Bend It, Break It

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this activity (on pages 25-32 of PDF), learners make models of the inner ear out of pipe cleaners. They learn about how tiny hairs pick up vibrations from our ear, and how damage to these hairs results in permanent hearing loss. The lesson plan includes images of actual ear cilia, both healthy and damaged. There is also information about the three effective ways to prevent hearing loss: turn it down, move away, or protect your ears.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • Pipe cleaners (chenille stems) – 12” (4 or 6 mm)
  • Picture of the ear showing the location of the hair cells of the inner ear (Appendix C, page 49 in PDF)
  • Picture of healthy and damaged hair bundles (Appendix D, pages 51-53 in PDF)
  • Music source – radio, speakers on computer, etc.
  • Pencils and paper for students to draw pictures of what they see


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Hearing
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Sound


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Institutes of Health, National Center for Research Resources, "Science Education Partnerships Award", R25 RR15634