Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Wonderful Waves

Subject Area





This activity is an excellent video for introducing a unit on waves. This is a video of a rubber duck being placed in a container of water. The question, "Why doesn't the duck move across the container?" is posed at the start and end of the video. The purpose of this activity is to get the students excited about waves and thinking about the movement of waves.  This activity can be used whole group or small group as a center activity.

This learning activity was created as a result of the Girls Engaged in Math and Science University, GEMS-U Project.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 4


    Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength, and including that waves can cause objects to move.

    Unpacked Content



    • Patterns
    • Propagated
    • Waves
    • Wave amplitude
    • Wavelength
    • Net motion
    • Model
    • Relevant components
    • Peaks


    Students know:
    • Waves can be described in terms of patterns of repeating amplitude and wavelength (e.g., in a water wave there is a repeating pattern of water being higher and then lower than the baseline level of the water).
    • Waves can cause an object to move.
    • The motion of objects varies with the amplitude and wavelength of the wave carrying it.
    • The patterns in the relationships between a wave passing, the net motion of the wave, and the motion of an object caused by the wave as it passes.
    • How waves may be initiated (e.g., by disturbing surface water or shaking a rope or spring).
    • The repeating pattern produced as a wave is propagated.
    • Waves, which are the regular patterns of motion, can be made in water by disturbing the surface. When waves move across the surface of deep water, the water goes up and down in place; there is no net motion in the direction of the wave except when the water meets a beach.
    • Waves of the same type can differ in amplitude (height of the wave) and wavelength (spacing between wave peaks).


    Students are able to:
    • Develop a model to make sense of wave patterns that includes relevant components (i.e., waves, wave amplitude, wavelength, and motion of objects).
    • Describe patterns of wavelengths and amplitudes.
    • Describe how waves can cause objects to move.


    Students understand that:
    • There are similarities and differences in patterns underlying waves and use these patterns to describe simple relationships involving wave amplitude, wavelength, and the motion of an object.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Developing and Using Models

    Crosscutting Concepts



    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    The student will make predictions about the patterns of wave movement.

    Activity Details

    1. The teacher will introduce a unit or lesson on waves by showing this video. This video activity can be shown in whole group or small group as a center activity.
    2. After watching the video, the students will complete a quick write in their science journals to answer the question posed in the video, "Why doesn't the duck move across the container?"
    3. When time is up, have students pass their writing to another group member.
    4. Assign a period of time for students to review each other’s writing, adding more and/or asking questions, in writing.
    5. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all students in a group have reviewed each other’s writing.
    6. Each group should then review all the ideas generated through the process.  
    7. Walk around the classroom providing positive feedback/reinforcement when key terms are discussed.
      • Patterns
      • Waves
      • Wavelength
      • Wave amplitude
      • Peaks
    8. Discuss the findings as a whole group.
    9. This video activity should be used to introduce the concept of waves and get students excited and thinking about the movement of waves.
    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    The activity can be evaluated using a Quick Write in students' science journal on the question posed in the video, "Why doesn't the duck move across the container?"

    Variation Tips

    This activity can be conducted in a whole group or small group as a center activity.  

    The teacher may choose to write the question, "Why doesn't the duck move across the container?" on the board and place an actual rubber duck in a container of water instead of showing the video.  

    The teacher may also choose to do the quick write on sticky notes instead of in student science journals.

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    The teacher needs to have a projector and some kind of internet device to stream the video.

    Digital Tools / Resources