Can You Explain Sound to a 5th Grader?

By Ross Brenneman — November 06, 2015 1 min read
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Hear ye, hear ye: This year’s Flame Challenge has been announced, and revolves around sound.

Every year, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, part of Stony Brook University in New York, offers a competition to see how well scientists can explain complex subjects to young students. Now in it’s fifth year, the Flame Challenge wants competitors to explain the concept of sound.

The Flame Challenge is a way to amplify the central mission of the center, which is to help scientists learn to explain wonky, difficult subjects in plain language. If you’ve ever read a research journal, you might understand why this idea would resonate with people.

All entries are voted upon by 5th and 6th grade students, who are registered as judges by their teachers. The competition is international in scope, so both scientists and students from around the world can participate. Teachers have until Dec. 21 to register their classes, and scientists have until Jan. 19, 2016 to submit entries, else they wave goodbye to $1,000 and special recognition at the World Science Festival next June.

Should scientists be unfamiliar with what an 11-year-old is like, the center has provided a helpful video.

Previous challenges have dared scientists to explain fire, time, color, and most recently, sleep. Eric C. Galicia, a master’s candidate at the Illinois Institute of Technology, beat the competition in the visual category this past year; watch his video to get a sense of the quality students are looking for:

Feel free to pitch any good ideas in the comments.

Image: Surfing on a sound wave. Credit: Wikipedia

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.