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    Your students become scientists during our ScienceWorks Labs. All programs align with National Science Education Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations and Common Core State Standards. Labs are available year-round for preschool to middle school students and are led by an instructor.

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Back to Programs

Standard Lab: Sound Science (3rd-5th)

Discover the amazing physics of sound. Make waves that travel through different states of matter and explore how pitch relates to frequency. Register today!

Cost: $4 per student 

Standard labs are booked for a minimum of 15 students with a minimum price of $60.

Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations, Science v.1.09

  • Identify light and sound as forms of energy. (P.EN.03.11)
  • Relate sounds to their sources of vibrations (for example: a musical note produced by a vibrating guitar string, the sounds of a drum made by the vibrating drum head). (P.EN.03.31)
  • Distinguish the effect of fast or slow vibrations as pitch. (P.EN.03.32)

Next Generation Science Standards

Students participating in this program will explore science content as stated in the Disciplinary Core Ideas. They will engage in science and engineering practices as they plan and conduct investigations to answer questions regarding sound.

PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

  • Matter of any type can be subdivided into particles that are too small to see, but even then the matter still exists and can be detected by other means. A model showing that gases are made from matter particles that are too small to see and are moving freely around in space can explain many observations, including the inflation and shape of a balloon and the effects of air on larger particles or objects.
  • Gases and liquids are made of molecules or inert atoms that are moving about relative to each other.
  • In a liquid, the molecules are constantly in contact with others; in a gas, they are widely spaced except when they happen to collide. In a solid, atoms are closely spaced and may vibrate in position but do not change relative locations.

PS3.A: Definitions of Energy

  • Energy can be moved from place to place by moving objects or through sound, light, or electric currents.

PS4.A: Wave Properties

  • Sound can make matter vibrate, and vibrating matter can make sound.
  • Waves of the same type can differ in amplitude (height of the wave) and wavelength (spacing between wave peaks).
  • A sound wave needs a medium through which it is transmitted.

Sound Science Pre-visit Information

During Your Visit to the ScienceWorks Lab students will be expected to:

  • Sit in tables of 6 students and (at least) 1 adult
  • Students should be prepared to give their attention to the Lab instructors when requested to “Give Me Five”
  • Work cooperatively with one another at the table
  • Follow the hands-on procedures just as the Lab teacher or assistant explains them
  • Handle materials and equipment carefully

It is important that teachers and chaperones:

  • Help to focus the students’ attention
  • Assist students with the hands-on activities and experiments when necessary
  • Turn off cell phones and pagers during the class


Amplitude: Amplitude is the size of a sound wave from top to bottom. The higher the amplitude (the taller the sound wave), the louder the sound.

Frequency: Frequency is the speed at which something vibrates and creates sound. A high frequency (vibrating fast) creates high-pitched sounds. A low frequency (vibrating slow) creates low-pitched sounds.

Molecule: A molecule is the smallest piece of any one thing. Everything is made up of molecules. Molecules are made up of atoms.

Pitch: Pitch is the highness or lowness of a sound. Pitch is determined by the frequency of sound waves, or how fast or slow something is vibrating.

Sound: Sound is a form of energy. It is made up of waves of vibrations.

Sound Wave: Sound waves carry energy through the air (or other substances) as molecules in each substance are made to vibrate. When sound waves strike your ear, you hear.

Vibration: A vibration is a rapid back and forth motion.

Energy: Ability to change the temperature, motion or makeup of an object.

Larynx: Eight rings of cartilage that wrap around the top of the trachea or windpipe, also known as the voice box.

Trachea: The tube that connects your lungs to your mouth, also known as the windpipe.

Solid: A state of matter made up of very closely packed atoms.

Liquid: A state of matter that fills the container it is placed in and whose molecules are an intermediate distance apart.

Gas: A state of matter that fills the area it is in and whose molecules spread apart.

Resonance: A sound that continues after it is made.

Sound Science Post-visit Activity: How Fast Does Sound Travel?

Post-visit activities will help reiterate new concepts and tie the ScienceWorks Lab experience to your classroom curriculum. Below you will find a classroom activity and a list of suggested resources for further information. We hope that you enjoyed your field trip. Visit us again!


  • A drum or metal garbage can lid (something that makes a lot of noise when you hit it)
  • A drumstick or pole (something to hit the object with)
  • A large outdoor space


  1. Bring the class, large drum (or noise-maker) and stick outside on playground or field.
  2. Teacher or student volunteer should move about the length of a football field away 100-120 yards with the noise maker of choice.
  3. Strike the object. Make your movement dramatic to ensure that the group is seeing your movement AND hearing the vibration of the noise maker
  4. Students should write down observations then share.
  5. Ask the following questions: would altitude affect the speed of sound? Would sound travel differently in day and night? Would sound travel change on a cold or hot day?


The speed of sound is affected by the temperature and density of air. Sound travels faster and is heard more clearly in dense and colder air because it contains more molecules. Higher altitudes have thinner air and fewer molecules per cubic centimeter.

Ask the students about their past experiences with the sound/sight phenomenon. What happens at a large sporting event (I think of watching a player hit a baseball then hearing the sound of bat on ball contact after the ball is in the air) or when a plane flies overhead?

Suggested Resources


Brown, Robert J. 333 Science Tricks and Experiments. TAB Books McGraw Hill Inc., PA. 1984.
Brown, Robert J. 333 More Science Tricks and Experiments. TAB Books McGraw Hill Inc., PA. 1984.
Churchill, E. Richard. Amazing Science Experiments with Everyday Materials. Sterling Publishing Co. Inc. New York: NY. 1991
Glover, David. Young Discoverers: Sound and Light. Kingfisher Books. New York: NY. 1993.
Kaner, Etta. Sound Science. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. New York: NY. 1991
Lowery, Lawerence F. The Everyday Science Sourcebook. Dale Seymour Publications. CA. 1985.
Popelka, Susan. Super Science with Simple Stuff. Dale Seymour Publications. CA. 1997.
Primarily Physics: Investigations in Sound, Light and Heat Energy Grades K-3. AIMS Education Foundation. 1994
Science Made Simple Grades 1-6. Frank Schaffer Productions, CA. 1997.
VanCleave, Janice. Physics for Every Kids. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. New York: NY. 1991


Community Learning Network
Elementary School Lesson Plans
DiscoverySchool.com—The Phenomenon of Sound: Waves
Reeko’s Mad Scientist Lab
Nova: Sonic Boom Basics

Standard Lab: Sound Science (3rd-5th)



50 minutes


20, 30, 60, 100

Physical Sciences

Still not sure we have the experience you want?

Visit unityinlearning.org to open a gateway to hands-on discovery, exploration of the natural world, and experiences that take flight.

Through the Unity in Learning partnership with the Ann Arbor Hands-On MuseumLeslie Science and Nature Center, and Yankee Air Museum we provide over 100 different  programs at our facilities, on site at your location, or through interactive video conferencing.