Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Good Vibrations" - Science with Seniors 6

"Good Vibrations" was the theme of a science project I recently presented at The Bridge. My assistant first demonstrated how guitar strings vibrate when they are strummed or plucked and that this vibration creates sounds or music.

Next, I asked each of the seniors to place a finger at the side of their throat and to press it slightly against their skin. Then I asked them to say a short sentence such as "Good afternoon," emphasizing each letter sound.

After they said their sentence, I asked them if they felt their vocal chords vibrate. They answered that they had. I then spoke briefly about the word chord. That there are chords in music and in the throat. I, too, spoke about the human body being the first instrument. We then discussed the "music" the human body makes. We talked about singing, whistling, clapping, etc. All of the seniors offered examples.

Next, my assistant and I blew up balloons and handed them out to each of the participants. But, we did not tie them closed. Instead, I directed everyone to hold the top of the balloon with fingers from both hands and then to slowly let the air escape. I demonstrated this with a balloon I held. I showed how pinching the rubber together and then pulling it tautly open made a high pitched sound. All of the seniors repeated this and expressed amazement at the sounds made. For a brief time, it sounded like a balloon kazoo band was playing at The Bridge. The seniors were laughing at the simply joy this little activity provided for all of us.

However, most seniors can not blow up balloons as it just is not in them to do so and it could cause them to lose their breath or feel tired. So when the air went out of each of the balloons, my assistant gathered them up and we moved on to the next activity.

I wanted to show how sound waves/vibrations travel. I pulled saran wrap tightly across a large, metal bowl. I placed this in the center of the two tables that had been put together so that the seniors could sit together.

I then said in a joking manner, "Hmmm, I forgot the pepper and the spoon." As I turned to get these items, I heard a few of the seniors joking amongst themselves, "What the heck does she need pepper for?"

I took the pepper shaker and shook out a lot on top of the saran wrap pulled across the bowl. And then, well, I made a lot of noise, loud noise. I took another metal bowl and a metal spoon and banged the spoon against this bowl. I did so just above the first bowl. It was hard to see, but everyone did. The sound vibrations made by the banging on the second, metal bowl caused the pepper to jump up and down on the wrap. It worked. It was so cool!

But the finale was the best!! I had purchased a variety of wine glasses from the local thrift store. The total cost for all of them was $1.00. I had washed and dried them earlier in the day.

I handed out the wine glasses and my assistant filled them about 3/4 full with water.

 I put a small piece of cut straw in each glass to denote that the water was not for drinking.

The piece of straw was large enough that it would be difficult to swallow if one of the seniors did attempt to drink from the glass.

I then demonstrated how to make the wine glasses "sing." I dipped one of my pointer fingers into the water and then rubbed that wet finger around the rim of the glass. It hummed. I explained that I was creating a vibration with my finger and that was causing the sound. Soon, everyone was dipping their fingers and making their wine glasses "sing."

 Here a senior leans in to hear her glass "sing."

Again, there were a lot of laughs and many smiles. Each of the seniors repeated this action over and over again. 

Before we knew it, it was time for everyone to get ready to go home. My assistant and I cleaned up after their departure. All and all, there was a great "vibe" in the air during and after this science project.

Here is a little treat: Listen to the Beach Boys sing their famous song, "Good Vibrations."

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