Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Electromagnetic Spectral Activities

Understanding Wave Characteristics


The purpose of this activity is to gain a basic understanding of wave characteristics.


  • slinky
  • hand-out on wave characteristics
  • glass baking dish, small
  • rock or marble
  • overhead projector

About this Activity

This activity involves teacher demonstrations and class discussions.


  1. To introduce the concept of a wave, have students observe what happens to a quiet pool of water when it is disturbed. To illustrate this concept, place a glass baking dish filled with water on top of the overhead and drop a marble in the center to show the wave-like effect. Discuss student observations. Point out that the distance between the successive peaks of the wave is the wavelength.
  2. Use a slinky, to demonstrate the various parts of a wave. To do this have two people hold each end of the slinky. Keeping one end of the slinky still, have the person at the other end move the slinky up and down so a wave can be distinguished. In addition, demonstrate how a wave travels and distinguish between a low frequency wave and a high frequency wave.
  3. For a review of wave characteristics use the hand-out provided. The hand-out can also be made into a transparency if you wish to use the overhead projector to review the concept with the students.