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It Sounds like Science!

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Here’s a great collection of activities, with explanations and elaborations, that I hope will enrich your resources for teaching sound. I presented this information at a workshop at the OSTA state conference.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.52.51 AM One example in the Evidence Statement for NGSS 1-PS4-1 suggests using a tuning fork to show vibration.

That’s a fun demonstration and you might add to the demo by showing a slow motion video of a vibrating tuning fork that touches water.

Another video you might choose was created by the SloMo Guys. I like their videos but suggest you turn off the sound and discuss what’s seen because conversation before, during, and after an activity can be distracting. For this video, I suggest you watch from 1:06-1:51.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.36.14 AM Sometimes the activity is great just the way it’s written and explained like the screaming balloon. This activity is one of many you can find at Steve Spangler Science that often includes simple, well done videos of the activities. Caution: There can be distracting popup ads displayed over the video you’ll want to close as you watch.

Take a look around his collection of videos. You might find a video to share with an interested student or parent who wants to volunteer to bring an extra science activity to your classroom.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.28.53 AM When looking for science activities online you’ll find activities at the Exploratorium Museum like Secret Bells. I think it’s a great idea that could benefit from some refinement.

I change it by using a spoon because metal hangars aren’t always available and the hook at the top of the hangar might be unsafe for kids.

You will be amazed at what you hear if you use soup ladles, ice cream scoops, and large serving spoons.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.30.14 AM Here’s another example suggested by the Evidence Statement.

Using a Science Snack from the Exploratorium Museum in California your class makes Head Harps with loops of string.

The activity seems to ideally fit the science expectations. What if this year’s class is reliable and you can take it a step further? Extend it with file bands, large elastic bands that can be stretched to change the sound students hear.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.31.09 AM Sometimes you just don’t have the equipment or time, so you could present a video and discuss with students like a Chladni Plate attached to a tonal device or a Chladni Plate presented and explained by Physics Girl.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.32.05 AM If you viewed the Chaldni device videos I included above, you might have noticed they don’t look like the usual youtube videos. That’s because I pasted the URL for the youtube videos into ViewPure. It’s a site that deletes the ads and suggestions for more videos found on the side of a youtube page.


Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.39.10 AM What if you don’t have time, materials, or maybe kids are distracted because of the equipment, like wine glasses with water? Again a video can be a great option, just start and stop, discuss and continue. Here’s a wine glass that moves a toothpick in another wine glass.

View this video of a wine glass breaking that was filmed in slow motion. You might skip the first 30-second introduction. His explanation is very clear for adults. You can adjust it for your students.


One example of an activity in the Evidence Statement for NGSS 1-PS4-4 is paper cup phones.

tin can phone real web Steve Spangler Science has a great write up but I’d suggest a few fixes. I would use plastic cups not paper cups. I would tie the string to a paper clip not a pointy toothpick. I might also have kids tie the knot more securely than what you see in the video.

Consider some online resources as a great start and then improve them. Often my students suggest improvements.

Check out a similar activity at TeachEngineering, a great resource for engineering activities. Remember to tie the knot around a paperclip. If you simply tie a knot as they show in their write-up, students will pull it through the cup, even if it’s a plastic cup.

Enjoy the activities and resources. Let me know if you’d like to share ideas or resources with others who visit this page.

2 thoughts on “It Sounds like Science!

  1. Thanks! I enjoyed presenting and know your students will love the activities. Keep in touch if you need another resource or want to share a success story!

  2. Your workshop at OSTA yesterday was the BEST! Thank you so much for all the new ideas and activities you gave us.

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