Discover! Simulations

Matter and Energy

1. Get Set to Explore


  • energy: The ability to move or change something.
  • gas: State of matter in which the material has no set size or shape.
  • liquid: State of matter in which the material has a set size but no set shape.
  • matter: Anything that takes up space and has mass.
  • solid: State of matter in which the material has a set size and shape.

Building Background

  • Review the definition of sound with the class. Make sure that children realize that sound is energy and that energy is the ability to move or change something.
  • Ring a bell or let a timer or an alarm clock ring. Ask children how the sound waves traveled to reach their ears. Once children have described the path, ask them what material the sound waves traveled through. Guide them to understand that the sound waves traveled through the air to reach their ears.
  • Review the vocabulary words and definitions that are related to states of matter. Then ask children whether air is a solid, a liquid, or a gas. Encourage volunteers to give their answers and explain them. Show or explain to children that air has no set size or shape; it will fill containers of any size. This means that air is a gas.
  • Read the Discover! question to the class and ask: How can you hear music through a wall? Encourage children to think about experiences they've had with sound traveling through different materials. To prompt discussion, ask: If you are in the hallway and the classroom doors are closed, can you hear what is going on in one of the classrooms? If you duck your head underwater in a swimming pool, can you hear sounds from the pool deck? Lead children to generalize from these experiences.

2. Guide the Exploration

  • Have children launch the Discover! Simulation and listen closely to the directions.
  • As the simulation plays, children should both listen carefully to the sound and look at the shape of the sound wave. They should note how each changes when different materials are placed between the sound source and the listener. Encourage children to record their observations in a three-column chart.
  • Let students pair up or work in groups of three and compare their observations.

3. Review/Assess

  • Ask the class whether sound can travel through matter in all three states. Encourage children to describe how the sound changed as it traveled through the different materials.
  • Then review Step 3's Wrap-Up text with the class. Ask the class to revise the Wrap-Up statement to make it true for a barrier made of a liquid.
  • Present the Extension question to the class. Let volunteers name different materials in the scene that sound could or would travel through.
  • As children name different materials, have them classify the materials as solid, liquid, or gas. Children should realize that sound travels through all different kinds of materials, whether they are solid, liquid, or gas.

If time permits, present children with the following questions:

  • Critical Thinking: Evaluate Imagine you are helping backstage before a music show at school. There is a wall separating the backstage area and the stage. Which is the best place to listen to the music, in the audience or in the backstage area? Explain your answer. Answer: The music will be louder and less muffled if you are not behind the wall backstage but are in the audience.
  • Inquiry Skill: Infer This simulation showed sound as a wave. What does the picture of the wave represent? Answer: Sound is matter vibrating. The sound wave represents the air or other materials vibrating and these vibrations moving through different materials.

4. Reaching All Learners

On Level: Kinesthetic Learners

Bring in a variety of musical instruments. These can be toy instruments for young children, if you wish. If your classroom or your school has a piano, this instrument can be used, as well. Let children play the instruments. Encourage children playing and listening to the instruments to gently touch the instruments to feel the vibrations. Explain that these vibrations are sound.