The Hands-on Waves, Sound, and Light unit will help students understand the world around them through inquiry and hands-on experimentation. The major concepts covered will be waveforms, measures of a wave, interference, reflection, standing waves, refraction, diffraction, Doppler shift, bow/shock waves, sound transmission, wave speed, loudness and pitch, resonance, beats, electromagnetic spectrum, speed of light, luminous bodies, transparent materials, color, pigments, shadows, polarization, mirrors, images, lenses, and the eyeball. The unit takes 5-6 weeks, averaging 45 minutes a day if meeting 5 days/week. The unit is a stand-alone and/or could be used to accompany a number of texts.  The unit is structured around the lab work and in-class activities.  Many of the activities are inquiry or discovery-based.  They attempt to allow students to discover the laws of science involved in the unit.  Everything has been provided as a Word 1997-2004 .doc document for compatibility.



The Waves, Sound, and Light unit should be proceeded by:

  • Linear Motion unit
  • Basic Atomic Structure unit
  • Work, energy, power, and simple machines unit



1.  Topics to be taught:


  • Types of waves - Mechanical Waves, Transverse, Longitudinal
  • Measures of a Wave - Period, Frequency, Wavelength, Crests and Troughs, Compressions and Rarefactions, and Amplitude
  • Wave Interference - Constructive and Destructive
  • Standing Waves - Nodes and Antinodes
  • Waves at a Boundary - Reflection, Refraction, and Diffraction
  • Moving Waves Sources - Doppler Effect, Bow Waves, and Shock Waves


  • Transmission through different mediums
  • Speed of Sound
  • Pitch and Frequency
  • Loudness and Amplitude
  • Resonance - Forced Vibration and Natural Frequency
  • Open and Closed Tube Resonance
  • Beats


  • Electromagnetic Spectrum of Waves
  • Speed of light
  • Luminous Bodies - Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Phosphorescent
  • Light and Transparent Materials
  • Opaque materials
  • Color - Primary Additive Colors, Secondary Colors, and Complementary Colors
  • Pigments
  • Shadows - Umbra and Penumbra
  • Polarization
  • Reflection of Light - Plane and Curved Mirrors
  • Refraction of Light - Total Internal Reflection
  • Image Formation - Real and Virtual Images
  • Lenses - Converging, Diverging, and the Eyeball

2.  Skills to be taught:

  • Communication: oral and written
  • Comprehension: listening and reading
  • Computation
  • Critical thinking
  • Experimentation: conducting, data analysis, design
  • Observation
  • Creating Tables
  • Unit conversions
  • Note taking



The entire unit should take about 5-6 weeks, averaging 45 minutes a day if meeting 5 days/week.  The timing of the unit revolves around the lab work and in-class activities.  The labs/activities are arranged in numerical order.  The homework reinforces the lab work and in-class activities and should be assigned accordingly.  The notes could be given as a reference at the start of the unit or as a lecture at the end.  The review games prepare students for the group quiz and unit exam. 



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