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Sound and Vibrations 1: Rubber Band Guitar

16 reviews


Grade Range
Group Size
2 students
Active Time
30 minutes
Total Time
30 minutes
Area of Science
Key Concepts
Sound, vibration
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies


Young students know that they can hear sounds, but do they know what causes sounds? In this lesson they will learn that sounds are caused by vibrations, and they will build a fun musical instrument of their own.

In the Sound and Vibrations 2: Make Sprinkles Dance, students will learn that sounds can also cause vibrations.

Learning Objectives

NGSS Alignment

This lesson helps students prepare for these Next Generation Science Standards Performance Expectations:
This lesson focuses on these aspects of NGSS Three Dimensional Learning:

Science & Engineering Practices
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions. Make observations (firsthand or from media) to construct an evidence-based account for natural phenomena.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
PS4.A: Wave Properties. Sound can make matter vibrate, and vibrating matter can make sound.
Crosscutting Concepts
Cause and Effect. Events have causes that generate observable patterns.


For each group:

Background Information for Teachers

This section contains a quick review for teachers of the science and concepts covered in this lesson.

We are surrounded by sounds every day. Sounds are caused by vibrations, or the rapid back-and-forth motion of an object. These vibrations are transferred to the air molecules right next to the object, which bump into the molecules next to them, and so on, until the vibration reaches our ear (Fig 1).

Diagram of how sound vibrations travel in waves through the airImage Credit: Ben Finio, Science Buddies / Science Buddies

A vibrating object causes air molecules around it to vibrate. The air molecules are pushed together in a wave pattern that travels to our ears, and is interpreted as sound.

Figure 1. Diagram of how sound travels as vibrations (air molecules are not drawn to scale).

Sometimes, these vibrations are obvious because they are big enough to see. For example, when you pluck a rubber band, you can see it move back and forth (or if you turn up the bass on a stereo with a large subwoofer, you may be able to see the speaker move). However, for the majority of sounds we hear every day, these vibrations are too small to see. For example, when you knock on a door, even though you can hear a sound, you can't see the door vibrate at all. Sometimes you can still feel these vibrations even though you can't see them. For example, if you place the palm of your hand on a door while someone else knocks on it, you will feel the knock. You can also feel your vocal cords vibrate if you put your hand on your throat while you talk!

In this lesson plan, students will first explore how sounds cause vibrations using vibrations that are easy to see (with rubber bands). Then they will explore other vibrations that are harder to see, like knocking or talking. Finally, they will make their own sound and explain what vibrates and causes the sound.

Prep Work (10 minutes)

Engage (5 minutes)

Explore (20 minutes)

Reflect (5 minutes)


Make Career Connections

Lesson Plan Variations

Free science fair projects.