Sound Wave
Light, Sound and Waves

Sounds in the environment

Classroom Activity for 5-11 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

Comparing natural and man-made sounds.

This activity is useful to begin to develop a descriptive language for sound (recognising the many qualities of the sound in addition to the more common quantitative measures). We think it's good to recognise the richness of the sense of hearing, rather than focusing in too rapidly on loudness and pitch as being the most easily quantified descriptions of the sounds.

So this is an exploratory activity, and is therefore somewhat divergent.

What to Prepare

  • scouted locations where a range of natural and man made sounds can be heard

What Happens During this Activity

This approach can be used at any time in the children’'s exploration of sound. It can be used as a starting point or to extend their understanding.

The children categorise the different sounds that they hear. You'll want to choose the categories with the abilities and interests of you class in mind. There are no rigid categories that are invariably useful at this early and exploratory stage.

You'll want to explore a variety of different ways of noticing and noting the differences and similarities. Discussion here supports both reasoning and a variety of representations is likely to prove fruitful if encouraged.

Here are some questions that we found useful to direct thinking:

Teacher: What would the world sound like without humans on the planet?

Teacher: What would the world sound like if there were no machines?

Teacher: What would the world sound like without birdsong?

Teacher: How can you explain to a friend that one sound is from a bird or animal, whilst another is artificial?

Teacher: Can you block out human noises?

Teacher: What's so special about hearing a human speak?

Teacher: Is this music? How would we decide if something is not music?

Teacher Tip: This can be used specifically in a science session or could lead to a cross-curricular imaginative writing activity in which the ideas of sound as travelling vibrations can be explored.

Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today