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Let’s Make Waves

Many children hold misconceptions about the nature of water waves. One common misconception is that waves are generated from within the water. Although that may appear to be true, most waves — and certainly the waves most children see — are actually generated by wind. As wind travels across the water’s surface, it pushes against the water and energy in the wind is absorbed by the water.

Another common misconception is that as a wave moves the water itself moves with the wave. In fact, a wave is the movement of energy through water. The water moves up and down, but not sideways in the direction of the wave’s motion. The energy from wind moves in the direction of the wind. The energy moves from water molecule to water molecule, making each molecule move in a small circle. When one molecule bangs into its neighboring molecule, energy transfers to that neighboring molecule

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