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Learning objects Sound: thunderstorms

TLF ID L2537

Explore the movement of light and sound from a lightning strike during a thunderstorm. Measure the time delay between seeing a lightning flash and hearing the sound of thunder. Use the time difference and speed of sound to estimate the distance to the lightning strike. For example, if thunder is heard six seconds after seeing lightning, then the lightning strike must be about two kilometres away. This learning object is one in a series of four objects.

Educational details

Key learning objectives
  • Students identify that light travels much faster than sound.
  • Students relate the speed of sound to the distance travelled by thunder before it is heard by an observer.
Educational value
  • Introduces the speed of sound and the speed of light.
  • Defines and explores lightning and thunder.
  • An interactive stopwatch helps students to measure and record elapsed time.
  • Demonstrates that the time difference between perceiving lightning and thunder is a reliable guide to how far away a lightning strike has occurred.
  • Tests understanding of key concepts through multiple-choice questions.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8

Learning area
  • science
  • Science/Physical sciences
  • Science/Science inquiry skills
  • Science/Science understanding
    • Science/Sound
    • Science/Weather
    • Science/Electricity
    • Science/Light
    • Science/Natural phenomena
    • Knowledge;
    • Comprehension;
    • Application;
    • Analysis
    Student activity
    • Interactives;
    • Analysis;
    • Modelling;
    • Estimation
    Learning design
    • Experiential learning;
    • Independent learning;
    • Problem solving;
    • Visual learning

    Other details

    • Script writer
    • Name: Rod Rees
    • Organisation: Rees Films Pty Ltd
    • Address: Blackburn VIC 3130 Australia
    • Subject matter expert
    • Name: Rod Rees
    • Organisation: Rees Films Pty Ltd
    • Address: Blackburn VIC 3130 Australia
    • Educational validator
    • Name: Denis Goodrum
    • Organisation: Australian National University
    • Address: Canberra ACT 2600 Australia
    • URL:
    • Technical implementer
    • Publisher
    • Date of contribution: 28 Jan 2014
    • Organisation: Education Services Australia
    • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
    • URL:
    Access profile
    • Colour independence
    • Device independence
    Learning resource type
    • Interactive Resource
    • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 8.0 (MS-Windows) - maximum version: 9.0 (MS-Windows)
    • Firefox - minimum version: (MS-Windows)
    • Safari - minimum version: 5.1 (MacOS)
    Operating systems
    • MacOS - minimum version: 10.6
    • MS-Windows - minimum version: XP - maximum version: 7
    • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.