Wk. 3: Sound Science

Week #3: Sound Science


  • Observe sounds as produced by vibrations
  • Recognize some sounds as unpleasant or even dangerous
  • Demonstrate multiple ways to produce sound
  • Construct and modify devices to create a range of sound characteristics (pitch and loudness/amplitude)
  • Measuring, cutting, and combining materials to improve their structural strength


  • Leaners discussed examples of sounds that were pleasing, unpleasant, and even harmful.
  • Learners observed the relationship between vibrations and sound by using these models:
    • Tapping a table hard and soft
    • Watching jars of water produce waves when the table was struck
    • Comparing the sounds made by tapping tall and short jars and how they changed as water was added to them
    • Feeling the front of their voice box while making loud and quiet sounds and varying the pitch from high to low
    • Tapping plastic tubes of different lengths
    • Comparing the sounds made by tuning forks of different lengths
    • Plucking a string held at different lengths
  • Learners constructed and modified simple instruments:
    • Comb Harmonica
    • Plastic straw pan flute
    • Rubber band harp
    • Hairpin thumb piano

Questions to Discuss

  • What are three sounds that are painful to your ears? What are three ways that we can protect our ears from loud sounds?
  • How did the vibrations made by your throat change when you made louder noises? How did they change when you sang high or low?
  • Did tapping the tables hard make bigger or smaller waves in the water jars? Did it make a difference if there was a little or a lot of water in the jars?
  • How did adding water to the jar change the sound it made?
  • How did using different sizes of straws affect the sound of they made when you blew across them?
  • For your rubber band harp, what was something important to making different sounds with it?
  • Why do you think the hairpins made a different sound when taped down on the yogurt tub compared to when it was against the table? Does the length of the hairpin matter for making different sounds?
  • Of all the instruments that you made, which one made the sounds you liked best?

Things to Try at Home

  • Interview someone who plays a musical instrument. Do they know how it makes sound? Can they explain how they make it louder and quieter or higher and lower sounds?
  • Listen through a door using only your ear. Then try again using a glass between your ear and the door. Is it better or worse? Does the size of the glass matter? What if you use a plastic cup instead?
  • Many animals use vibrations to communicate or survive. Find out more about how some animals use vibrations. For example:
    • elephants use foot stomping to send warnings to other elephants
    • mole rats make seismic waves to find their way around underground obstacles
    • some snakes use vibration to sense their prey
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