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Mapping the Sounds of Nature

Our Marketing Assistant and Metadata Coordinator, Alli Rose tasked her children Bella (9) and Callum (6) to an activity from the Big Book of Nature Activities by Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg. Now that school is taking place at home, and parents are scrambling to get fun educational activities for their children, she thought she'd try out an activity from one of our books.

The activity, Mapping Sounds in Nature, invites children to explore sounds in nature and then to map them on a Sound Map of their creation. Find out how it went, and how you can create your own, below.

Excerpt from the book The Big Book of Nature Activities

Mapping Sounds of Nature

Sound Map example from The Big Book of Nature

Each time they hear a sound, they should mark its location (direction and distance) and represent it with a simple symbol (e.g., a few parallel lines for wind, a musical note for bird song, a number after the note for each different bird). Show them how to cup their hands in front of and behind their ears to hear sounds from all directions (see Focused Hearing, page 270).

Choose a site and time of day with a variety of natural sounds. Edge habitats near a marsh can be excellent. Give each child an index card with an X in the center. Tell them the card is a map and the X is where they’ll be sitting.

Bella in her happy place, up in a tree creating her Sound Map

Callum hard at work listening to the sounds around him

Make sure each child finds a listening place well-separated from other children. Listen for 5–10 minutes, depending on the variety of sounds and the age of participants. Encourage kids to share their maps with a partner, identifying both natural and human-related sounds. Bring the group together and discuss the following:

  • How many different sounds did you hear?
  • Which sounds did you particularly like?
  • What sounds were new to you?
  • Who/what may have made them?
  • Which were natural and which were caused by humans?
  • Do some of these sounds have a purpose? If so, what might this be?

Bella's Sound Map

Callum's Sound Map

About the Authors

Author Drew Monkman

Author Jacob Rodenburg

Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg are the authors of The Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-Round Guide to Outdoor Learning.

Jacob Rodenburg is the Executive Director of Camp Kawartha, an award winning summer camp and outdoor education centre which uses music, drama, hands-on exploration, games and activities to inspire awe and wonder for the local environment. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

Drew Monkman is a retired elementary school teacher, his interest in integrating nature activities and environmental education into all areas of the curriculum led him to oversee the development of an outdoor classroom which went on to become a model for many similar projects throughout Ontario. He lives in Peterborough, Ontario.

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