About the event
Edinburgh Science is more than just an organisation that runs a Festival. Our schools touring programme, Generation Science, is the UK’s longest running STEM outreach programme for primary schools, with 2020 marking our 29th year of operation. Every year we send between 10–15 interactive ‘education environments’, (linked to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence) around the country, visiting schools in each local authority in Scotland and delivering around 1,500 workshops and performances for primary children.
Our Generation Science shows and workshops are designed to engage young learners using larger-than-life props, actions and experiments. We can’t recreate all that in your living room, but we hope that these activities can get you thinking about the topics in our shows.
Best suited for ages 5–7
Ella’s Wobble is an interactive story in which pupils explore how sounds are made. They follow a young girl called Ella who has lost her voice. She goes on a journey to find it and learns how sounds are made, what sounds different animals make, how echoes are made and what the word ‘pitch’ means along the way.
The following activities are designed to get young people to think about how different sounds are made, how sounds travel and how we can detect different sounds depending on what produces them.
Supported by the Institute of Acoustics
These questions are designed to get you and your home learners talking about the science behind these activities. We don’t expect you to know everything there is to know about sound, but we do find that exploring and questioning what we know inspires us to find out more. Try using some of these Big Questions below to spark curiosity and see what other questions come up as you are completing these activities. We have provided some smaller steps under each question to help with your discussions as you’re exploring.
Starter Question: We know sound starts as a wobble, or vibration, but how do we hear them?
Q: Why are our ears shaped the way they are?
Hint: The outer ear “collects” the sound waves and funnels them into the ear canal. At the end of the ear canal is our ear drum, which wobbles with the sound. These wobbles make little bones in our inner ear wobble and turn into electrical signals that are sent to our brain. Our brains can recognise these as sound.
Q: Have you ever noticed that you can see a firework before you hear the bang? Why is that?
Hint: Sound travels more slowly than light, so the bang of a firework takes longer to get to you than the flash of light.
Starter Question: Can you hear underwater?
Q: Can you think of any animals that can hear underwater?
Hint: We know that whales can communicate underwater over hundreds of miles
Q: Do you think that sound travels faster in air, or water?
Hint: Sound vibrations can travel in solids, liquids and gases. Sound travels faster in water than air as the particles are closer together.
Q: Is there anything that sounds can’t travel through? Why can’t we hear the sun?
Hint: Sound travels best through dense materials, where all the tiny particles are close together. Outer space doesn’t have any particles in it, so the sound can’t travel through space.
Starter Question: Are echoes useful?
Q: Can you use sound to figure out how close something is?
Hint: You can count the seconds between seeing lightning and hearing thunder to help figure out how far away the storm is
Q: The further away something is, the longer it takes for an echo to get back to you. Do you know any animals or machines that use that?
Hint: Some animals (like bats) use this to navigate or find food, this is called echolocation. An ultrasound machine can look inside our bodies by measuring how long sound takes to bounce off things inside us. The sound this machine uses is so high that we can’t hear it.
Extension activities and questions
Try and make a list of sounds that you can hear when you sit in the middle of your house. Compare it to someone else’s list – are they the same? Now try and put the sounds in order of loudest to softest. And then in order of highest pitch to lowest pitch.
Humans are really good at making sounds – we can create thousands of words using our lungs, throats and mouths. Say the alphabet out loud and see if you can tell which parts of our mouth you are using for each letter. The letters “B” and “P” need you to press your lips together to make their sound. Can you find letters that need you to press your tongue onto the roof of your mouth? And letters where you put your top teeth against your bottom lip? How many letters need your lips to be in an O shape?
Look closely at anything that makes a sound. Can you tell what part is wobbling, or vibrating? What part of your TV wobbles to make a sound? What part of a bee makes its buzz? And where is the wobble when you sing a song?
Try our other Kid’s Lab activities here
Links to help your young learners
This is a short clip about how buildings can create echoes and introduces the term reverberation.
A clip about vibrations in different types of instruments.
A clip about pitch and volume.
Some activities to explore making sound in different ways (requires free sign up).
A full set of teaching resources around sound, including teaching notes and activities for ages 7+
How to improve the sound from your phone or mp3 player for ages 12+