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Physical Science

The following lessons have all been tested with students and reviewed by experienced middle and high school teachers, middle and high school curriculum experts and physics education researchers and are at an appropriate level for middle and high school students.


Sound and Music

Students explore the physics of sound, how the ear hears and how musical instruments work through interactive demonstrations and student activities. Video clips are available for teachers to watch a section at a time if interested. This includes a multiple-choice test designed to measure learning from the “Sound and Music” lesson. This test has been reviewed by multiple experts and master teachers as well as used with several different populations of students.


The Science of Music Unit

Musical Instruments part 1Students investigate how to make music by creating their own “straw instruments” and exploring water bottles.

Musical Instruments part 2Students investigate how stringed instruments make music including constructing and testing their own “cup instruments.”

Generalizing How Musical Instruments Work: In this small group and whole class follow-up discussion to Musical Instruments part 1 and 2, students are guided to make generalization about how instruments make music – source of vibration, way to change pitch, mechanism to amplify the music including resonance and sympathetic vibration.


Wave Basics

Students explore the PhET Interactive Simulation “Wave on a String” focusing on amplitude and frequency as well as wave travel. This is a good preparation activity or homework assignment for the “Anatomy of a Wave” lesson.


Anatomy of a Wave

Students take on the roles of reporters and artists to draw and describe the nature of transverse waves. Activity is followed up with an interactive presentation of longitudinal and transverse wave characteristics including resonance. “Wave Basics” is good preparation for this lesson.


Tuning Fork Discovery

Students study a brief history of sound, examine the role of tuning forks in this history and then conduct experiments with tuning forks.


The Doppler Effect

Students explore the PhET Interactive simulation “Sound” and then experience the Doppler effect through watching videos and teacher demonstrations. Then students invent an explanation of why the Doppler effect happens.


Echolocation and SONAR: Outdoor Unit

Speed of Sound: Students explore the speed of sound by experiencing the delay for sound to reach them after they see it occur.

Identification from a Distance: Students will try to identify objects from a variety of distances that dolphins and bats can successfully echolocate from.

Fish Finding Game: Students will explore what it feels like to find objects without sight by playing a game modeled after dolphin’s food-finding behavior.


Echolocation and SONAR: Indoor Unit

Echolocation and SONAR Homework: Students examine what echolocation is and how it is used by humans and dolphins.

Sound not Sight: In this activity students explore the idea of how it feels to use sound only to locate objects.

3-D Location: Students experience having to search for objects above and below them, rather than only side-to-side, similar to how bats and dolphins find food.


Echolocation: How Dolphins Use Sound

This activity is a visual, class or group discussion version of the Echolocation and SONAR homework found above. The reading from that activity has been put into a visual power point with student questions placed at key points.


Echolocation & SONAR Wrap-Up

In class discussion of how echolocation works. This activity brings together the hands-on activities done in indoor and outdoor echolocation units and helps students understand why and how echolocation works.


Echolocation and SONAR Quiz

This pre and post quiz is a combination open-ended and likert-scale quiz covering many of the learning goals from the two echolocation activities. This has been used with pre-service elementary teachers, but it has not been reviewed by others.


Giant Acoustic Word Search

Word search uses 36 acoustics terms found in the science lessons. Minimum of 2 hours to complete.


Sound Measures

Students use a sound level meter to measure, compare and graph sound levels in different environments. Developed by Dangerous Decibels


How Load is too Loud?

In this stand alone or follow up to Sound Measures activity, students explore sound levels and exposure time for a variety of sources. Developed by Dangerous Decibels.


Loud Sounds Bookmarks

Two sided full color bookmarks show sound level for certain sound and safe exposure times for different levels. Materials developed by Dangerous Decibels.


Sound Lab Unit

Sound Wave LabStudents use the “Sound” simulation from the PhET Interactive Simulations to understand how different sounds are modeled, described and produced. They also design ways to determine the speed, frequency, period and wavelength of a sounds

Sound Lab using Oscilloscope: Students use a virtual oscilloscope to investigate how wave patterns from different sound sources look. They also determine the speed, frequency, period and wavelength of a sounds

Concept Questions for Sound: Concept questions related to the “Sound Waves” and “Sound Lab” lessons.