Wave Motion

Susan Frazier Fort Dearborn Elementary
9025 S. Throop
Chicago, Il. 60628


Adaptable to grades 1 to 12

The student will be able to:

1) Identify the frequency, amplitude and phase of a wave.
2) Identify and explain the difference between a transverse and longitudinal
3) Relate the concept of vibration to frequency and pitch.

Materials needed:

ring stand, cone-shaped cup, string, slinky, springs and ropes (two meters
long), shoe box, rubber band, paper clips, coffee can, match, ripple tank,
overhead projector, paper straws, rice crispies, can with top covered with a
balloon, salt, piece of cloth, baster


Hang a cup filled with salt, with a hole in the bottom, from a ring stand.

Pull the cup and allow it to swing back and forth over construction paper.

Notice the straight line made by the salt streaming from the end of the cone.

Then, pull the construction paper along the table and let the pendulum continue
to swing. Notice the formation of a wave made by the flowing salt. Have
students form groups to experience activities on wave motion.


1) Shout (do not blow) at the top of a can covered with a balloon with rice
crispies on top. (vibration)

2) Pluck a rubber band which is lined with paper clips and stretched across a
shoe box. (transverse wave)

3) Hit a coffee can filled with smoke. (longitudinal wave)

4) Use a slinky, rope or springs to form longitudinal or transverse waves.

5) Make waves in a ripple tank placed on the overhead projector to produce
circular waves. (transverse) Place objects in the water to show that the
wave moves, but the objects do not. Also, place a wooden block in the water
to show incident and reflected waves.

6) Form a human wave by having ten people stand in a line, largest to smallest,
with arms locked together, and pull the last person sideways.
(longitudinal wave) Then pull the last person forward. (transverse wave)
In both cases, the waves will be reflected back along the line.

7) Form standing waves by tying a rope to a fixed object and moving the rope up
and down. (incident and reflected wave)

8) Form a standing wave by connecting one end of a string to a timer and placing
the other end over a pulley. Connect weights to the end of the string
hanging over the pulley. (170 gm) Show a wave in phase and out of phase by
using a rope. Have students put their fingers on the vibrating string to
locate the nodes and see that the wave is out of phase.

9) Relate vibration to frequency and pitch of instruments.
a. Slower vibration causes a lower pitch as shown by scratching a cloth
slowly, then faster to get a higher pitch.
b. Blow into a baster and notice the change in pitch caused by squeezing
the end of the baster to change the level of water in the baster.
c. Make a straw instrument by cutting the tip of the straw on each side
and blowing into the straw while cutting the bottom of the straw at
the same time. Notice the change in pitch.

Culminating Activity:

Make chicken pluckers by putting a hole in the bottom of a paper cup,
pulling a string through and tying it on the inside of the cup. (Attach
a paper clip to the string inside.) Pull along the outside string with a
wet paper towel to produce a loud squawking sound.
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