Over February break, the Foley Graduate Fellows dedicated their time to revitalizing Walking Mountains' Making Waves program, which teaches first graders in Eagle County about the wonders of light and sound. The program engages students' senses through interactive experiments, leading them to realize that light and sound both travel in waves and are essential for thriving and surviving.
This new and improved program addresses the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) more effectively. The NGSS standards addressed during this program are:
- 1-PS4-1: Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.
- 1-PS4-2: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that objects can be seen only when illuminated.
- 1-PS4-3: Plan and conduct an investigation to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.
- 1-PS4-4: Use the tools and materials to design and build a device that uses light or sound to solve the problem of communicating over a distance.
As part of the program, first graders delve into the fascinating world of light waves, learning how they interact with various materials. They observe firsthand how light can be bent, blocked, or reflected based on the material it encounters. To enhance their understanding, students are given special peepholes and dark boxes to explore the environment and discover how light behaves in nature. They are even introduced to the concept of animals seeing different light waves than humans, such as bees and butterflies.
Through hands-on exploration of sound waves, students discover how living beings use their senses to perceive vibrations and sound. They conduct experiments to prove that vibrations create sound and that sound can make materials vibrate. One experiment involves placing tuning forks in water, allowing students to see the waves that sounds create. By forming their own band using repurposed containers and rubber bands for instruments, students identify how materials of varying sizes create different sounds.
In the program's final lesson, students learn that living beings communicate and survive using light and sound waves. They determine whether an animal is trying to convey a warning or attract a mate. For instance, a rattlesnake's rattle uses sound waves to communicate, "I'm venomous! Stay away," while a Ruby Throated Hummingbird uses light waves to communicate, "Hey, look at me! I am super awesome," through a red patch that attracts a mate. Students also create their own way of communicating through light waves and explore how sound waves travel through a string telephone. Overall, students leave the program with a deeper understanding of how light and sound waves allow living beings to communicate and sense the world around them.
Observing the wonder and excitement on the faces of first-graders from Stone Creek Charter School and Gypsum Elementary School as they explored the world of light and sound waves was truly inspiring. This program perfectly aligns with Walking Mountains' mission to inspire a sense of curiosity and exploration in young minds. By engaging their senses and encouraging them to question the world around them, students gain a deeper understanding of how light and sound waves shape the world we live in. As the program continues to evolve, I am excited to see how it will continue to inspire wonder and excitement in future students.
Written by Keaton Cloven. Keaton is a Foley Graduate Fellow at Walking Mountains Science Center and is expected to graduate in July 2024!