What Is Sound Energy? Fun Activities for Kids

Your kids may wonder, “What is sound energy?” With just a few fun activities, they will quickly discover that sound is a vibration.

Ms. Sneed Answers the Question: What Is Sound?

Our favorite fourth grade teacher sat in the teacher’s lounge. As she nibbled her sandwich, she also looked over the her sound energy lesson plans. “So,” she said to her teaching partner, “in our first science station, kids will answer the question, ‘What is sound?'”

Mr. Frank looked down at his own copy of their sound activities. “Right. For this set of experiments, we’ll need these materials:

  • tuning fork,
  • cup of water,
  • empty can with plastic wrap stretched across the top,
  • salt, rice, or beans, and
  • rubber bands.”

Ms. Sneed nodded. “Last year, I put everything into large Ziploc baggies with the station signs. So I’m ready,” she said.

Listen to a Tuning Fork

“At the top of the lab sheet, kids are prompted with the question, ‘What Is Sound?’ That will provide focus,” Mr. Frank said.

“Right. Then, for the first activity,” Ms. Sneed said, “kids use a tuning fork. First, they strike their shoe with it. Then they hold it next to their ear.

What is sound? To find out, strike a tuning fork. Then hold it to your ear. You'll notice that the vibrating object makes a noise.
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Look at Moving Matter

“That lays the groundwork for the concept that sound is a vibration. After that, they strike the tuning fork again and hold it near the can. On the stretched plastic wrap, small items (like rice) seem to dance. I just love the looks on their faces when they see this!”

Mr. Frank smiled. “It sure does let them see that the vibration travels through the air. No contact is needed.”

What is sound? To find out, look! First, strike a tuning fork and touch it to the surface of water. Second, hold it near some small items (like salt, rice, or beans) on a piece of plastic wrap.

Pluck a Rubber Band

“Finally,” Ms. Sneed said, “they hold a rubber band between two fingers. Bringing it near their ear, they pluck. Again, sound!”

One of the easiest ways to discover that sound is a vibration is to simply pluck a rubber band near your ear.

Sound Is a Vibration

Mr. Frank chuckled. “These are surprisingly simple. But profound!”

From her folder, Ms. Sneed dug out a photo. “This image of vibrating salt,” she said, “seals the deal. When asked ‘What is sound?’ kids can surely respond that it’s a vibration.”

“Right,” said her teaching partner, “and they simply write that at the bottom of their lab sheets. I love how this sound unit lets kids make their own generalizations.”

Sound is a vibration! This vibrating salt illustrates it.

Enjoy Teaching Sound

Ms. Sneed and Mr. Frank embrace hands-on physical science. For this unit, kids work in science groups to answer compelling science questions:

Give it a try!

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