the WGBH Educational Foundation
This interactive activity features animations of wave motion and one simulation that allows students to explore how a wave moves through different mediums. Users can adjust the density of the material and manipulate the direction of a wave disturbance. The water waves animation clearly depicts the movement of periodic waves, which can be difficult to learners to visualize. This resource also includes background information, discussion questions, and links to related PBS Learning Media resources on waves.
PBS Learning media is a growing collection of more than 10,000 free educational resources compiled by researchers and experienced teachers to promote the use of digital resources in the classroom.
Metadata instance created
March 10, 2009
by Caroline Hall
September 5, 2014
by Caroline Hall
Last Update when Cataloged:
March 17, 2008
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
4. The Physical Setting
6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
11. Common Themes
3-5: 11B/E3. A model of something is similar to, but not exactly like, the thing being modeled. Some models are physically similar to what they are representing, but others are not.
6-8: 11B/M2. Mathematical models can be displayed on a computer and then modified to see what happens.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)
Wave Properties (PS4.A)
A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. (6-8)
The wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of travel of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. (9-12)
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena. (9-12)
NSES Content Standards
Con.B: Physical Science
5-8: Transfer of Energy
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Wave Energy Unit Title: Types of Mechanical Waves
Mechanical waves can be modeled well through computer simulations that depict the motion of particles as the wave disturbance travels through a material. This web-based tutorial for grades 6-12, developed by the University of Utah's ASPIRE Lab, is an excellent visualization tool for students. Don't miss the water wave simulation. It clearly shows the repeating pattern of a periodic wave, helping students understand that the particles oscillate but are not propelled forward by the wave.
Sokolsky, P. (2008, March 17). PBS Learning Media: What Is a Wave?. Retrieved March 26, 2017, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/what-is-a-wave/
Sokolsky, Pierre. PBS Learning Media: What Is a Wave?. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 17, 2008. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/what-is-a-wave/ (accessed 26 March 2017).
Sokolsky, Pierre. PBS Learning Media: What Is a Wave?. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2003. 17 Mar. 2008. 26 Mar. 2017 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/what-is-a-wave/>.
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%0 Electronic Source %A Sokolsky, Pierre %D March 17, 2008 %T PBS Learning Media: What Is a Wave? %I WGBH Educational Foundation %V 2017 %N 26 March 2017 %8 March 17, 2008 %9 application/flash %U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/what-is-a-wave/
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