Nature provides us with many unforgettable sounds. Breezes whistling through the leaves, birds singing early in the morning, and streams gurgling over rocks are just some of the sounds children recognize.
Doing the Activity
Sound helps animals in a number of ways.
Explain to children that having ears on opposite sides of our heads enables us (and other animals) to judge the location a sound comes from.
Find a safe, comfortable outdoor space where children can sit quietly. Then have them close their eyes and listen to the sounds around them for several minutes.
Provide pencils, crayons, and paper, and ask children to make a “sound map.” They can put an X in the middle of a page to represent themselves, and then use pictures or words to show the locations of the sounds around them. Encourage them to use lines to show directions and distances.
When reviewing the sound map, ask children: Which sounds did you like most? Least? What else did you hear? What might have caused the sounds you heard?
Ask children to name some animals that are active at night. Do they have any special adaptations for seeing and hearing in the dark? For example, foxes have large ears for picking up small sounds.
Have children mimic fox ears by cutting off the bottoms of paper cups and gently fitting the cups over their ears (see example below). How does this change what you hear? Can you add any new sounds to your map after listening with these new ears?
Download this Activity
- Download this activity in English: Sounds Around
- Descarga la actividad en español: Los sonidos que nos rodean
Video Demonstration for Doing this Activity
Watch this video (15 minutes) for a demonstration of how to do PLT’s Sounds Around activity to engage children in the sounds of nature. This video was produced by our Colorado PLT Coordinator Danielle Ardrey with the Colorado State Forest Service. Get step-by-step instructions, some guiding questions for children, and see the “sound map” Danielle created in her backyard.
Children’s Book Recommendation
Try using your hearing with The Listening Walk, by Paul Showers.
In this book, a young girl takes a quiet walk with her father and identifies the different sounds they hear. Take your own walk and give it a try. Will you be surprised? Ages 3-6. ISBN: 9780064433228.
Get the Full Activity
This family activity is adapted from Project Learning Tree’s PreK-8 Environmental Education Activity Guide which can be obtained through an in-person professional development workshop or online course.
A Collection of Fun, Easy to Do Outdoor Activities for Families
Our 58-page guide contains 36 family activities to try while visiting a local park, walking in the forest, or exploring your backyard—plus activities to do around your home and indoors, when you can’t get outside.
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