Teachers & Parents

Animal Bioacoustics

Echolocation Class Activities

  • Echolocation and SONAR Part I

    Students explore the speed of sound and identification from a distance. The activity concludes with a fish finding activity.
  • Echolocation and SONAR Part II

    Students explore the idea of how it feels to use sound to locate objects and experiment with having to search for objects above and below them, not just side to side
  • Echolocation: Speed of Sound & Identification from a Distance

    Students explore the speed of sound by experiencing the delay for sound to reach them and they will experience identifying objects from various distances.
  • Echolocation: Sound Rather Than Sight

    In this activity students explore the idea of how it feels to use sound to locate objects.
  • Echolocation: 3D Location

    In this activity students experiment with having to search for objects above and below them, not just side to side.
  • Echolocation: Fish Finding Game

    A group of students play either a dolphin, an object or a fish and practice echolocation!
  • Echolocation: How Dolphins Use Sound

    Students learn about people and animals that use echolocation through video and discussion with their peers.
  • Echolocation Pre/Post Test

    This is a combination open-ended and likert-scale quiz covering many of the learning goals from the two echolocation activities. I used it with pre-service elementary teachers but it has not been reviewed by others.
  • Echolocation Wrap Up

    Students go through a PowerPoint that puts the echolocation topics together and helps them understand why and how echolocation works.
  • Echolocation Homework

    Students are asked to watch a couple of videos about humans that use echolocation and then visit the Discovery of Sounds In The Sea website to hear dolphins and whales use echolocation.


Basics of Instruments Unit

  • How Music is Made

    Students make their own straw instruments and cup instruments to investigate how music is made. They also blow over the top of bottles and investigate an acoustic and electric guitar. I used Generalizing Musical Instruments in class as a necessary follow up to this lab.
  • Musical Instruments Part I

    Students investigate how instruments make sound by creating their own "straw instrument" in this in-class inquiry activity.
  • Musical Instruments Part II

    Students experiment with various sounds sources, including their voice, cup instruments, and guitars, to determine the source of sound and how to change pitch and volume.
  • Generalizing How Musical Instruments Work

    Students use their background knowledge to make generalizations about how instruments work. This lesson was designed for use after the Sound and Music introductory lesson and Musical Instruments Part I and Part II

Other Resources

Our Ears

Dangerous Decibels Program

Other Resources

  • Intensity Level Activity

    Students use sound level meters to investigate how sound level drops off with distance. 20- 25 minutes.
  • Pre/Post Conceptual Test for Sound and Music

    Multiple-choice test designed to measure learning from the Sound and Music lesson.
  • Sound and Wave Basics

    This is a small homework assignment working with the PhET simulation on sound and waves.
  • Waves

    This lesson follows up on the Sound and Wave Basics Homework, introduces the terminology used to describe waves, investigates what factors impact wave speed, demonstrates interference, and provides multiple ways to think about natural frequency and resonance.
  • Speed of Sound

    20–30 minute set of slides with peer instruction on the topic of the speed of waves on strings and how helium and sulfur hexafluoride affect the voice. Brings back the concept of resonance.
  • Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

    This activity integrates literature into a science lesson about how vibrations cause sound.
  • How to Wear Earplugs

    5 minute video demonstrating the proper way to roll and fit foam earplugs.
  • Loud Sounds Book Marks

    Two sided full color bookmarks show sound level for certain sounds and time limits for different levels.


  • Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms

    Combination of problems and conceptual ideas related to the Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms including Mach number calculations. Introduction to Standing Waves follows.
  • Giant Acoustics Word Search

    36 word word search uses acoustics terms found in the physical science lessons. Minimum of 2 hours to complete.
  • Graphing Waves and Ultrasound

    This set of slides lasts 20 minutes and reviews traveling wave pulses and then introduces the idea of translating from position graphs to history graphs. Medical applications of sound waves are presented next and then a brief introduction to electromagnetic waves and how they relate to sound. Used with CT focused Ultrasound article.
  • Middle School Sound Activities

    An index of materials that have been tested and reviewed for use with middle school students
  • Simple Harmonic Motion

    PowerPoint slides for an interactive lesson on simple harmonic motion including peer instruction and in class practice problems. Approximately 70 minutes of material over restoring force, period and frequency of springs and pendula, equations of motion for SHM and conservation of energy.
  • Simple Harmonic Motion Lab

    Students investigate a spring, a pendulum and pasta w/raisins or marshmallows to determine if the period depends on length, amplitude and mass for each oscillator. Finally students are asked to determine if the pasta w/ raisins or marshmallows is more like a spring or pendulum (the answer is not what they expect!)
  • Sound Lab

    Two sound labs using both LabPro and Xplorer GLX. These two lessons each use a sound probe to investigate how wave patterns from different sounds look, including their voices and their straw instruments.
  • Peer-Instruction Type Questions for Sound

    Selection of clicker questions related to above sound activities
  • Spring into Another World

    This lab is by Hewitt and Baird’s Conceptual Physics Laboratory Manual. It uses the PhET simulation Masses and Springs to investigate Hooke’s Law. I used it and Simple Harmonic Motion together in one lab period.
  • Sound Waves

    Students use the Sound simulation from the PhET Interactive Simulations to understand how different sounds are modeled, described and produced. They also design ways to determine the speed, frequency, period and wavelength of a sound.
  • Standing Waves Lab

    Standing waves are studied experimentally with vibrators and a string. Students are tasked with figuring out a method for determining the density of their string and then comparing results with the rest of the class. At the end they write up a plan for a more ideal experiment to determine the mass density of their string.
  • Waves and Harmonics Lab

    This lab uses Fourier: Making Waves PhET simulation to investigate auditory perception of various combinations of harmonics as well as how waves add.
  • Anatomy of a Wave

    Students take on the roles of reporters and artists to draw and describe the nature of transverse waves.
  • Doppler Effect

    Students experience the Doppler effect through videos, discussion, and teacher demonstrations.
  • Tuning Fork Discovery with Study of the Science of Sound

    Students examine a brief history of the discovery of how sound works and then use tuning forks to experiment with how sound works.
  • Wave Basics

    Students explore the PhET Interactive Simulation “Wave on a String” focusing on amplitude and frequency as well as wave travel.
  • Teacher Activity Kit Workshop

    Powerpoint slides that outline the AAPT Teacher Activity Kit Workshop presented in Philadelphia July 28, 2012.

The resources marked with a gold star are considered complete hands-on, minds-on activities ready for teacher use. The activity format has been teacher-tested. Care has been taken to provide content explanations for the teacher or interested gifted student who wants to explore further. You will find that all gold star activities:

  • are safe
  • are affordable
  • are practical and easy to use
  • have been classroom tested
  • are supported by rich content
  • have been reviewed by K-12 teachers
  • have been reviewed by science content specialists
  • have been reviewed by education researchers
  • have been aligned with national science standards
For your convenience activities are organized into detailed, easy-to-follow sections found below with individual sections designated.
  • science topics that are covered
  • science process skills that are used
  • time required for each stage of the activity:
    • advance preparation for teacher (does not include gathering supplies),
    • set-up before class,
    • doing the activity with students, and
    • clean-up after the activity
    • materials supplies list
  • detailed step-by-step activity procedure instructions
  • hints for introducing the activity in a manner that facilitates inquiry process, speculation, independent thinking, and discovery
  • hints to guide class discussion and encourage student analysis and conclusion building
  • explanations of in-depth scientific content for teachers and interested students
  • optional extensions and cross curricular connections to disciplines, such as math or music, for teachers who enjoy extending lessons and for those who integrate disciplines throughout their lessons



Leaping Dolphins