Can you hear better underwater?

Help youth explore their world by asking questions and discovering answers about sound.

Can you hear better underwater? Can you hear better through a wall than through air? The Michigan State University Extension science team’s goal is to increase science literacy across Michigan. One way we support an increased interest in science is to provide information and ideas for engaging youth in exploring their world. Adults can help youth increase their science literacy by encouraging them to ask questions and discover answers. Exploring sound is just one way to engage youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Ask youth to think about when they have gone swimming in a lake and a motor boat drove by. What did it sound like above the water? What did it sound like underwater? Which sounded louder? Encourage youth to discuss possible reasons why it sounded different underwater. Take them to a local swimming are, or a bathtub, to test their ideas.

Do you think you can hear metal spoons banging together underwater? Lie back in the water so your ears are below the water, but the rest of your face is above the water. Can you hear it? Try it again with the spoons above the water and your ears below. Try with the spoons below the water and the ears above. Try with both above the water. Which is the loudest? Why?

Fill a fish tank with water and have youth press their ear against the side of the tank while you bang a couple metal spoons together in the water, testing sounds in the water. Then, have the youth move 6 inches from the tank while still banging the spoons together in the water, testing sounds in the air.

Repeat the experiment of banging the spoons together on one side of the tank out of the water while the youth are on the other side with their ear against the tank, and again 6 inches away, testing how sound travels from air to water. Repeat with nothing between the items making the sound and the youth. Have the youth record how loud each sound was.

Youth should discover that sounds are louder when they begin in and travel through water. If your results don’t turn out that way, explore and try to discover why. Sound is a form of energy and travels by compression. Think of a line of toy cars; one toy car bumps the one in front of it, who in turn bumps the one in front of it, until the energy runs out. The harder the bump, the farther it travels while they stay in their place in the line. For sound, this means the more energy, the louder the sound and the farther it can travel.

To learn more about exploring science with youth, read other articles in the “exploring your world” series on the MSU Extension Science and Engineering website.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, explore the MSU Extension Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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