September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Chiming Spoons

Posted: Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

by Valerie Joyner

What better way to start the school year than with a science investigation?  It’s a great tool to set the tone for a year full of science and at the same time help students get to know each other.  One of my favorite first day of school science investigations is a sound wave activity I call “Chiming Spoons.”  It only requires a ball of string, a few items from your kitchen and/or classroom, and some simple preparation.  The end result will be a classroom full of enthusiastic young scientists who acquire a new understanding of sound.

Science background:  Sounds travels in waves.  These waves can travel through everything from air, water, and wood, to along a piece of string. When a piece of string is tied to a metal object like a spoon and struck, the spoon will send out vibrations (sound waves) that will move along the string.  If the string and the spoon are touched to your ears the vibrations that are made will travel up the string and into your ears. From your ears, nerves carry the message to your brain where it interprets the sound for you.

Objects made of different materials like stainless steel, wood, and plastic send out different vibrations (sound waves) and make different sound.

Materials you will need:

1 ball of string – 2 feet of string for every object

1 large metal spoon for demonstration

1 pencil for every pair of students

20+ objects from around the kitchen or classroom including but not limited to:

Stainless steel, silver, aluminum, and wooden spoons or forks of various sizes, metal cookie cooling rack,

coat hangers (plastic and metal),

wire whisk,


hand mixer beaters

any other metal objects from your classroom,

Several trays or tables to distribute objects with strings around the room

Pencil and paper for recording observations


  • Tie a large metal spoon in the middle of one piece of string (for demonstration)
  • Tie string to all additional objects (for student discovery)
  • Put some stringed objects on each tray and set aside


Explain to the students that they will be working with a partner to explore sound and how it travels. The first thing they will do is watch a pair of classmates demonstrate how the activity works, then they will work with a partner to make their own observations and discoveries.


Have a partner pair do the following steps.

1. Take a large metal spoon that has been tied in the center of the string.
2. Wrap each end of the string once or twice around the tip of each index finger and pinch the string.
3. Bring your fingers up to your ears as if you were plugging them.
4. Lean your body forward as shown. Make sure the string dangles freely and does not touch anything.
5. Have your partner gently tap the spoon once.
6. Observe the sound and share your observations with the class. (What did you hear?  What did it feel like?)



1. Distribute trays or objects around the room
2. Assign pairs of students to work together
3. Remind students of the procedure
4. Explain that they will draw a picture or write a description of one or more of the objects they try and what they observed (dependent on grade level).
5. Release student pairs to work on the activity and record their observations.
6. Help students who need assistance with the procedure.
7. Walk among the students to encourage investigation and record keeping.
8. When students have observed several objects have students put the objects down and get ready to discuss their observations with the class.

Science Discussion:

1. Gather the students together and ask them to share what they observed.
2. Encourage students to share comparisons of their objects, its size, material, and the sounds they made. For example: When we hit the large silver spoon it sounded like a bell, and when we hit the plastic spoon it made a clunking sound.
3. As students share out their observations and comparisons encourage them to form conclusions. For example: I noticed that all of the plastic objects did not make a ringing sound, and some of the metal objects did (stainless steel v/s aluminum spoons).
4. Record student shared information.
5. Check for understanding by reviewing the Science Background.

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science teacher and is the CSTA’s region 1 director.


Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is a member of CSTA.

One Response

  1. I done this for years in my Physical Science class. Always amazes the students that the sound is so loud. Good experiment for hands on understanding of mechanical waves.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.