Features of Waves Using Wikki Stix

By Laura Hospitál on Apr 25, 2016

While teaching the electromagnetic spectrum, it occurred to me that Wikki Stix would make a quick and easy model to supplement the raised line from the book.  Wikki Stix can easily be reshaped by the instructor or the student to model waves of varying wavelengths and energy levels.  

Related Vocabulary:

  • frequency - the number of waves that pass a given point in a second
  • wavelength - the distance from any point on a wave to the corresponding point on the next wave (for instance crest to crest)
  • amplitude - the maximum displacement of points on a wave
  • electromagnetic spectrum - all of the frequencies or the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation
  • crest - the point on a wave with the maximum value
  • trough - the minimum or lowest point on a wave cycle


  • Build several waves with Wikki Stix for each student:  one wave with a long wavelength and one wave with a shorter wavelength for each student. 



Part I - Instruction in wave properties

Use models of the waves to teach students the following properties of waves: (See defintions above.)

  1. crest
  2. trough
  3. wavelength
  4. amplitude 
  5. frequency


Part II -  Review wave properties using the models

  1. Review the parts mentioned in Part I by having student describe the wave properties using the model
  2. As a Warm-up - give each student 2 waves with different properties and pose questions such as:
    1. Choose the wave with the longer wavelength
    2. Choose the wave with the greater amplitude
    3. Find the trough of one of the  waves
    4. Find the crest of one of the waves



  • The Wikki Stix waves can be used for many other related activities depending on the lesson.  
  • Build appropriate waves to compare visible light and infrared light when discussing the SOFIA mission.

NGSS Standards:

Middle School - Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

PS4.A: Wave Properties

A simple wave has a repeating pattern with a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude. (MS-PS4-1)


High School: Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

PS4.B: Electromagnetic Radiation

  • Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features. (HS-PS4-3)
  • When light or longer wavelength electromagnetic radiation is absorbed in matter, it is generally converted into thermal energy (heat). Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells. (HS-PS4-4)
  • Photoelectric materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high-enough frequency. (HS-PS4-5)
PS4.C: Information Technologies and Instrumentation
Multiple technologies based on the understanding of waves and their interactions with matter are part of everyday experiences in the modern world (e.g., medical imaging, communications, scanners) and in scientific research. They are essential tools for producing, transmitting, and capturing signals and for storing and interpreting the information contained in them. (HS-PS4-5)
Collage of electromagnetic spectrum
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