STEAM Snack: Exploring the Science of Sound

I am going to apologize right now for this one, I am very sorry for the noise, it will likely drive you nuts but, it is totally worth it, I promise!  If there is one thing all kids like to do it is to make noise, it could be banging pots and pans, tapping their feet, whistling, or talking continually.  This activity plays right into that love of noise, and by saying that we have just made it a science experiment to demonstrate how sound works.  See there was a point to the noise.  

Why Music?  

Music helps kids in all areas of development and skills, intellectual, social/emotional, motor, language, and literacy.  Music helps our brains and bodies work together, it can help us relax and focus.  Music for children can help them learn sounds and meanings of words.  

What if I’m not an expert? 

During this activity the girls will learn that when things vibrate, they make sound, vibrations are what let us hear each other speak, and if you are interested in the additional demo below, they will be able to see that sound can also make things vibrate.  

Some Vocabulary 

  • Vibrating: moving back and forth really fast 
  • Sound wave: a vibration that travels through the air.  
  • Sound: a noise we can hear 
  • Hearing: Using our ears to listen to sound  
  • Eardrum: Part of the inside of your ear that allows you to hear vibrations.  

Here is some science you can share with your girls.  

A common misconception is that sound is made directly by our mouths, actually sound is the movement of air in the form of sound waves. These waves are produced by our vibrating vocal cords, or the vibration of a musical instrument.  This can be a tough concept for younger girls, so giving them the chance to “see” sound is helpful.  

Sound is the result of vibrations; all instrument sounds are the result of vibrations and make different sounds based on the speed of the vibrations and the material being vibrated.  

Sound can also cause vibrations; this is because the waves made by the sound can be strong enough to move other objects.

Additional activity to demonstrate this.  https://www.generationgenius.com/activities/introduction-to-sound-activity-for-kids/ 

Here are some discussion questions to get the girls thinking about the science of sound:  

  • Close your eyes for a minute. What are some things that you can hear? 
  • How are you able to hear things? 
  • What are some examples of things that vibrate?  
  • What kinds of musical instruments have you heard before? 
  • Are you able to make sounds?  

How do I get started? 

Materials you need: 

  • Craft sticks – both thick and thin, you can experiment 
  • Rubber bands – ideally the thinker ones, they work better 
  • More rubber bands – smaller, think the small hair bands you use with toddlers that just hide around the house.  
  • Scissors 
  • Paper 
  • Toothpicks 
  • Straws 

We are sharing two ways to build your harmonica one is easier for younger children, try them out, you know your girls and what they will be able to handle.  If you feel that you will need some help guiding the younger girls through the steps, don’t be afraid to ask additional adults to stick around to help.  

The science behind the harmonica 

When you blow into the harmonica you are causing the paper or elastic to vibrate.  These vibrations need a medium like air in order to travel and produce the sound that reaches their eardrums.  The frequency of this vibration is called Hertz.  The quicker it vibrates, the higher the pitch will be.  If you squeeze the two sides of the harmonica together it will change the pitch of the noise produced.  

A few warnings about these harmonicas, be careful with splinters, they are not like traditional harmonica where you can run your mouth along it.  Also be careful if you are using colored craft sticks, the color tends to run once they get wet, more likely to happen with smaller kids.  The best way to play them is by pulling our lips over your teeth and placing the harmonica on the skin just under your lips (which should be over your teeth if you pull you lips in). Clear as mud? Great let’s get started.  

The Badges:

  • Daisy:
  • Brownie:
  • Junior: Musician Step 4
  • Cadette:
  • Senior:
  • Ambassador:

Older Girl Variation:  

When you are working with older girls ask them to experiment with what would happen if they changed the width of the paper or elastic band? Higher or lower pitch? What should happen is the thinner paper the higher the pitch. What would happen if they made a paper that was thinner on one end and became thicker as you moved to the opposite end?  They should be able to make different pitches while using the same harmonica.  

The Activity!  

Technique one – better suited to smaller children. 

  • Take one of your craft sticks and put an elastic band around it (length ways) 
  • Cut the straw into 2 pieces so that they are the width of the craft stick.  If you don’t have straws folded paper will work as well.
  • Put the straws under the elastic band, one at either end. 
  • Put the other craft stick on top and use the loom bands to keep everything in place by wrapping them around each end. 

Technique two – older kids 

  • Cut out a piece of paper so that it is the same length and width as your craft stick. 
  • Place the paper onto one of the craft sticks. 
  • Place the other craft stick on top and wrap one loom band around an end. 
  • Cut your toothpick to the width of the craft stick. 
  • Put your cut toothpick between one of the craft sticks and the piece of paper, run it down until it is next to the loom band and then push it in so that none of it is sticking out. 
  • Put the other toothpick in the same position at the other end and then finally wrap the final loom band around the other end. 

Wrap up:  

How can changing the colors change your pattern? How did you work through your challenges working with the template?  

A musically inspired snack  

Collect a variety of snacks that the girls can make into musical symbols. Then the girls can create their own musical creations, and even try to play them on their harmonica before eating.  

Food examples: pretzel sticks, raisins, cucumbers slices, chocolate chips, nuts, ect.

Make sure to post photos of your STEAM Snack or musical tunes in the comments, we can’t wait to see them!


Post by Liz Bleacher

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s