Physics 620A: Sound

Lesson Plan Activities Projects References Teacher Investigations SOLs Covered

Teachers will learn about the nature and characteristics of sound. Topics studied include how sound travels, the different types of waves, vibrations, loudness of sound, musical instruments, the speed of sound, the Doppler effect, and the human ear. Activities include making sound, demonstrating the Doppler effect, demonstrating wave movement, building musical instruments, and many others.


Each student will be expected to purchase a reading booklet at the time of registration or at the first class. This booklet will contain material that should be read before the beginning of the second class. For our typical course, there are two full eight-hour days of classes, although other schedules are possible. There must be several days between the two full day classes to allow a project to be completed.

Between the two classes, each student is required to complete a project consisting of researching and building a musical instrument. This instrument, which can be quite simple, must be described and played during the last class day. The primary consideration is your understanding of the instrument, your ingenuity in producing it, and your description of how other teachers could also use it. A short typed description (perhaps only 2-3 pages) must be handed in giving resource material, instructions for building and using the item. A short discussion of how this project might be useful in the classroom would be appropriate. Do not put binders of any kind on your report. Use a cover sheet and staple the report in the upper left-hand corner. Also during the second class you will give a short (5-8 minutes) presentation to the class. Some useful information will be given in this booklet to help with the project, but each student is expected to do further research to improve on the ideas presented here. Do not just copy what is given here. Try to improve it.


Because this is a graduate level class, only passing grades of A and B (with + and - possible) are given. A C grade is failing. It is also possible to audit the class, but ALL the work must be completed, including the project. Grades will be primarily assigned by the local adjunct professor and will depend on class attendance and participation as well as the presentation of the homework project. This presentation includes the oral one before the class as well as the document handed in describing the project. See the discussion above in Assignments. Anyone failing to complete the class will be given a grade of Incomplete, which if not completed will eventually result in a grade of F.

Reading Booklet:

A reading booklet will be prepared for class members that includes useful information on sound as well as possible homework projects and teacher applications. This booklet will be available at the first class.

Instructor Contact:

Contact the local adjunct professor during the first class for her/his address and office hours. Professor Thornton may be contacted as described on the previous page.

Lesson Plan:

First Day of Class

8:30 - 10:00 am Videotape of philosophy and outline of course, and introduction. Properties of sound and waves.
10:00 – 12 noon Hands on experiments. Investigations S1 and S2.
12:00 - 12:30 pm Lunch
12:30 - 1:10 pm Videotape: properties of sound and waves.
1:10 – 3:10 pm Hands on experiments. Investigation S3.
3:10 - 4:20 pm Videotape: musical instruments and vibrations.
4:20 - 4:30 pm Clean up. Sign up for homework projects.

Second Day of Class

8:30 - 9:30 am Videotape: loudspeakers, intensity, speed of sound.
9:30 am – ? Present Teacher Projects.
? - 12 noon Teacher Activities and/or Investigation S4.
12:00 - 12:30 pm Lunch
12:30 - 1:30 pm Videotape: superposition, beats, natural vibrations, forced oscillations.
1:30 - 3:20 pm Hands on experiments. Investigations S4 and S5. Continue doing Teacher Activities.
3:20 - 4:20 pm Videotape: breaking glass, ear, microphones, applications, Doppler effect, earthquake waves.
4:20 - 4:30 pm Fill out evaluations.

Teacher Activities:

The following is a list of Teacher Activities that are available in the course.

Number Activity
1 Jingless Bells
2 Sound Through Air
3 Glassical Music
4 Conference Calling
5 Bouncing Sound
6 Eavesdropping
7 See a Wave
8 Beat It!
9 The Bull Roarer
10 Resonating Forks
11 Resonating Bottles
12 The Door Fiddle
13 The Tin Can Amp
14 The Candle Extinguisher
15 The Doppler Effect

Teacher Projects:

Try to have only one person in a class per project. Reference material is contained in the Teacher Project folder that your instructor has, but we do not have copyright permission to make additional copies. Remember that you are expected to use other reference material, not just the material contained here!


1. Bottle Organ. Use glass bottles and liquid to generate music by blowing over the bottles. Ref. 1, p. 301; Ref. 4, p. 151; Ref. 6, p. 74; Ref. 7, p. 26-27; Ref. 9, p. 36; Ref. 10, p. 64-65; Ref. 14, p. 48-51.
2. Flutes. Make music with different sized tubes. Ref. 4, p. 153-154 & p. 184; Ref. 7, p. 28-29; Ref. 9, p. 39; Ref. 14, p. 40-42; Ref. 14, p. 38-39; Ref. 18, p. 224-225.
3. Pipes of Pan. Multiple sized tubes of various lengths tied together. Ref. 9, p. 37; Ref. 15, p. 28.
4. Trombones. Using a single tube and water, create an instrument similar to a trombone. Ref. 13, p. 68; Ref. 14, p. 80-81.
5. Kazoos. Make a kazoo out of a toilet paper tube and wax paper. Also use other various devices to vibrate with air. Ref. 4, p. 156; Ref. 7, p. 8; Ref. 9, p. 38; Ref. 14, p. 94.
6. Singing Goblets. Use wine glasses and water. Ref. 4, p. 173-174; Ref. 10, p. 66-67; Ref. 13, p. 69; Ref. 14, p. 52-53; Ref. 18, p. 218-219.
7. The Twirling Bugle. Use plastic, flexible tubing to generate various sounds. Ref. 1, p. 308.


8. Guitars. Make a guitar from a shoebox and rubber bands. Ref. 4, p. 145; Ref. 6, p. 72; Ref. 7, p. 24-25; Ref. 10, p. 56-57; Ref. 14, p. 97; Ref. 15, p. 27.
9. Fiddles. Single stringed instruments. Ref. 4, p. 146-147 & 183; Ref. 9, p. 34-35; Ref. 9, p. 44; Ref. 10, p. 60-61; Ref. 14, p. 66-69.


10. Shakers. Various ideas listed for creating a percussion instrument. Ref. 4, p. 181-182; Ref. 7, p. 23; Ref. 9, p. 40.
11. Drums. Make a plastic drum. Also includes a little bit on an African drum. Ref. 7, p. 22; Ref. 9, p. 41; Ref. 10, p. 71; Ref. 15, p. 29.
12. Wood Xylophone. Make a xylophone out of 2x4s and rope. Ref. 6, p.73.
13. Glass Xylophone. A xylophone out of glasses or glass bottles and water. Ref. 9, p. 33; Ref. 14, p. 45-47; Ref. 18, p. 216-217.
14. Metal Xylophone. Make a xylophone out of hanging metal objects. Ref. 9, p. 42.


15. Twangers. Plucking metal. Ref. 9, p. 31; Ref. 14, p. 3-4.
16. Balloon sounds. Make some obnoxious sounds with balloons. Ref. 7, p. 9; Ref. 14, p. 36-37.
17. Noisemakers. "Scrapers" made from sand paper blocks and "crackers" made with rulers. Ref. 9, p. 43.
18. Singing String. Make a string vibrate using a button. Ref. 13, p. 67.
19. Clucking Chicken. Make sounds like a clucking chicken with a paper cup and some string. Ref. 17, p. 226-227.


1.Tik L. Liem, Invitations to Science Inquiry, 2nd ed., (Science Inquiry Enterprises, Chino Hills, CA, 1987).
2.Thomas Kardos, 75 Easy Physics Demonstrations, (J. Weston Walch, Portland, Maine, 1996).
3.Exploratorium Teacher Institute, Science Snackbook, (The Exploratorium, 1991).
4.Marvin N. Tolman, Hands-On Physical Science Activities For Grades K-8, (Parker, West Nyak, NY, 1995).
5.James Cunningham and Norman Herr, Hands-on Physics Activities With Real Life Applications, (The Center for Applied Research in Education, West Nyak, NY, 1994).
6.Muriel Mandell, Physics Experiments for Children, (Dover Publications, NY, 1959).
7.Neil Ardley, The Science Book of Sound, (Harcourt Brace Janovich, NY 1991).
8.Alfred E. Friedl, Teaching Science to Children (2nd ed.), (McGraw-Hill, NY, 1991).
9.Terry Cash, Steve Parker and Barbara Taylor, 175 More Science Experiments to Amuse and Amaze Your Friends, (Random House, NY, 1990).
10.Etta Kaner, Sound Science, (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, MA, 1991).
11.Prentice Hall Science: Sound and Light, (Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1994).
12.Ontario Science Center, Scienceworks: 65 Experiments That Introduce the Fun and Wonder of Science, (Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, MA, 1984).
13.Margaret Kenda and Phyllis S. Williams, Science Wizardry for Kids, (Barron’s Educational Series, Inc, NY, 1992).
14.Robert W. Wood, Physics for Kids: 49 Easy Experiments with Acoustics, (TAB Books, PA, 1991).
15.Sally and Adrian Morgan, Designs in Science: Using Sound, (Facts on File, Inc., NY, 1994).
16.Thomas Cardos, Physical Science Labs Kit, (The Center for Applied Research in Education, West Nyak, NY, 1991).
17.Janice VanCleave, Physics for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments in Motion, Heat, Light, Machines, and Sound, (John Wiley & Sons, NY, 1991).

Teacher Investigations:

Investigation S1: What is Sound?
Activity S1.1 Seeing Sound Waves
Activity S1.2 The Tuning Fork Splash
Activity S1.3 Ping Pong
Activity S1.4 The String Telephone
Investigation S2: Waves
Activity S2.1 Waves of Straw
Activity S2.2 Waves on a Slinky (R)
Investigation S3: Vibration
Center S3.1 Pitchfork
Center S3.2 String Beam
Center S3.3 The Xylophone
Center S3.4 The Waterphone
Center S3.5 The Kalimba
Center S3.6 Sound Detector
Activity S3.7 Center Conclusions
Activity S3.8 Resonance
Activity S3.9 Resonating Washers
Investigation S4: Receivers and the Ear
Activity S4.1 In Stereo
Investigation S5: Amplifying Sound
Activity S5.1 Mega-phun!
Activity S5.2 Amplifiers
Activity S5.3 The Sound Challenge

SOLs Covered:

Kindergarten K.1
Grade 1 1.1
Grade 2 2.1
Grade 3 3.1
Grade 4 4.1
Grade 5 5.1, 5.2
Grade 6 6.1
Physical Science PS.6, PS.8