Waves, light and sound: videos and other resources

See below for many resources on this topic. Let me know if they are helpful, and if you have others to add to the list.

Waves and sound

Sounds Amazing, a resource for GCSE Physics (exams taken in the UK, usually at around 16 years old).

Simple wave simulator from physicsclassroom.com

Video of homemade wave machine http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/how-to-build-your-own-wave-machine-physics-demo


Visualising sound waves (very cool) http://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/82296107912

Slow motion violin string

Octobass on The Kid Should See This

Standing wave patterns

Multilayered mechanized music making – using old vinyl records on a turntable and many other electronic and mechanical items.Again from The Kid Should See This.

Video of an opera singer and beat boxer under MRI scanner http://www.youtube.com/watch?amp;v=HhRn7E1LaLs

Vocal cords up close while singing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XGds2GAvGQ

Voice change in boys on kidshealth.org: here and here.


The Electromagnetic Spectrum

 GCSE Bitesize activity with Geordie voiceover. Probably best for children who prefer auditory or visual learning styles.

Largely text-based explanation from NASA on missionscience.nasa.gov , or here (Flash)

These activities on amazingspace.org are slightly more interactive but still require reading . There is a lesson plan here.

Light and UV light

Corals fluorescing under different lighting conditions



Why is the sky blue? (We didn’t cover this in our first two classes but touched on it in the third class.)

Reflection and refraction: A Rube Goldberg machine on The Kid Should See This.

The Physical World: Light and Sound

There is so much to cover in this term’s classes. I am a former physical chemist and I probably could spend the whole year going over physics as I enjoy every part of this subject.

We started off with waves, specifically sound and light.

In the first class I told the children we were thinking about these two questions:

What are waves?

What is sound?

I asked them all to say what was the first sound they heard as they woke up in the morning.

We felt our necks while singing, and looked in books about the human body, to find out how human voices produce sound and how it gets to our ears.

In one group we brainstormed different musical instruments and talked about what part of the instrument was vibrating, and classified them into the different groups of instruments (wind, percussion or strings). This was too much discussion and not enough hands-on activity so I dropped it from the class for the next group.

We went around the area with strings hanging from coat hangers to do this ‘secret sounds’ experiment from Science World British Columbia.

From these activities we started to talk about sound as a vibration.

I introduced the term ‘longitudinal wave’ and the children used a slinky to model longitudinal waves and transverse waves.

The children modelled these kinds of waves themselves too, standing in a line.

In the second class we converted plastic milk bottles into vortex cannons, using rubber bands, plastic bags from the supermarket and plenty of duct tape. This was a very fiddly activity and the children needed loads of help and supervision. I would do this differently next time!

For a slightly more advanced version of the vortex cannon see these instructions from G A Brown design, who did this activity in a scout group.

Or for a far larger one, see this video:

The children arranged cards with different colours on, to show the order of colours in the visible part of the spectrum. We talked about how different animals can see ultra-violet and infra-red, so we added them on to the electromagnetic spectrum. We added other electromagnetic waves and some cards to show the wavelengths of all of these waves. I think this went over the children’s heads! Another class I will do some more activities to reinforce ideas of scale and the units we use at different scale.

I also talked about the speed of electromagnetic waves, frequency and wavelength but I think this would need more reinforcement too.

I used UV sensitive tattoos and UV-reactive face paint in one group. The other group has those pleasures to come. I also want to cover the dangers of UV light, and each child has the opportunity to do a presentation about light and how we use our scientific knowledge to solve problems to do with light.