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The telephone is a relatively simple device, which accounts in part for its quick spread across the United States and the world after Alexander Graham Bell created the first working set of telephones in 1876. But how does it work? This lesson discusses how our voices are transformed from sound waves into electricity, sent over telephone wires, and then transformed back again almost instantly on the other end.
Vital Stats:
Associated Subjects: Science, History, Social Studies
Grade Levels: 4-6
Time Required: one to two class periods
Skills Used: critical thinking, essay writing, listening, reading, working collaboratively
CO Curriculum Standards Addressed: History 1, 4; Science 1, 2, 5; Reading & Writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Guiding Questions:
Suggested Activities:
You've heard of the old tin can and string trick, right? Using two empty tin cans and string, you can make a rudimentary "telephone." Click here for instructions.

After reading the article in the Virtual Museum about how phones work, have the students describe (in their own words) the way in which Bell’s first telephones worked—which is virtually the same way telephones work today! If your students are particularly hands-on, you can attempt to build your own phone! (Or you can demonstrate it for them.) Contact THG for more information.

Have the students write an essay discussing how the phone works, and whether this has changed over time. Alternatively, give them a multiple choice or other exam about the same thing.

Extension: How does a cell phone work? Is it the same principle? How does any wireless phone work?

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