Sound Wave
Light, Sound and Waves

What is in the box?

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Children will have started to describe sounds and come to some common agreement which allows them to communicate with each other. They will also have begun to think about the sources of those sounds, both what is vibrating and the quality of sound those vibrating objects give rise to. This is a chance to challenge and extend this evolving descriptive framework.

So this is a useful extension or reinforcement activity.

What to Prepare

  • a mystery sound box: a set of sealed boxes containing a variety of objects that act as sources

Small boxes are best as these can be handled by the children: an exercise in non-destructive testing. For each it will be essential for children to be easily able to find out how to create the intended noise (unless you are happy to engage with a very divergent activity). We'd suggest preferring boxes containing sources with rather physical sources (cow bells, dry rice in a pot, small stones) rather than electronic buzzers or anything which requires a loudspeaker.

What Happens During this Activity

Introduce the mystery sound box (or at least put up a screen to hide the source). Children hear sound and describe it. They try to work out what it could be or could not be, drawing on the work in describing sounds which they have already done.

Encourage the children to make explicit connections to sounds that they have heard and recorded before.

Teacher: What does it sounds most like?

Teacher: Where and when you would you normally hear such a sound?

This is an excellent activity for a 5 minutes class mat time or small group work. Both these can be run either by an adult or by a child. The evolving ideas and the reasoning rather than the final decision, are the target. Although it is a good idea to have a good means of revealing the source to avoid frustration. Even when the reveal takes place, it's not to award right and wrong badges.

Better to ask:

Teacher: Are there any tests you could have done to decide between the different opinions about what you thought it was?

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