Disused tractor makes for unique inspiration

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Ambition: Learning for Life​, Excellence in the Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

Education State Targets:
By 2025, more Victorian students will reach the highest level of achievement in the Arts.
By 2025, 25 per cent more Year 10 students will have developed excellent critical and creative thinking skills

Turning the petrol tank of an old tractor into a cello and its disc brake casings into a guitar was all in a day’s work for a group of Gippsland students, as part of a unique program teaching hands-on skills and music. 

Local artist – and qualified ship builder – David Paxton joined the Year 9 students at Mirboo North Secondary College in class to disassemble a tractor and turn its parts into musical instruments. 

The distinctive class was held at the school this year with support from the Victorian Government’s Artists in Schools program, after David and music teacher Rebecca Woodall noticed local teenagers were reluctant to use a saw or chisel and did not understand musical basics such as frequency or pitch. 

Rebecca said the class not only built the students’ pride and confidence, but also taught them skills and creative thinking in an innovative classroom setting. 

Teg and Sean, two students who participated in the project, said they were shown a tractor and challenged to come up with designs for musical instruments they could make from it. 

“It was interesting to see how difficult it was to come up with a guitar,” they said.

“You can’t just screw on a neck and put some strings on. You really need to calculate it.” 

Students made instruments including a piano, guitar, cello and drums, while learning about metal work, engineering and music.  

The lessons were capped off in October when students took their completed instruments – dubbed their ‘tractor orchestra’ – to the Kool Skools (sic) recording studio in Collingwood. 

Rebecca said it was the perfect way to finish the project: “we now have a professionally recorded audio sample of all the sounds that we’ve made and the instruments that we’ve made, and the work that the kids have done.” 

“One of the outcomes of this project was how it helped a group of previously disengaged students expand their knowledge, take risks and learn resilience, while simultaneously building self-worth and identity.” 


By 2025, the Government is seeking to increase the proportion of students achieving excellence in critical and creative thinking skills by 25 per cent. The Government has also committed to increase excellence in the arts.​

The Artists in Schools program is a partnership between the Department of Education and Training and Creative Victoria that gives grants of $10,000 to schools to work with artists on projects that use creativity to explore range of subjects across the curriculum. ​