May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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