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Sound Energy

Activity
Created by Nicole Eve
www.takeachanceteach.wordpress.com

Teacher Instructions & Set Up Guide


In this activity, students investigate how sound moves through different states of
matter solid, liquid, and gas. Sound energy is a form of energy we are able to hear.
We hear this because sound energy causes a change in the motion of the particles of
matter. For that reason, sound energy can ONLY move through areas where matter
exists there is no sound in space.
Because particles in solids are packed closely together, sound energy can quickly
pass through solids. In fact, sound energy can move through steel at a speed of
5,940 meters per second. On the other hand, sound energy moves much more
slowly through gases, whose particles are spread much farther apart. Sound energy
can only move through air at a speed of 346 meters per second. Liquids, whose
particles are not as loosely arranged as gases nor packed as closely as solids, fall in
the middle. Sound energy can move through fresh water at a speed of 1,490 meters
per second.
To prepare for this activity, you will need three sealable plastic bags. Fill one bag
about half full of sand or dirt, to represent solids. Fill a second bag about half full of
water, and fill a third bag about half full of air. Students will listen through these
bags to explore how sound moves through different substances.

Can sound energy travel through solids?


1. Instructions: Lay the bag of dirt on the
table. Lay your ear gently on the bag and
use your finger to plug your other ear. Have
your partner tap lightly on the desk from an
arms length away.

2. Instructions: Lift your ear from the bag.


Again, have your partner tap lightly on the
desk from an arms length away.
Describe the sound you hear.

Describe the sound you hear.

Do you hear the tapping better with the bag


or without the bag?

Can sound energy travel through liquids?


1. Instructions: Lay the bag of water on the
table. Lay your ear gently on the bag and
use your finger to plug your other ear. Have
your partner tap lightly on the desk from an
arms length away.

2. Instructions: Lift your ear from the bag.


Again, have your partner tap lightly on the
desk from an arms length away.
Describe the sound you hear.

Describe the sound you hear.

Do you hear the tapping better with the bag


or without the bag?

Can sound energy travel through gases?


1. Instructions: Lay the bag of air on the
table. Lay your ear gently on the bag and
use your finger to plug your other ear. Have
your partner tap lightly on the desk from an
arms length away.

2. Instructions: Lift your ear from the bag.


Again, have your partner tap lightly on the
desk from an arms length away.
Describe the sound you hear.

Describe the sound you hear.

Do you hear the tapping better with the bag


or without the bag?

Questions to Consider
1. Through which bag did you hear the sound best? Through which bag was the sound
hardest to hear? Why do you think that is?

2. People who lived on the Great Plains in the early days of the U.S. put an ear on the
ground to tell if buffalo or horses were coming. Why didnt they simply listen in the air?

3. Dolphins and whales communicate through great distances underwater. Do you think they
could communicate from so far away if they lived on land? Why or why not?

Claim Evidence Reasoning


Which state of matter does sound energy move most easily through?
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Questions to Consider
Answer Key
1. Through which bag did you hear the sound best? Through which bag was the sound
hardest to hear? Why do you think that is?
The sound was loudest when I put my ear to the bag of dirt. This is because sound energy
moves through solids easier than through liquids or gases. The particles in solids are packed
closely together, so sound energy can travel from one particle to the next more quickly.
2. People who lived on the Great Plains in the early days of the U.S. put an ear on the ground
to tell if buffalo or horses were coming. Why didnt they simply listen in the air?
The sound of horses or buffalo coming would travel more quickly through the ground,
because it is a solid. If they listened to the ground, they would hear it before it could be
heard through the air. This would give them more warning.
3. Dolphins and whales communicate through great distances underwater. Do you think they
could communicate from so far away if they lived on land? Why or why not?
Dolphins and whales probably could not communicate over such great distances if they lived
on land. The sound energy travels quicker and farther through the water than it could
through the air, because sound moves faster through liquids than gases.