Sound Wave
Light, Sound and Waves

Home experiments to support remote teaching of light, sound and waves

Remote teaching support for 11-14 14-16 16-19 IOP RESOURCES

A selection of home experiments that are suitable to use with your students remotely to support and develop their understanding of light, sound and waves. Online simulations of experiments that students would not be able to replicate easily at home are shown in italic. This page will be updated and added to regularly.

Health and Safety Guidance:

These experiments have been selected by trained teachers as appropriate for use at home, but we have not specifically tested them for home use.

All experiments are carried out at your own risk.

To avoid risk of injury or damage, we recommend that you follow the instructions as shown, and that a responsible adult supervises all practical activity and considers the suitability of each task for their child.

Teachers proposing to recommend any resources to their students should:

  1. work within safety policies established by their school;

  2. use their professional judgement to assess the suitability of experiments for their own students;

  3. direct students and their parents/guardians to follow all stated instructions.

For all age ranges:

  • Soundmeter apps (The link provided takes students to a free download of a 'software oscilloscope' that uses a computer's sound card) can be compared to Slink-o-scope to explain why a transverse graph is drawn to show displacement for a longitudinal sound wave.
  • PhET waves intro has three animations that link to water waves, sound and light and introduce the terms frequency and amplitude. The water wave animation can also be used to replicate part of the GCSE waves required practical.
  • Marvin and Milo Eerie Blue Water - for students aged 11-14 this shows how sunlight contains lots of different colours of light. For students aged 14-16 it considers another part of the electromagnetic spectrum. For students aged 16-19 it could be used to consider the excitation and de-excitation of electrons (a nice link to how a fluorescent light works!).

For students aged 11-14:

  • Make a pinhole camera to investigate how light rays form an image (Pringles tubes make good ones - with a hole in the metal end, greaseproof under the plastic cap and foil removed).
  • PhET Bending light can be used to explore refraction.
  • Dancing Sprinkles can be used to introduce the idea that sound is a vibration of the air.
  • Marvin and Milo Musical Coathangers shows how volume is affected by the material the sound wave travels through (can also be done with roasting racks or by dropping a metal slinky with strings attached).
  • Marvin and Milo Milk Bottle Orchestra explores how the amount of material that vibrates affects the sound produced (bonus points if you can get a selection of bottles together and play a tune!).
  • Marvin and Milo Sound of Gas demonstrates how the speed and pitch of a sound produced is affected by the material it travels through.
  • Soundmeter apps can help students to learn about the effect of distance and insulating materials on amplitude.

Suitable for students aged 11-14 and 14-16:

For students aged 14-16:

  • Marvin and Milo Pouring Light looks at total internal reflection (and can link to teaching communications and the electromagnetic spectrum).
  • Lighting a home with water bottles is an article looking at an innovative way to light your home! You could try making one of these at home (but don't go as far as drilling the holes in your roof...)
  • Refraction and lenses (from The Physics Classroom) has a variety of simulations to investigate and model refraction - and also how to draw lens ray diagrams.
  • PhET Geometric optics looks at lens ray diagrams and how changing factors about the lens affects the image produced (please note: select 'principle rays' from the list in the top left corner).
  • Measuring the speed of sound using echoes gives a method for students to do just that! This also helps to reinforce some of the key points used in speed/distance/time ultrasound calculations.
  • Measuring the wavelength and speed of water waves using method 2 (can be done using baking trays or other suitable rectangular containers) gives an alternative to one part of the wave speed required practical - which can therefore be completed at home.

Suitable for students aged 14-16 and 16-19:

  • PhET Wave on a string explores a model for a transverse wave and looks at different factors that can be changed (if you get the settings right you should be able to produce a standing wave, which ties in nicely to required practicals at both GCSE and A-level).
  • PhET radio waves and electromagnetic fields looks at how radio waves can be produced and how radio waves can induce an alternating current.
  • PhET Blackbody spectrum enables students to investigate the effect of changing the temperature on the blackbody curve produced.
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