Nature of Sound – Background

If a tree falls in the forest, a bird sings, or a beaver slaps its tail, does it make a sound if no one is there to hear it? To think about this riddle, we need to understand the nature of sound – what it is and how we perceive it. Sound is important in our lives and the lives of other animals. Our sense of hearing helps us learn about and monitor our surroundings. And for animals that chirp, croak, bark, or talk, sound provides a highly effective means of communication.

Sound is what we hear when something is vibrating. Pluck a rubber band or a guitar string, and we hear a sound. How does the sound reach our ears? As the string vibrates, oscillating rapidly back and forth, it pushes or compresses the air Continue reading Nature of Sound – Background

Nature of Sound – Activities

FOCUS: Sound is what we hear when something is vibrating. The vibrating object – whether a violin string, a singing bird, or a gurgling brook – creates a sound wave that travels to our ears, where we interpret its meaning. Sound waves need a medium like air, water, or a solid through which to move; they cannot pass through a vacuum. The Earth’s atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere provide a way for sounds to travel. Many animals depend on sound to learn about their surroundings and to communicate with others of their kind.

Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about sound.

Ask children to put their hands on their own throats as they make a noise like a frog and sing like a bird. What do they notice? Next, ask all children to make a “shush” sound. Do they notice a difference?

Objective: To investigate what is happening when something makes a sound.

Give each child or pair of children a paint stick. Have one child place the stick flat on a table or desk, so that about two thirds of it extends out beyond the edge. Have the child hold the stick firmly, pressing down on it with the heel of one or both hands. Have the other child pluck the free end of the stick so that it vibrates up and down. Does it make a sound? What about when it stops moving? (The sound stops.) Have everyone sing a note and feel their throats to feel the vibrating vocal chords. If available, play a guitar string, drum or cymbal to show how it vibrates when making a sound. What is happening when something makes a sound? (It is vibrating.) Have them experiment with making the stick shorter (less of it extending beyond the table edge) and longer (more of the stick extending beyond the table edge). How does the sound change? (Longer is slower and sounds lower.)

Optional: Have the children “play” paint sticks as you conduct them. Conduct them to play faster and slower, louder and softer, as you wave your arms, and then to stop when you stop.

Materials: wooden paint sticks, one for each child or pair of children; optional: guitar, drum, cymbal or other instruments.

PUPPET SHOW “Calls of the Wild”
Objective: To learn how different animals hear and make sounds, and how sounds are important in their lives. Continue reading Nature of Sound – Activities

Nature of Sound – Puppet Show

Calls of the Wild

Characters: Harry Hare, Chelsea Chickadee, Woodrow Woodpecker, Jenny Jay, Oliver Owl.

Props: cup of water and a straw; signs for audience participation: “chick-a-dee, dee, dee,” “whshhhhh,” “jay-jay-jay.”

Directions: Ahead of time, assign people in the audience a sound to make when their sign appears. It may be helpful to have one person to do sound effects and hold up the signs for audience participation.

Harry Hare   Gee, it’s almost morning and I’m still hungry. I’d like to go across the field to get to the bramble patch, but it might be dangerous. I’d better listen with my ears to be sure it’s safe. Continue reading Nature of Sound – Puppet Show

Nature of Sound – Standards


The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Nature of Sound – Standards