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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
This is a standards-aligned lesson plan for secondary education on the topic of mechanical wave motion.  The lesson blends a six-minute video with a classroom activity that uses Slinky springs to model transverse and longitudinal waves. Explicit directions are given to support new or crossover teachers, including background information on wave energy and discussion questions.  

This resource was developed for use with the video "Making Big Waves", which may be freely downloaded for classroom use.

PBS Learning Media is a growing collection of free educational resources compiled by researchers and experienced teachers to promote the use of digital resources in the classroom.

Please note that this resource requires Quicktime.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
- Technology
= Multimedia
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2005 QUEST Science and WGBH-Boston
lesson plan, longitudinal waves, movie clips, science videos, transverse waves, videos, wave energy, waves lesson plan, waves video
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 9, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 19, 2020 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 17, 2008

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)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 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).
  • 9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6c. The energy of waves (like any form of energy) can be changed into other forms of energy.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 3-5: 11B/E4. Models are very useful for communicating ideas about objects, events, and processes. When using a model to communicate about something, it is important to keep in mind how it is different from the thing being modeled.
  • 6-8: 11B/M1. Models are often used to think about processes that happen too slowly, too quickly, or on too small a scale to observe directly. They are also used for processes that are too vast, too complex, or too dangerous to study.
  • 9-12: 11B/H5. The behavior of a physical model cannot ever be expected to represent the full-scale phenomenon with complete accuracy, not even in the limited set of characteristics being studied. The inappropriateness of a model may be related to differences between the model and what is being modeled.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Types of Mechanical Waves

This lesson integrates a short video, "Making Big Waves", with a detailed lesson plan on using Slinky springs to model transverse and longitudinal waves.  The resource includes discussion questions and instructional tips for implementing the activity effectively.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2005), WWW Document, (https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/).
PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2005), <https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy. (2008, March 17). Retrieved July 24, 2024, from WGBH Educational Foundation: https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/
Chicago Format
WGBH Educational Foundation. PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 17, 2008. https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/ (accessed 24 July 2024).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2005. 17 Mar. 2008. 24 July 2024 <https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {24 July 2024}, Month = {March 17, 2008}, Year = {2005} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy %D March 17, 2008 %I WGBH Educational Foundation %C Boston %U https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/ %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D March 17, 2008 %T PBS Learning Media: Origins of Wave Energy %I WGBH Educational Foundation %V 2024 %N 24 July 2024 %8 March 17, 2008 %9 text/html %U https://oeta.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed07.sci.ess.lpwaveenergy/origins-of-wave-energy/

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