How Sound Travels Through Air and Solids

3.7 based on 35 ratings

Updated on May 07, 2014

Grade Level: K-2; Type: Physics


This classic children’s game demonstrates the differing abilities of sound to travel through air vs. through a solid.


  • Paper or plastic cups (yogurt containers are durable)
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Tape
  • A friend

Experimental Procedure

  1. Using the point of the scissors, poke a hole in the middle of the bottom of each cup. (Depending on your age, it may be better to have an adult do this step.)
  2. Stand a few feet away from a friend and talk to each other in normal (not yelling) voices. Keep moving apart until you can no longer hear each other well enough to have a conversation.
  3. Hold one of the cups up to your mouth and speak into it while your friend listens into the other. Now can you hear each other?
  4. Next cut a length of string long enough to stretch between you and your friend when you could no longer talk to each other.
  5. Poke the ends of the string through the holes in the bottoms of the cups (poke it upwards through the bottom) and tape the ends securely to these bottoms.
  6. Hold onto one cup and have your friend hold onto the other and walk away until the string is taut (pulled straight, not sagging).
  7. Talk into one cup while your friend holds the other cup over her ear. (Remember to keep the string taut.) Switch. Now can you hear each other through the cups? (Remember to move the cups from your mouth to your ear and back depending on if you’re listening or speaking)
  8. Why did attaching the cups with a piece of string allow you to hear each other? More fun with this project!
  9. Variations: Try it with longer and longer pieces of string. How far apart can you get and still have the “phone” work? Try different widths/types of string. What happens if you use different sizes, shapes, materials of cups? What if someone grabs onto the string while you’re talking?

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