Exploring sound waves

It started simply enough…. we were leaving the mall today and decided to exit through a long hallway I don’t normally use. The boys and I quickly realized that the acoustics inside the hallway created an incredible echo, something they had never really heard before. And that’s when things got interesting…

I love how inquisitive my boys are. They are constantly questioning and challenging the world around them. And we always do our best to answer their questions in an intelligent manner, but also in a way that they will be able to grasp, in a way that is age appropriate. So I searched my brain, (keep in mind I haven’t taken a Science class since the 11th grade), and came up with an impromptu lesson for Connor on sound waves and how echoes are created.

Fortunately we had just recently watched an episode of Curious George that dealt with sound waves, okay, I had a starting point. So we talked about how waves travel through the air. Then we talked about how those same waves can bounce off of hard surfaces, like ceilings and walls, creating an echo. Then we discussed how softer surfaces, like carpets, can absorb the waves. I could tell at that point the discussion was getting a little confusing, but I had an idea…

I grabbed one of the boys’ bouncy balls, and Connor and I created a little “experiment.” First, we bounced the ball on the hard kitchen floor, and watched it bounce a dozen more times as our “sound wave” bounced off of the hard surface, creating an echo. Then we bounced it on the carpet, and watched as the ball gave just a few measly bounces before coming to a rest. The soft, cushion of the carpet absorbed the “sound wave” without an echo. And then, like any good almost 4-year-old, Connor took off to play with his bouncy ball, something he is typically not allowed to do in the house…. and our lesson came to an end.

And yet tonight, as we all sat down to dinner, I was treated to a recap of our science experiment, as Connor explained what he had learned to Alan. It worked! He understood! I was so proud to hear my little scientist explain how echoes work, in his own way. I mean, how many kids his age can grasp the concept of a sound wave? I was truly impressed with my young scholar.

The feeling of awe and wonder as you watch your child learn and explore the world around them…. it never gets old. I sincerely hope that Connor (and Benjamin and Alexander for that matter) will always possess this intense love of learning, for I know I love having the opportunity to teach him.


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