Getting Started with First grade Physics

Sound is a fascinating form of energy. As you sit there reading this, there is energy flowing all around you in the form of light waves, sound waves, radio waves, heat and more. You are constantly being bombarded by energy.

Energy is everywhere, all the time.Moving by waves at amazing speeds, sound energy brings you knowledge about the world around you. Does a tree make a sound if it falls without anyone there to hear it? This section will answer that question and many others.

Sound is a form of energy. Energy is the ability to move something over a distance against a force. But what does that mean?

Molecules are vibrating back and forth at fairly high rates of speed, creating waves. Energy moves from place to place by waves. Sound energy moves by longitudinal waves (the waves that are like a slinky). The molecules vibrate back and forth, crashing into the molecules next to them, causing them to vibrate, and so on and so forth. All sounds come from vibrations.

Here are the scientific concepts:

  • Energy moves by waves.
  • All waves begin as vibrating particles
  • The particles vibrate back and forth. They do not move along the wave.
  • Waves are the way energy moves from place to place. Waves are energy-mobiles.
  • Particles in a wave are moving a distance against a force. They are having work done on them and they can do work.
  • A transverse wave is a wave where the particle moves perpendicular to the medium.
  • A longitudinal wave is where the particle moves parallel to the medium.
  • Amplitude is the height of the wave.
  • Ears can detect sound waves. Our brain interprets them.
  • Since we have two ears we are very good at determining the direction of a sound.
  • Our ears are also very good at telling the difference between sound frequencies.
  • Sound is made by vibrating objects and can be described by its pitch and volume.

By the end of the labs in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Design an experiment that shows that vibrating materials make sound, and sound can make objects vibrate.
  • Use tools and materials to design and build an experiment that uses sound to communicate over a distance.
  • Differentiate observation from inference (interpretation) and know scientists’ explanations come partly from what they observe and partly from how they interpret their observations.
  • Measure and estimate the weight, length and volume of objects.
  • Follow a set of written instructions for a scientific investigation.

Select a Lesson

Special Science Teleclass: Sonic Vibrations
This is a recording of a recent live teleclass I did with thousands of kids from all over the world. I’ve included it here so you can participate and learn, too! Sound is a form of energy, and is caused by something vibrating. So what is moving to make sound energy? Molecules. Molecules are vibrating …”
What is Frequency?
In this experiment you will be adjusting the length of string of a pendulum until you get a pendulum that has a frequency of .5 Hz, 1 Hz and 2 Hz. Remember, a Hz is one vibration (or in this case swing) per second. So .5 Hz would be half a swing per second (swing …Continue reading”What is Frequency?”
Ear Tricks
Think of your ears as ‘sound antennas’.  There’s a reason you have TWO of these – and that’s what this experiment is all about.  You can use any noise maker (an electronic timer with a high pitched beep works very well), a partner, a blindfold (not necessary but more fun if you have one handy), …Continue reading”Ear Tricks”
Transverse and Longitudinal Waves
Since we can’t see soundwaves as they move through the air, we’re going to simulate one with rope and a friend. This will let you see how a vibration can create a wave. You’ll need at least 10 feet of rope (if you have 25 or 50 feet it’s more fun), a piece of tape …Continue reading”Transverse and Longitudinal Waves”
BONUS! Nine Sonic Vibes Experiments to Mystify Your Kids
Kazoo Cut a piece of tissue paper the same length as a plastic comb (make sure the comb’s teeth are close together). Fold the tissue paper in half, wrapping it around the teeth of the comb.  Place it lightly between your lips and hummm… you’ll feel an odd vibrational effect on your lips as your …”
Good Old Telephone
This is the experiment that all kids know about… if you haven’t done this one already, put it on your list of fun things to do. (See the tips & tricks at the bottom for further ideas!) We’re going to break this into two steps – the first part of the experiment will show us …Continue reading”Good Old Telephone”
Humming Balloon
You can easily make a humming (or screaming!) balloon by inserting a small hexnut into a balloon and inflating. You can also try pennies, washers, and anything else you have that is small and semi-round. We have scads of these things at birthday time, hiding small change in some and nuts in the others so …Continue reading”Humming Balloon”
Your voice is a vibration, and you can feel it when you place a hand on your throat when you speak. As long as there are molecules around, sound will be traveling though them by smacking into each other. That’s why if you put an alarm clock inside a glass jar and remove the air, …Continue reading”Harmonicas”
Buzzing Hornets
Sound is everywhere. It can travel through solids, liquids, and gases, but it does so at different speeds. It can rustle through trees at 770 MPH (miles per hour), echo through the ocean at 3,270 MPH, and resonate through solid rock at 8,600 MPH. Sound is made by things vibrating back and forth, whether it’s …Continue reading”Buzzing Hornets”
Air Horns & Sonic BOOM!
Sound can change according to the speed at which it travels. Another word for sound speed is pitch. When the sound speed slows, the pitch lowers. With clarinet reeds, it’s high. Guitar strings can do both, as they are adjustable. If you look carefully, you can actually see the low pitch strings vibrate back and …Continue reading”Air Horns & Sonic BOOM!”
The Best Parent-Annoyer Ever
This is one of my absolute favorites, because it’s so unexpected and unusual… the setup looks quite harmless, but it makes a sound worse than scratching your nails on a chalkboard. If you can’t find the weird ingredient, just use water and you’ll get nearly the same result (it just takes more practice to get …Continue reading”The Best Parent-Annoyer Ever”
Seeing Sound Waves using Light
After you’ve completed this experiment, you can try making your own sound-to-light transformer as shown below. Using the properties of sound waves, we’ll be able to actually see sound waves when we aim a flashlight at a drum head and pick up the waves on a nearby wall. Here’s what you need: “Advanced students: Download …Continue reading