Sound All Around


Allison Kao

Community Roots Charter School, Brooklyn

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2011



Subject:  General Science

Grade Levels: 3-6

Unit: Sound


*Sound moves in waves called vibrations.

*Sound travels through mediums: air, water, and solids

*Sounds can be described in terms of volume and pitch

*Volume is how loud or soft a sound is.

*Pitch is how high or low a sound is.

*Length can affect the pitch.




Catalyst: Look at the picture and describe how does the sound of the bell get to your ears?

Demo 1:

Drops of water into a pool. What do you notice? (ripples/waves)

Those water waves are similar to how sound waves travel through the air. Draw what you see in the water box.

Demo 2:

Place 2 fingers on the side of your throat and hum. What do you notice?

When you speak or shout, your vocal chords vibrate. These vibrations go out in all directions through the air as waves. When the waves reach our ears, they make our eardrums vibrate too, so we can hear the words. Describe what you feel in the voice box.

How do we HEAR sound? à But to get to our ears, sound waves need to travel through some stuff.

What kind of “stuff” can sound travel through?



1: How does sound travel? à prepare cards for each of the 3 stations with instructions on how to use materials.

·         Show water basin, dowel, string/cups, tuning fork. How are these objects similar/different? How can we use these objects to test if sound can move through stuff?

·         Station 1: Sounds through air: Tuning fork/utensils – hit and hold up to ear. What do you hear?

·         Station 2: Sounds through water: straws and water bin – 1 whisper through straw while another listens with straw. Snap under water while other listens. Blow bubbles. What do you hear?

·         Station 3: Sound through solids: Desk (put head on table), Using dowel (scratch the end with other end in your ear), Using paper cup telephone. What do you hear?

·         For all stations, describe your observations in the boxes on the worksheet.


So what kind of “stuff” or medium do sound waves travel through? (solid, liquid, gas)

Think about lightning and thunder. Which one comes first? Why do you think that is? So which medium does sound travel the fastest? The slowest?

2. How are volume and pitch different?

·         Volume: Have 1 person stand very far away repeating a random word(s) (ex: watermelon marshmallow). Have them move a few steps closer without changing how loud they are. Continue. What do you notice about the person’s voice? If they were standing very far away, what would they need to do in order for you to hear them?


·         Pitch: Fill up 4 bottles with different amounts of water. What do all of these have in common? What is different about them? Predict: Does having different amounts of water change what we hear? Hit the bottles gently and listen. Put the bottles in order from lowest pitch to highest pitch. What do you notice about the LENGTH of the water inside in relation to the pitch?

New York State Standards: