What does sound look like? This fun 5-item science experiment helps kids “see” sound waves and have fun while doing it.
In this article, we include a demonstration video, a supplies list, detailed printable instructions, experiment variations, and an easy to understand scientific explanation of how it works.
Bonus: Kids love this experiment because not only are they allowed to make loud drumming noises, it’s required!
JUMP TO SECTION: Instructions | Video Tutorial | How it Works
- Large Bowl
- Plastic Wrap
- 1 teaspoon Uncooked Rice
- Metal Pan (Cookie Sheets or Pans are good options, but they must be metal)
- Metal Spoon
How to See Sound Science Experiment Instructions
Step 1 – Tear off a piece of plastic wrap big enough to cover the top of the bowl.
Step 2 – Secure the plastic wrap over the bowl. Make sure that the plastic wrap is very tight.
Step 3 – Pour 1 teaspoon of uncooked rice on the top of the plastic wrap.
Step 4 – Hold the metal pan in the air and position it next to the bowl. What do you think will happen if you hit the pan with the spoon?
Helpful Tip: Remember, the pan must be metal or the experiment won’t work.
Step 5 – Take the metal spoon and bang on the metal pan like a drum and watch what happens to the rice. Write down your observations. Do you know the why the rice moved? Find out the answer in the how does this experiment work section below.
How to See Sound Science Experiment Step by Step Instructional Video
How Does the Experiment Work?
Sound is a disturbance that travels through a medium as a wave. In this experiment, when you hit the metal pan with the spoon, you disturb the particles of the pan causing them to vibrate. The vibrations in the pan are transferred to the air surrounding the pan, creating a sound wave.
When these sound waves reach the plastic wrap it disturbs the particles of the plastic wrap causing them to vibrate. These vibrations in the plastic wrap cause the rice to move. Sound waves traveling through the air are also what allow us to hear the noise of the spoon hitting the pan.
Other Ideas to Try
Try this experiment again, but change the distance of the pan from the bowl. As you move the pan farther away from the bowl, do the sound waves have the same effect on the rice grains?
I hope you enjoyed the experiment. Here are some printable instructions:
How to See Sound Science Experiment
I am trying to see the answer for the “Why can’t we see sound?” but I xan’t find it here. Can you help me, please?
Invisible sound waves
Sound is a vibration
Sofia Morrissey says
Because when you hit the tin it makes a hard and loud noise.
Lil D says
This was an amazing experiment ever
It is because the rice is having potential energy while it is on the wrap. Than and only then when you hit the pan is when it turns to kinetic energy.
Jane Roche says
The sound waves bounce off the pan and travel to the drum. The drum vibrates and the rice jumps.
Eileen Blecher says
Why can’t I get this to work
does the type of plastic wrap matter?
it doesn’t work for me too 🙁