2 Simple Activities to Explore Materials That Conduct Sound

Which materials conduct sound? Which insulate it? Try these simple activities. Your third, fourth, or fifth grade students will love them!

Ms. Sneed Explores Which Materials Conduct Sound

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat at the side table with her teaching partner. “Let’s continue planning our sound activities,” she said. “So far, we’ve planned four science stations:

“Just two more to go.”

Mr. Frank looked through the sound lesson plans. “Next, kids will explore which materials insulate and conduct sound.”

Once again, Ms. Sneed headed to the science cabinet. “I put everything in this bin last year: a large metal can, a bunch of materials, several different spoons, and some string.”

Shout into a Can

“In the first activity, kids yell into the can,” Mr. Frank explained. “Wow, they’ll love that!”

Ms. Sneed smiled and nodded. “Then they add different fabrics and shout again. For example, when they add something smooth and dense, like aluminum foil, they’ll notice that the sound bounces back. But when they add something soft and lumpy, like this washcloth, the sound is absorbed.”

A large metal can helps kids understand which materials conduct sound. Let them yell into it - then line it with different materials - to learn more.
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Use a Spoon on a String – It Will Really Conduct Sound!

Mr. Frank picked up the metal spoon and tied the middle of the string to it. “Of all our sound activities, this is my favorite.”

He wrapped the ends of the string around his pointer fingers. Then he stood up and stuck his fingers into his hears. Leaning down, he let the spoon swing. When it hit the edge of the table, his eyes opened wide. “Boooiiiinnnnggg!” he said. “I just can’t get over it. The sound is so loud when it travels through the string to my ear.”

Ms. Sneed smiled. “For this activity, kids will also try plastic and wooden spoons. It really drives home the point that denser materials conduct sound better.”

“Aha,” said Mr. Frank, “I think I’ll try that out.”

After tying pieces of string to the plastic spoon, he again wrapped it around his fingers and let it hit the table. “Yeah. Definitely doesn’t ring as much or as loudly as with the metal spoon.”

Next, he tried the wooden spoon. “Hmm. Even less. More like a thunk. Yeah, this is a great activity for teaching kids which materials conduct sound better.”

“Additionally,” Ms. Sneed added, “they’ll understand that sound travels best through dense materials.”

If you only do one activity to see which materials conduct sound, do this! Tie the middle of a piece of string to the handle of a metal spoon. Then wrap the ends of the spoon around your two pointer fingers, stick them in your ears, and let the spoon hit the side of a table.

Enjoy Teaching Sound

Ms. Sneed and Mr. Frank love hands-on physical science – especially when their students can rotate through stations on their own. In this sound unit, kids explore which materials conduct sound, as well as five other concepts.

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