Sound Sticks

Children will learn about hearing and vibrations.

Lesson Objective

The children will explore what creates sounds and will develop an understanding of how the speed of vibrations affects sound.


What You'll Need

Wooden paint sticks – 1 per child

What To Do

  1. Explain to the children that sounds come from vibrations (see Did You Know?).
  2. Have the children place their fingers on their throats and feel their vocal cords vibrating as they speak or hum.
  3. Tell the children that they can make sounds with objects and see the vibrations that are making the sounds.
  4. Distribute paint sticks. Give the children a few minutes to examine and play with them; remind them not to hit anything with the sticks.
  5. Show the children how to extend the stick from the end of a table, then hold down the end on the table with one hand and pluck the stick with the other hand (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  6. Point out to the children that they can see the stick vibrating.
  7. Give the children some time to practice; then, challenge them to make different (higher or lower) sounds with the sticks. If necessary, you can guide them through extending the sticks farther over the edge of the table to create slower vibrations, resulting in a lower sound.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe what you feel on your throat when you speak.
  • How can we vibrate these paint sticks to make sounds without hitting anything?
  • Explain what happens to the stick when you pluck it.
  • What did you do to change the sound?
  • How does extending the stick farther over the edge of the table effect the sound you hear?
  • Describe what happens to the sound when less of the stick is extended.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Try the same experiment with different widths of sticks. How does the width of the stick affect the sound that it makes?
  • Try this experiment using different materials such as strips of cardboard or plastic. How do different materials effect the sound?

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain that sound comes from vibrations?
  • Could children explain that faster vibrations create higher sounds?
  • Could children explain that slower vibrations create lower sounds?


Did You Know

The sense of hearing is one of our five senses. We use our ears to hear sounds. Sound is made if something vibrates. When something moves back and forth rapidly, the air moves and makes waves. These movements are called sound waves or vibrations. For instance, when you speak, your vocal cords vibrate. The vibrations cause the air to move. The movement of the air creates sound waves that go through the air. The waves enter our ear, the brain starts to work, and we hear the sound waves.

Sounds are affected by how fast or slow the vibrations are moving. Vibrations that move fast create sounds with a higher pitch. Slower vibrations create sounds with a lower pitch. When we extended the stick farther from the edge of the table, the vibrations moved more slowly, and the air created sound waves that moved more slowly, resulting in sound with a lower pitch. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • hear – to receive sound with the ears.
  • sound – anything people or animals hear with their ears.
  • vibration – rapid, steady back-and-forth movement.
  • vocal cords – the folds at the top of the wind pipe that produce the sounds of the voice.
  • pluck – to play on by pulling and letting go.
  • pitch – the high or low quality of a sound.

Lesson Tips

  • Position the children around a table far enough away from each other so that they have room to pluck their sticks without hitting anyone else.


  • Vibrations (Way Things Move) by Lola M. Schaefer
  • Sounds All Around (Let’s Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Wendy Pfeffer
  • Making Sounds (Sounds All Around Us) by Charlotte Guillain
  • Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS