College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

Sixth Grade Experiments with Stretchy Science

Sixth Grade Experiments with Slinkies

A trip to Five Below inspired Sixth Grade Science Teacher Emma Shoemaker to creatively teach her students how waves work.

Shoemaker spotted large, rainbow-hued slinkies for sale and knew they'd be the right medium to experiment with the characteristics of wavelengths. 

The lab involved several tasks. First, students made the slinkies "walk" down the stairs. Next, they moved the slinkies across the floor to demonstrate longitudinal (back and forth) and transverse (side to side) waves. Along each step, students recorded their observations and made drawings of what the waves looked like. 

"All-and-all, I was really happy to see how well the students did with the lab," says Shoemaker. "It was clear that the slinkies were an easy way to add some 'Whoa, that’s so cool!' factor to the day.

"We do a lot of hands-on work already in science class but when I can get them excited to play AND learn, I know I’ve done my job for the day."

While fun, the slinkies allowed for some intense learning to take place. Afterwards, students used their observations to come up with their own definitions of longitudinal and transverse waves, which "they all were able to do with flying colors," Shoemaker says.

An added bonus: though, the class has moved on to new topics, the students get to play with the slinkies and race them down the stairs when they have free time.