Jan 21st, 2014 — Chemistry • Physical Science

Studying Sound

Sound is an interesting science concept that lends itself well to student inquiry. Using PASCO’s Sound Level Sensor, or the built-in microphone located on tablets, and materials that are already in your school, you can foster an inquiry experience on sound energy that your students will enjoy.

Begin the activity by inviting your students to collect and graph data using the Sound Level Sensor and SPARKvue®. You will find that your classroom will become noisy as your students seek to graph both quiet and loud noises. After they had a chance to collect some data, and now have a better idea about what the Sound Sensor does, facilitate a discussion on questions about sound energy that the students would want to investigate. Students might ask questions such as:

  • How does the loudness of a sound change with distance?
  • Can sound travel through water?
  • What rooms in our school are the loudest?
  • How well does sound travel through different materials?

Introducing the concept of sound in this way will help your students develop the ability to ask testable questions. Their science process skills will also grow as they begin to design experiments to test the questions they came up with.

Ideally, the questions the students ask are related to how loud or quiet some event is. The questions should cause students to consider using materials to manipulate the sound. One interesting question to explore is, "How well does sound travel through different materials?" Below are some recommendations that will help you to prepare for a sound investigation supporting this concept.

  • Discuss with students what variables they will need to explore and which ones they will test.
  • Use devices that make the same volume of sound. Dog-training clickers work great and can be found at most pet stores. Battery-operated buzzers that can be purchased at electronic stores are another good option. Students can also gently knock on tabletops to generate noise.
  • Provide rulers so your students can measure the distance that the sound originates from to the sensor.
  • Have students record the sound level with no materials to establish a control.
  • Provide different kinds of materials that are large enough to cover or wrap the Sound Sensor in.

In addition to having your students creating experiments testing the question above, extend the activity through introducing more varieties of materials or by having them visit other rooms in your school. Different materials, like poster board, can be used to amplify or dampen the sound created by the noise making device. And by having your students visit different kinds of rooms in the school, your students can explore how sound is affected by the size, shape, and the composition of a room.

Your students will enjoy using technology and you will be pleased to see your students designing experiments, drawing conclusions, and collaborating with each other to discover how different factors affect sound energy.

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