Bundle 3: Communications

Welcome to Bundle 3- Communications


We are awash in a sea of waves.  In this bundle, we’re not referring to the waves associated with earthquakes or the ocean, but, rather, the electromagnetic waves used for communication.  Wireless internet, television, radio, and cellphones all operate by transmitting and receiving signals that travel through space as waves.  The familiar concepts of frequency, wavelength, and amplitude covered in elementary science will all be built upon here.  Students will begin by looking at one application of waves, the concept of WiFi (wireless internet), to better understand how they’re able to communicate with friends and family over large distances without being physically connected.  From there, further investigations that look at how waves interact with different materials will be explored, followed by a deeper look at the effects that waves can have on living organisms.  This interdisciplinary bundle links together concepts from the life, physical, and earth/environmental sciences.


Big ideas:

  • Waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
  • We depend on waves for communication.

Standards addressed:

MS-PS4-1 Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave.
MS-PS4-2 Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.

MS-LS1-5 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
MS-ETS1-1 Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS1-3 Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
MS-ETS1-4 Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

Tiers in depth:

Tier 1:

Students will explore the concept of waves through the application of the wireless internet signal (Wi-Fi). To meet this objective students should first review the concept of waves, including basic properties such as wavelength and amplitude. Emphasis here is on electromagnetic waves, and students should be reminded that waves have a wide range of use in the field of communications, including radio and television. To help develop a better sense of how we make use of waves to communicate and transmit information, this set of activities gives students the opportunity to design experiments that investigate waves through the application of wireless internet. Students are then asked to come up with a method that allows them to map the strength of the Wi-Fi signal in their school or neighborhood.

Tier 2:

Part A

The purpose of this project is for students to develop some understanding of radio waves using their experience with something they interact with on a day-to-day basis: Wi-Fi. Students should use their experience from Tier I of this bundle to help draw them into the investigation. Students will begin by brainstorming about different kinds of signals, and how to generate, send, and receive signals. This initial engagement activity should lead to a discussion about Wi-Fi and how they could possibly improve the wireless Internet signal in parts of the school. A potential end goal could include designing and engineering a solution to boost the Wi-Fi signal in their classroom. If access to a wireless router is not available, a television or other device that can be turned on and off with a remote control could be used as a substitute to investigate the behavior of waves and radio signals.

Part B

This is an opportunity for students to develop a deeper understanding of the relationships between waves (cellular & WiFi) and living organisms.  Through this investigation, students are able to determine whether or not WiFi or cell phone signals have any impact on living organisms, specifically plants.  Students can explore different variables including type and strength of signal, plant species, or distance between signal source and living organism.  This activity could be used as a starting point for looking more closely at the claims made in newspapers and other media sources about the health effects associated with cellphones and WiFi.

Tier 3:

Here is the chance for students to investigate further those questions and ideas about waves and communication that most interest them.  During the course of Tiers 1 & 2 questions will likely come up that you (the teacher) hadn’t thought of.  Now is the time to let students dig deeper.  There are countless communication applications that depend on our understanding of the behavior of waves.  Astronomers, HAM radio operators, military and emergency personnel, radio disc-jockeys, and meteorologists all make great local experts that students could connect with during Tier 3.




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Iowa 8th grade Science Bundles Copyright © by Ted Neal, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.