS1-2. Measure and graph quantities to provide evidence that regardless of the type of change that occurs when heating, cooling, or mixing substances, the total weight of matter is conserved.
5-PS1-3. Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.
5-PS1-4. Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances.
3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
CA.PS5.1.c. Students know metals have properties in common, such as high electrical and thermal conductivity. Some metals, such as aluminum (Al), iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), silver (Ag), and gold (Au), are pure elements; others, such as steel and brass, are composed of a combination of elemental metals.

Middle School
MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.3 Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).
WHST.6-8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
CA.HSS.6.1. Students describe what is known through archaeological studies of the early physical and cultural development of humankind from the Paleolithic era to the agricultural revolution.
CA.HSS.6.1.1. Describe the hunter-gatherer societies, including the development of tools and the use of fire.

Chords: I usually do this song with just a drum. If you work out a chord progression that pleases you, let me know.