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

STEAM Snack: Model Cars

Hello! Welcome back to our monthly post that will focus on STEAM activities and snacks you can do at home with your family or with your troops. 

Ah, it’s finally spring! With the warmer weather approaching, many of us use this time to get some Spring Cleaning started. Why not put all those things in your junk drawer and recycling bins to good use by creating model cars! This STEAM activity brings together the engineering and art by allowing girls to explore their creativity and build something out of objects they have at home. By using everyday “junk” they will expand their minds and repurpose it into something new.  

Why mechanical engineering? 

When you hear the word engineering, you usually think about buildings and bridges. Learning about the different branches or types of engineering is not only interesting, but it can be fun and useful for you and your troop.  

In its most basic definition, mechanical engineering is the design and building of machines. A mechanical engineer is someone who solves problems with creative solutions, usually through designing and building different types of machinery.  Engineers use their imaginations to invent new things and come up with new and better designs. This is a great opportunity to help young girls learn problem-solving skills that help make the world a better place.  

Mechanical engineers are involved in many fields of work, including:

Aerospace engineering, automotive engineering, construction, energy, manufacturing, medicine, railway engineering, and sports!  

Mechanical engineers use the design process to work through their solutions and designs. These are skills the girls can adapt to any situation: 

  1. Define the need 
  1. Brainstorm 
  1. Design 
  1. Build 
  1. Test & evaluate 
  1. Redesign 
  1. Share solutions  

Remember: Steps 4-6 can be repeated in a cycle over and over again until a final design has been found/created.  

What if I’m not an expert? 

We are not all mechanical engineers, and it is ok to feel like we don’t know enough to lead the girls in engineering activities. But remember you do know enough! Focus on the steps of the design process, let the girls lead their projects, see where it goes.  You will get different designs as the girls use their imagination to solve the challenge.   

If you are feeling that you want more expert knowledge, reach out to your troop parents, friends, relatives or other GSHPA troop leaders on the GSHPA Facebook page to see if there is an engineer you can invite to come talk to your girls.   

How do I get started? 

To get familiar with mechanical engineering, watch this video from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. It’s a great video to share with your girls to learn about mechanical engineering, understanding how to involve your interests when considering a future career, and learning that mechanical engineering is way more than what you might’ve thought. Video: What is a Mechanical Engineer? –An Introduction  

Before gathering supplies for you to do the activity, remember, it is always easier to guide girls through the process when you have done it yourself.  Start at the beginning and work through each step, make notes (mental or written) on how each step works for you and any modifications you might make for your girls.  When you are done you now have a prototype to share with the girls! 

The Badges 

  • Daisy Mechanical Engineering Model Car: Steps 1 & 3 
  • Brownie Mechanical Engineering Race Car: Steps 2, 4, & 5 
  • D/B/J/C/S/A Think Like an Engineer Journey: Step 1 
  • Find out how engineers use design thinking to solve problems. 

The Activity 

Supplies 

Look in your junk drawer, recycling bin, and around the house for materials to create a model car.  

General supplies: paper, pencil, tape, glue/hot glue, and scissors. 

Things that might be handy for designing/redesigning: rubber bands, push pins/tacks,  

Here are some suggestions for specific model car parts: 

  • Body of car: water bottle, toilet paper/paper towel tube, juice box, disposable cup, takeout container, ice cream container, milk carton, cardboard box, tissue box, cans (soda, canned food) 
  • Axles: straws, BBQ skewers, chopsticks, toothpicks, pencils, pens  
  • Wheels: bottle caps, candy mints with a hole in the middle, CDs, cardboard circles, buttons, beads  
  • Connecter for attaching wheels to axle: dry sponge, foam, clay, marshmallow cut in half 

Introduction to the girls 

Start the activity by talking to the girls about what a mechanical engineer is and introduce the design process.  This would be a good opportunity to share the “What is a Mechanical Engineer?” video with the group.  

If you have a large group or think your girls would enjoy working in pairs have them pair up at this point. Explain that they will be following the design process for each step of this activity. 

Define the need 

To build a model car out of materials found around the home, build a car that will move when pushed or using air as an energy source. 

Brainstorm & Design 

Give each girl a piece of paper and pencil and set the timer to at least 5 minutes (10 minutes if you think your girls need more time) to brainstorm their ideas. Girls should use the full five minutes to draw their ideas and write down any thoughts. If they think they’re done, ask them to get more specific or draw their design from different angles/points of view. What kind of car do they want to create? What is their power source? What materials are they going to use? 

Build 

Have girls grab their materials and build their cars! Encourage them to try out different materials and take a moment to think how it will work in their designs. Remind them that it’s okay if it doesn’t work how they imagined – mechanical engineers encounter problems like this every day in their jobs. Problems are a way to find the solution.  

Test & Evaluate 

Remind the girls that as they are testing to ask themselves questions like: How it is working? How does it look? Is there something I can do to make it perform better? What other material would work since this one doesn’t? Can I adjust something before taking away that material? Will changing one thing affect another?  

Redesign 

Girls take those questions they asked themselves and redesign their cars. Some may need small changes and others may need to start over. Remind them: if your car doesn’t work the way you want it to, that’s not a failure, that’s an opportunity to make it better. Take a few minutes to think about what went wrong and how you can change it. Once it is redesigned, test and evaluate again. 

Share Solutions 

Once everyone has designed, built, and tested their cars it’s time to share! Have each girl showcase her car and share what she did to create it, test it, and improve it.  

As a group, ask the girls questions like: 

  • What made your car go faster? 
  • What would have slowed the cars down? 
  • What failures did you face? What did you do to work through it? 
  • How did you improve your designs?  
  • If you had more time, what would you do? 

Time for a Snack 

Great job! Keep the mechanical engineering theme going by creating and eating your own apple and grape race cars!  

Ingredients:  

  • Apple  
  • Grapes 
  • Toothpick  
  • Knife to cut fruit  

Directions: 

  • Grab your apple and cut two full cheeks – cut the two sides of the apple, leaving the middle. Slice out the center into thirds, creating a wedge.  
  • Cut grapes in half. 
  • Push 2 toothpicks into each apple wedge to represent the car axles. Put the grape halves on each side to represent wheels. 
  • Enjoy!  

Source/credit: 

https://www.kidspot.com.au/kitchen/recipes/apple-race-car-snack-recipe/hgdm5z2c


Written by: Colleen Park