Doppler Effect Lesson Plan

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Use this lesson plan to introduce students to the Doppler Effect. Students will watch a video lesson, discuss the phenomenon, and conduct a hands-on lab activity. Updated: 01/08/2020

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define Doppler Effect
  • describe how the Doppler Effect occurs in the natural world


60-90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.


  • Video clip of an emergency vehicle passing by an observer (there are several of these readily available online).

Each lab group (or individual student) will need:

  • 3 meters of string
  • Tennis ball
  • Knife
  • Buzzer
  • Batteries that fit the buzzer
  • 4 rubber bands
  • Newspaper
  • Screw
  • Screwdriver

Teacher Tip: If you conduct this lab activity with your most trustworthy group first, all of your other groups can use the pre-constructed apparatus instead of having to build it themselves.

NOTE: An alternative activity is provided at the end of this lesson plan in case you cannot obtain these materials.


  • To start the lesson, show a video clip of an emergency vehicle passing by an observer. Or, you can simply have a student describe the experience of having an emergency vehicle (or a train) drive past them. What does it sound like?
  • Begin the video lesson The Doppler Effect: Definition, Examples & Applications. Pause the video at 1:07 to discuss the following questions:
    • What is the Doppler Effect?
    • How do we perceive the Doppler Effect in the real world?
    • Is the Doppler Effect just a phenomenon of sound waves?
  • Resume the video. Pause it again at 3:45. Discuss the following questions:
    • What is frequency? How is frequency important to us?
    • What is actual frequency as compared to apparent frequency?
    • How are these terms related to the Doppler Effect?
  • Resume the video. Pause it again at 6:22. Discuss the following:
    • How does the Doppler Effect happen in sound waves? Why is this important to us?
    • What is a shock wave? When might one happen?
    • What is a sonic boom? When might one happen?
    • What does the term 'supersonic' mean? What objects might be supersonic?
  • Resume and finish the video. Discuss:
    • What can the Doppler Effect tell us about the universe?
    • What is red shift? Blue shift?
    • Why is it important for us to study red and blue shift? What do we learn from them?

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