This lab was developed by Trish Loeblein using LabPro, however since LabPro has been discontinued, we are beta testing this lesson with the Virtual Oscillator.

Students investigate and interpret visual representations of sound.

Science Topics

Parts of a Wave

Process Skills

Scientific inquiry
Data Collection

Grade Level





5-10 minutes


45 minutes*


5 minutes

* If you are doing this with middle school students, you may need more time.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • Determine the frequency, period, and wavelength of a sound wave.

Materials in Kit

Straw Instruments
Tuning Forks

Materials not in Kit

Computers w/Google Chrome
Internet access

* You only need an external microphone if the computer does NOT have one built in.

Introduce the Activity

Tell you students that they will be analyzing different sounds, included their own voices.


Doing the Activity

Demonstrate how to use the virtual oscilloscope:

  1. Say the sound “oooo” into the microphone.
  2. Click the “freeze live input” box
  3. Print the page.
  4. Pass out the lab worksheet. Students will work in groups of 3 or 4.

Key Lesson Terminology

Frequency – Wiggles per second (moves back and forth)

Amplitude – For transverse waves, it is the maximum height of the wave. Larger amplitudes create louder sounds.

Period – The time it takes for one wave to go by.

Wavelength – The distance between two successive, identical parts of the wave. Ex. Crest to crest, or trough to trough.


Optional Extensions

Have students compare different vowels or consonant sounds.