Applied Science - Built Environment (5)
Pre Lab

  • Exploring how physical and electromagnetic waves are used in society.
  • Investigating how high sounds can cause damage.


  • decibel
  • sound
  • worksheet

Students use a worksheet on understanding sound levels.


Most information comes to us in some form of waves. It is through wave motion that light comes to our eyes and sound comes to our ears. In our built environment, humans capture and use the power of sound and light to infiltrate every aspect of our lives. The richness of sounds and sights are all around, and they would be difficult for many of us to live without. Ask students to imagine being a blind or deaf person. These next units act as a vehicle to discuss how we use sound (physical waves) and light (electromagnetic waves) in our society.

Wherever we are, we are surrounded by sound. It might be the pleasant sounds of a breeze or the intense sounds of a jet engine. The loudest sounds we can tolerate have intensities a million times greater than the faintest sounds we hear. The relative loudness of a sound is measured in decibels, abbreviated db. The decibel (db) was named in honor of Alexander Graham Bell. Some common sounds and their noise levels are:

jet airplane, 100 feet away 140 db
air raid siren, nearby 125 db
rock music, amplified  120 db
riveter 95 db
busy street traffic 70 db
conversation in home 65 db
quiet radio in home 40 db
whisper 10 db
rustle of leaves 20 db
threshold of hearing 0 db


  1. Scientists have learned that noise can be harmful to humans. Noise changes our moods, prevents us from concentrating, and may even reduce our ability to learn. Very loud noise can damage our bodies.
  2. The worksheet has students look at different sounds during a day. Using the chart, they must determine the approximate decibels of the sound. For example: A student worked by a construction job. It was noisy. The noise level was somewhere between a riveter (95 db) and a busy street (70 db). The student would write 85 db. If a person is exposed to noise over the 95 decibel range for a long period of time, their hearing may be impaired. The ear drum which picks up the sound, can actually be damaged.

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