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Introduce Middle Schoolers to the Basics of Waves With These Research Questions

By Dawn Marcotte

These research questions introduce students to the basics of waves. Questions on light, sound and liquid waves help students to understand the similarities and differences in how waves behave in these mediums. Bonus questions allow students to delve more deeply into the subject.

The word wave creates images of ocean beaches and pretty seashells or surfers performing spectacular tricks for spectators. Waves come in many forms and not all of them are in water. This webquest will allow middle school students to explore waves as they relate to sound, light and water. Encourage students to choose educational websites to ensure accurate information.

Wave Basics

For the purpose of this webquest waves are defined as a disturbance that travels through a medium. Picture people doing ‘the wave’ in a stadium as an example. Electromagnetic waves do not require a medium. Answer the following questions to learn more about waves in general.

Name three mediums that waves can travel through.

Define Oscillating.

Name the three parts of a wave.

What are periodic waves?

What is amplitude?

What is equilibrium?

What determines wavelength?

Define Transverse, longitudinal and surface waves.

What is a single vibration called?

Light Waves

Now that you have a basic understanding of terms related to waves let’s look at light waves specifically.

In what order to colors appear in the light spectrum? Draw a sample of the color spectrum.

How does frequency affect the color of light?

What is the frequency of infrared light?

What is the frequency of ultraviolet light?

What is the speed of light?

How does water affect light waves?

Sound Waves

Sound waves share some characteristics with light waves. They have a frequency, and amplitude. Research the following questions to learn more about sound waves.

How is sound made?

What is the speed of sound?

What organ do we use to hear sounds and how does it work?

What instrument can be used to show the shape of a sound wave?

How does water affect sound waves?

Liquid Waves

Waves in a body of water can be demonstrated by dropping a marble into a bowl of water. The rock causes waves. Answer the following questions to learn more about waves in water.

How are ocean waves created?

How are lake waves created?

Where are the tallest waves on earth found? What makes them?

How does an underwater structure affect a wave?

Where is the best surfing and why?

How do waves affect coastlines?

Extra Credit Questions

Research the following questions to learn more about different kinds of waves.

Draw a representation of a mechanical wave.

What is faster, the speed of light or the speed of sound?

What happens if an airplane flies faster than the speed of sound?

Is there sound in space? Why or why not?

Is there light in space? Why or why not?

Name two other kinds of waves.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Can we travel faster than light?

What are electromagnetic waves?