We are surrounded by sounds every day. Whether a sound is quiet or loud, it travels in the same way. Molecules in the air vibrate, causing waves. When they reach our ears, tiny hairs pick up the vibrations and send messages to the brain, which converts them into sound.
The loudest sound ever heard on Earth is believed to be the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa (Krakatau) in Indonesia, on the 27th of August 1883; it was heard 3,000 miles away!
Teach your children about sound using our handy topic guide!
- Write your own Sound Collector poem, based on Roger McGough’s.
- Challenge your children to find the person making the same sound in this practical activity for younger children.
- Use a Carroll diagram to sort sounds by volume and pitch.
- Make a xylophone using water and jars.
- Demonstrate sound waves with this simple investigation – all you need is a ruler, a spoon and some string!
- Go on a sound walk and make a record of all the different sounds you hear – you will be amazed how many there are.
- Make a straw oboe.
- Investigate what affects the pitch and volume of sound with everyday objects, how music makes you feel and even how sound can levitate and object with these resources from The Royal Society.
- Download our Sound Pack. It is full of resources for teaching about sound.
- Sound travels in waves at about 767 miles (1,230 kilometres) an hour.
- Some animals, such as dolphins and dogs, can hear high frequency sounds that cannot be detected by the human ear.
- Sound is measured in decibels. Normal conversation is around 60 decibels. Being in a noisy environment (over 70 decibels) for a long time can damage your hearing.
- Sound cannot travel through space, because there are no molecules to vibrate.
- The study of sound waves is known as acoustics.
What is sound?
What is sound and how do we hear it? A great explainer video for older primary children.
Running time: 7:11
What Is Echolocation?
How do some animals use sound to find out about their surroundings?
Running time: 6:19
This astonishing video uses a steel pan and coloured sand to show how sound waves travel.
Running time: 3:17
Why do we hear echoes?
Older children will enjoy this explanation of echoes.
Running time: 3:38
How does sound travel?
A short explanation of sound waves.
Running time: 2:52
How the Ears Work
This short video gives a good explanation of how human ears work.
Running time: 2:04
Are you teaching your children about other topics? Explore our full collection of guides!