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published by the WGBH Educational Foundation
written by Pierre Sokolsky
This item is an interactive activity for grades 6-12 on the fundamentals of waves, adapted from the University of Utah's ASPIRE lab.  It features animations of wave motion and a simulation that allows students to explore how a wave moves through different mediums with a tool to adjust the density of the material and manipulate the direction of a wave disturbance.  The animation on water waves clearly depicts the movement of periodic waves, which can be difficult for learners to visualize.  This resource also includes background information, discussion questions, and links to applicable national science education standards.

SEE RELATED ITEMS ON THIS PAGE for a link to the full collection of ASPIRE resources for teachers and learners.

Teachers' Domain is an NSF-funded pathway of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). It is a growing collection of more than 1,000 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 Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Technology
= Multimedia
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
- Middle School
- High School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Simulation
= Tutorial
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2003 University of Utah, ASPIRE Lab
animation, longitudinal waves, mechanical waves, periodic waves, simulation, transverse waves, tutorial, water waves, wave energy, wave motion
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 10, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 3, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 17, 2008

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).

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 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.

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.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
P. Sokolsky, (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2003), WWW Document, (http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/).
P. Sokolsky, Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave? (WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, 2003), <http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/>.
APA Format
Sokolsky, P. (2008, March 17). Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from WGBH Educational Foundation: http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/
Chicago Format
Sokolsky, Pierre. Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, March 17, 2008. http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/ (accessed 20 August 2014).
MLA Format
Sokolsky, Pierre. Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 2003. 17 Mar. 2008. 20 Aug. 2014 <http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Pierre Sokolsky", Title = {Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?}, Publisher = {WGBH Educational Foundation}, Volume = {2014}, Number = {20 August 2014}, Month = {March 17, 2008}, Year = {2003} }
Refer Export Format

%A Pierre Sokolsky
%T Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?
%D March 17, 2008
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%C Boston
%U http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/
%O application/flash

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%A Sokolsky, Pierre
%D March 17, 2008
%T Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?
%I WGBH Educational Foundation
%V 2014
%N 20 August 2014
%8 March 17, 2008
%9 application/flash
%U http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/lsps07.sci.phys.energy.waves/

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Teachers' Domain: What Is a Wave?:

Is Part Of http://aspire.cosmic-ray.org/

This is a link to the full collection of interactive materials developed by the authors of ASPIRE, (Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Research and Education).

relation by Caroline Hall

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