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Lesson Title: Wave Measurements
August 29, 2011

Unit: Physical Science - Waves and Optics

Grade Levels: 4-6

Connection To Curriculum: Science and Mathematics

Teacher Prep Time: 1 hour

Lesson Time Needed: 3.5 hours

Complexity Moderate


20 ft rope
tape measure
adding machine tape
set of red, green and violet pencils
meter stick or ruler
manila folder or cardstock
4 books
1 pair scissors
diffraction grating
paper tube (toilet paper roll)
poster board 5 x 10 cm
masking tape
2 razor blades
Spectrum tubes (if possible)
Doppler effect demonstrator
plastic whiffle ball
cord (3 m)

This lesson integrates a series of activities to introduce the measurement of waves. Activities guide the students to explore the relationship between frequency and wavelength and apply it to explain the Doppler effect.

Students will:
• Explore the relationship between frequency and wavelength.
• Demonstrate the Doppler effect using sound and extend the concept to light.
• Use the frequency-wavelength relationship and Doppler effect to explain NASA's research in astronomy.

First page of Wave Measurements

Lesson Guide
Wave Measurements Lesson
[76KB PDF file]



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Lesson Activities and Sequence
The listed sequence leads students from the basic relationship between wavelength and frequency to its application in explaining the Doppler effect.

  1. Wavelength and Energy
    Students will be introduced to the relationship between frequency, energy and wavelength using a rope, tape measure and stopwatch.
  2. What's the Frequency, Roy G. Biv?
    Students create a physical model comparing the wavelengths and frequencies of red, green and violet light on adding machine tape.
  3. Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum
    This five-minute video helps reinforce the relationships found by the student teams with animations and physical data.
  4. Simple Spectroscope
    Students build a simple spectroscope using a toilet paper tube and diffraction grating then use the scope to observe the spectra of different light sources and draw their observations on a provided worksheet.
  5. Red Shift, Blue Shift
    In this culminating activity, students get a chance to apply their understanding of the relationship between wavelength and frequency to explain the Doppler effect, first in sound and then in electromagnetic waves.

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
Physical Science
• Light, heat, electricity and magnetism.
History and Nature of Science
• Science as a human endeavor.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Number and Operations
• Understand the place value system.
• Generalize place value understanding for multidigit whole numbers.
Measurement and Data
• Convert like measurement units within given measurement system.
• Represent and interpret data.


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator