Have you ever been in a situation where you were trying to talk so someone who is just out of range for you to hear them clearly? For the design challenge at the end of this unit, students will be asked to create devices that allow them to communicate using sounds rather than speech. To prepare for the challenge, students will be learning how different sounds can be created by various vibrating materials. They will learn that sound pitch and volume can change depending on the size of vibrating object. To learn these concepts, students will conduct tests on various objects in their school and home environment and classify these objects by pitch and loudness.

 

Lessons in this Unit:

  • How do you make sound?
  • What is sound?
  • Communicating with sound.
  • Permutations on the lesson.
  • Design challenge: build a sound making device that can be used to communicate messages.

Standards

NGSS 1-PS4-1: Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate. [Clarification Statement: Examples of vibrating materials that make sound could include tuning forks and plucking a stretched string.  Examples of how sound can make matter vibrate could include holding a piece of paper near a speaker making sound and holding an object near a vibrating tuning fork.]

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT. 1.MD.C.4: Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.

To prepare students to understand the learning objective, we’ll teach them about the real world uses of Morse code.

Activity:

Ask the class to brainstorm different ways they could communicate with each other. Students might come up with examples such as:

  • Talking
  • Sign language
  • Flashing a light on and off
  • Hitting an object
  • Binary numbers
  • Calling them on the phone.
  • Using Skype or a similar service

Teacher Led Discussion:

What are the benefits and drawbacks of each of these suggestions? Can you understand someone clearly if they are really far away? Can you hear someone tapping if it’s really noisy?

Consider tying in examples from history such as:

  • Telegrams
  • Communication in World Wars
  • Lighthouses
  • Asking for help (SOS)
  • Tapping a glass during a party to get everyone’s attention.

 

Present the challenge to students. You are trying to talk to your friend across the field or lake, but you cannot hear each other well enough to make out what each of you are saying. How could you communicate to each using objects from your surroundings? 

Have students form groups.  Using materials around the classroom, can students come up with a way to communicate with each other without the use of language?

Example: A student holds up a green ball meaning “yes”, a red ball means “no”.

 

Materials

Pictures to illustrate the use of different communication techniques through history.

Professional Preparation

Familiarize yourself with various methods of communication, both in the present and past.

Be prepared to assign groups in class.

 

Learning Targets

Students are able to articulate ideas on how they could communicate with their friends across long distances.

Assessment

Can the students verbally or visually demonstrate ways they could communicate with each other over long distances?

This lesson will give students a chance to notice objects within their space that can be used to make sound.

Activities:

Ask students to identify objects that make sound.

  • Guided discovery: Are there any common themes they notice?  What do you have to do to make sound? Does an object make sound if nothing is moving? Does an object make sound when it moves?

Allow the students to pick objects in the classroom that they could make sounds with. Let them try making sounds with that object.

  • Guided discovery: What do they have to do to make the object make sound? Is the sound loud or soft? High pitch or low pitch?
  • Have students make separate piles of objects that are loud and soft.  Have students mix the piles together again and recategorize them based on high and low pitch.
  • Have students grab an object they think produces a loud sound.  Bring them outside or to the gym and have them try and tap a rhythm on their object to another student standing on the other side of a field or gym.  Have the other student try and tap the same rhythm back to the first student.

Guided discussion: Ask students if they think their object is loud enough to hear from far away.  Would they pick a different object if they could?

Some examples of possible objects that could be used to make sound include: hand clapping, undersides of desks, wastebaskets, buckets, or tin cans.

 

Materials

  • A variety of objects that can be used to make sound (trash cans, tin cans, boxes, plastic containers, buckets)
  • Student recording sheet, 1 per student
  • Ability to show internet videos to classes

 

Professional Preparation

Make available a variety of objects that can be used to make sounds.

Be prepared to assign groups in class.

Learning Targets

  • Students are able to organize, represent, and interpret data between the categories of pitch and loudness.
  • Students are able to ask and answer questions about the total number of objects tested, how many objects in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.
  • Students are able to document observations on provided handout.
  • Students can plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound.

Assessment

Can the student verbally explain or demonstrate how an object makes sound?

This lesson will help students understand the basics of what sound is and how it travels.

Have the students sort themselves into groups of 3.  Two students will hold onto a piece of string or rope tightly.  Have a third student pluck the string.

Teacher Led Discussion:

  • Did the string make a sound?
  • How does the sound change as the string is tightened or loosened?
  • How does the sound change as the string gets longer and shorter?

Use this video of strings on a guitar to help illustrate for students that sound is caused by vibrating objects.

 

 

Materials

  • A length of string or rubber bands
  • Ability to show internet videos to classes

Learning Targets

Students can plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound.

Student is able to verbally or physically demonstrate an understanding that sound is produced by a vibrating object.

 

Activity:

This lesson will help students understand how sound is able to vibrate other objects.

Students will be presented with several objects of various sizes.  Have students hit these objects with a stick, over containers partially filled with water. The water should make ripples, or vibrate.

Have students draw their observations.

Guided Discussion:

  • What did students notice?
  • Did larger objects make different ripples on the water than smaller objects?

Explain to students that sound is produced through vibrating objects, but sound is also able to vibrate other objects!

Show students sound can change the normal flow of water by having them watch this video.

Materials

  • A variety of objects that can be used to make sound (trash cans, tin cans, boxes, sticks, plastic containers, buckets)
  • Several containers filled with water
  • Student recording sheet, 1 per student

Professional Preparation

Make available a verity of objects that can be used to make sounds.

Fill up several containers with water for students to use.

Provide drawing supplies for students.

Ability to show internet video.

Learning Targets

Students plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that sound can make materials vibrate.

Students can demonstrate visually or articulate verbally that objects can vibrate in the presence of sound.

Students can demonstrate visually or articulate verbally that sound from various objects are able to affect water differently.

Assessment

Can the student verbally explain or demonstrate how a sound can make an object vibrate?

This lesson will help students understand how humans have historically communicated messages without speech.

Teacher Led Discussion:

Ask students if they are familiar with Morse code.

  • Do they know where, when, or why Morse code is used?
  • Do they know how to spell anything in Morse code?

Activity:

The teacher will present a Morse code chart to students and explain how to read it.  A great one can be found at this link.

Quiz the students to see if they can identify what letters you are messaging them in Morse code through hand clapping.

Have students find a partner or group, then have them practice sending Morse code letters to each other.

 

 

Materials

Print copies of Morse code chart for students to refer to if desirable.

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Professional Preparation

Familiarize yourself with how Morse code has been used historically, and how it works.

Prepare to assign groups or partners to students.

Prepare a few sample messages to have students try and figure out.  Some sample messages may include:

  • SOS: clap-clap-clap / clap *pause* clap *pause* clap *pause* / clap-clap-clap
  • Hello: …. . .-.. .-.. —
  • Use this Morse translator to come up with new messages.

Learning Targets

Students are able to communicate basic massages using Morse code

Assessment

Can the student demonstrate how to send a message using Morse code?

Here are some optional lesson ideas if you have an available speaker:

  1. Speaker and water:
  • Take a speaker and play music next to the basin of water.
  • How does the water react?
  • If a speaker is not available, have students watch this video.
  • Have students draw their observations.

 

2. Speaker and Sand:

  • Place cardboard over a speaker and cover the cardboard with a thin layer of sand.
  • Play a sustained sound through the speaker and look at the patterns the sand creates.
  • Change the pitch of the sound and notice how the pattern in the sand changes.
  • Play music and watch the sand dance around.
  • Have students draw their observations.
  • As an alternative to sand, consider using chalk.  Chalk may help visualize the vibration patterns by leaving a mark after it has been brushed off.  Consider using black construction paper or black cloth to improve contrast.
  • Video showing this experiment.

Optional Project:

  • Have students make a drum using materials readily available to them.  Have students sprinkle sand over the top of their drum and have them hit the drum from the underside several times.
  • Does the sand form particular patterns?
  • Have students draw their observations.

 

Sand moved by the vibrations of a metal plate on a speaker

Materials

  • A speaker, and ability to play music or sound frequencies through the speaker.
  • Basin of water
  • A sheet of cardboard that could cover the speaker
  • Small amount of sand, enough to create a thin layer on the sheet of cardboard.

Professional Preparation

Set up speaker, and sound source for music or frequencies.

This website allows you to play various frequencies.

Learning Targets

Student can demonstrate visually or articulate verbally that objects can vibrate in the presence of sound.

The Challenge: You an your friends want to send messages to each other across a long distance (a soccer field, a lake, etc.) during the day. It’s too bright outside to see each other’s flashlights.  How could you communicate to each other using objects from your surroundings?

  • Students can work individually or in groups to design and build something that can make a loud sound at different pitches.
  • Give students time to build multiple prototypes, or multiple iterations.
  • Have students look for various objects around the home or in the class that they could use.

Test:

Have students test their designs in an open space.  Can they hear their instrument?

  • From 5 feet away? 15 feet? 30 feet? 50 feet? 100 feet or more?
  • Do some pitches travel farther than others?

Have students make up their own messaging system, or they may use Morse code if they’d prefer.

  • Can their devices communicate a message across different distances?

Have the class categorize the qualities of the sounds made by their peer’s devices.

  • Which devices were the loudest? The quietest?
  • Which were high-pitched or low-pitched?
  • Which devices were clearest across the longer distances?
  • Have the students discuss why they think these qualities differ between devices.

Criteria of project:

  • Object is capable of producing a loud sound that can be heard from a distance.
  • The object is able to produce sounds in rapid succession (there is no long delay between each sound produced).
  • Object can produce a minimum of two different pitches.
  • Students have added their own creative flare to their devices.

 

Materials

Print copies of Morse code chart for students to refer to if desirable.

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A large area, such as a field or a gym

Student recording sheet, 1 per student

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Professional Preparation

Make necessary preparations to allow students to test their sounds outside or in the gymnasium.

Learning Targets

  • Students are able to plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.
  • Students are able to find and use objects that can be used to communicate over a long distance.
  • Students are able to communicate basic messages using Morse code or their own communication code.
  • Students are able to organize, represent, and interpret data between the categories of pitch and loudness.
  • Students are able to ask and answer questions about the total number of objects tested, how many objects in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.

Assessment

  • Students build a device capable of making sound.
  • Students are able to classify the sounds of their classmates devices based off pitch and sound volume.
  • Students are able to send basic messages to each other using their sound producing device.