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  • In this activity, students use a Mexican wave to demonstrate how waves transfer energy and to visualise the wave behaviours of reflection, constructive interference and shoaling.

    Rights: Sambo_27

    Mexican wave

    As each person stands up and sits down, the ‘Mexican wave’ moves around the arena. The average position of each person doesn’t change.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • explain that a wave transfers energy without transferring mass
    • demonstrate how reflection causes waves to ‘bounce back’
    • demonstrate how constructive interference leads to increased wave amplitude
    • demonstrate the effect of shoaling on wave amplitude

    Download the Word file for:

    • introduction/background notes
    • what you need
    • what to do
    • discussion questions.

    Nature of science

    A model is a simplified imitation of something being studied. It helps us to better understand the topic. The Mexican wave model allows us to visualise wave behaviours in the classroom without having to travel to the coast.

    Related content

    Explore the fundamental characteristics of waves – these can help us understand why they behave the way they do. Waves transfer energy and shoaling converts the kinetic energy in a tsunami wave into potential energy. Comparing tsunamis and surf explores the key similarities and differences between tsunamis and surf waves.

    Activity ideas

    This interactive or paper-based Venn diagram can be used to illustrate the key similarities and differences between tsunami waves and surf waves.

    Use a shallow tray of water to demonstrate wave generation and behaviour.

    Read the Connected article The tsunami that washed time away and try the learning activities in the teacher support materials.

      Published 2 May 2011 Referencing Hub articles
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