K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Learning outcomes

After completing the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe how sounds are made and how sound travels
  • Explain how surfaces reflect sound waves
  • Draw and label diagrams for a structure
  • Provide evidence that tells which materials are better at dampening sound
  • Explain why some materials are better at dampening sound

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

Two forty-five minute sessions

Materials needed

Each group of students will need:

  • empty cardboard box (a lasagna box works well)
  • scissors
  • pencils
  • Elmer’s glue
  • computer labels
  • three of the following materials:
    • forty cotton balls
    • forty wide popsicle sticks
    • thirty tissues
    • one large sheet of craft foam
    • one large sheet of construction paper
Sound booth engineers recording sheet
Document by the author
Open as PDF (103 KB, 3 pages)

Technology resources

The class will share:

  • computer or iPod Touch (or any sort of device that produces audio)
  • small speaker or an iPod Touch (should fit inside of cardboard box)
  • decibel meter (purchased at an electronic store or from the iTunes App Store, free apps are available)

Pre-activities

Prior to this activity, students will be familiar with the production of sound and be able to talk about how sound travels and the materials sound travels through. Additionally, students will develop an understanding of the changing frequency of sound. Students will be able to describe sound using the words “volume” and “pitch.”

Also, before the activity, the teacher should gather materials and make copies of the “Sound Booth Engineers” recording sheet (one per group). The teacher should divide the various supplies into groups and divide the class into teams of three or four students each.

Activities

Session one

  1. Begin the lesson by playing familiar music from popular radio or a popular video game.
  2. Ask students to think about how some of their favorite songs and tunes were created and produced. Describe the roles of audio engineers.
  3. Tell students that audio engineers must figure out which materials dampen sound by absorbing it and which materials propagate sound by reflecting it.
  4. Show students different materials and ask students which materials would be best for sound dampening and why.
  5. Tell the students, “Today it is your job is to act as audio engineers and design and build model sound booths that can dampen the sound generated inside as much as possible, using only the materials provided for you.”
  6. Show the “Sound Booth Engineers” recording sheet and go over the directions, instructing students that for session one, they will be responsible for completing the “Ask,” “Imagine,” and “Plan” sections on the recording sheet. A flow chart showing each step is very helpful.
  7. Model completing the “Ask,” “Imagine,” and “Plan” sections. Model drawing a diagram and have teams create diagrams of their sound booths, preparing a list of materials needed on their recording sheets.

Session Two

  1. Distribute the materials needed by each group (as identified on the “Sound Booth Engineers” recording sheet).
  2. Have the teams synergize or work together to create their sound booth models. Limit the amount of time students are given to construct their model sound booths to twenty-five minutes.
  3. Once students complete their sound booths, come together as a group to test each group’s prototype.
  4. Test each sound booth by placing the booth over the audio speaker or the iTouch, like an upside-down cup. Place a decibel meter next to the booth.
  5. To ensure accuracy in testing, play the same audio clip at the same volume level for each booth test.
  6. For each sound booth test, have students record the highest decibel level reached in the table in the data collection section on the “Sound Booth Engineers” recording sheet.
  7. After testing, ask, “What materials, besides the ones we used, might better dampen the sound? Which types of materials are better to use: sound reflecting, sound absorbing materials or both?”
  8. Ask students to think about how they could improve their models and have students complete the “Improve” sections of the “Sound Booth Engineers” recording sheet.
  9. Have students share their ideas for improvement and their ideas about why certain sound booths performed better than others.

Assessment

Class discussion

Solicit, integrate and summarize student responses. Discuss with the students:

  • What materials could we use to make sounds not as loud?
  • What materials reflect sound?
  • Describe times when sounds are absorbed or dampened.
  • Describe times when sound is reflected (such as a Grand Canyon echo).

Artifact creation

Have students complete the “Sound Booth Engineers” recording sheet during the activity to check for understanding.

Critical vocabulary

sound waves
a disturbance traveling through a substance caused by vibration
frequency
the number of times an action occurs over a given time
pitch
the lowness or highness of a sound
volume
the loudness of a sound
sound dampening
reducing the intensity of a sound
sound reflection
throw back of sound from a surface

Websites

SoundTrax NC Recording Studio
Expose students to the real world application and commercial work of a recording studio by visiting the SoundTrax website. SoundTrax is a Raleigh-based company that produces high quality audio and video. They claim to have the “Quietest Room in the South.”
Discover Engineering
Visit the Discover Engineering website to find out more about careers in engineering. The website profiles the career of audio engineers. Simply click “What’s Engineering?” and then on “Career Profiles.” Find “Audio Engineers” and share this information with your children to ignite an enthusiasm for the “Sound Booth Engineers” project.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 2

        • 2.P.1 Understand the relationship between sound and vibrating objects. 2.P.1.1 Illustrate how sound is produced by vibrating objects and columns of air. 2.P.1.2 Summarize the relationship between sound and objects of the body that vibrate – eardrum and vocal...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 2

  • Goal 4: The learner will conduct investigations and use appropriate technology to build an understanding of the concepts of sound.
    • Objective 4.05: Observe and describe how sounds are made by using a variety of instruments and other "sound makers" including the human vocal cords.