History of the Harp

History of the Harp
Louisa Adams: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: 1-2 days

Required Documents
History of the Harp Worksheet


Louisa Adams was the only first lady born out of the United States. She was born in London in 1775 to an English mother, but her father was American who had served as United States consul in England. As the wife of a diplomat, she lived throughout Europe in such places as Berlin and Russia. She was an accomplished musician who composed music and played both the harp and piano. She often played music to entertain guests during various receptions at the White House. Her harp and music stand now reside at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.


1)      The students will use a computer and the internet to conduct research on the harp.

2)      The students will be able trace the development of the harp since its creation in ancient Egypt through modern times.

3)      The students will be able to distinguish between different types of harps and list facts about each.

4)      The students will learn the basics of playing the harp through the use of an online virtual harp program.

Materials Required:

 A working computer and internet connection;   Projector and Interactive board (optional); The History of the Harp Work Sheet;  Pencil or pen 



1)   Begin the lesson by showing the students the YouTube below to make them familiar with the sound of the harp. This is a video of a young man named Benjamin Creighton Griffiths playing jazz on the harp. He is only 5 years old. This video will also show them that children can become accomplished harpists.

 2)    The teacher will then divide the class into partners or small groups. This activity can also be accomplished individually if you have access to a computer lab. Each group or pair will work using the computer to research the history of the harp. They will use the first website listed below as their source of information. If computer access is not available the website may be printed into an informational article. The students will complete The History of the Harp Work Sheet either individually or in their small groups.

 3)     After the worksheet is completed the students can visit the Virtual Harp website listed as the second site below. They can practice playing songs and the class can have a harp recital using the Virtual Harp website.  There are brief directions on the History of the Harp Worksheet.


Extending the Lesson:

This lesson may be extended by having the students build their own harp. This may be done in many ways. There are many sites on the internet that provide directions on how to construct harps in various degrees of complexity. Some of these are listed below in the sources and resources section of this lesson plan.

Sources & Resources:


History of the Harp

Try Playing the Harp Yourself

Watch the Harp Played by a Young Boy

How to Make a Harp for Children

How to Make a Cardboard Harp

How to Make Homemade Stringed Harps

How to Make a Shoebox Harp

Credits:  This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.