The Lesson Plan
As we have traveled through the woods today, have we seen many animals? No? Does that mean they are not there? One reason we do not see them is animals tend to be masters of camouflage. Also, they hear us coming long before we get to where they are. We are going to take the next 10 minutes to sit quietly and see if we can hear any activity happening around us that we haven’t noticed before. Pay attention to the sounds, the similarities and differences. You may want to close your eyes. We rely so much on sight for observation, but our other senses can give us valuable information as well.
The students should get out their journals or teachers pass out art paper and choice of art materials listed. Let them know that you will soon be spreading them out along the trail (or along the bridge, or the dam, or…) where they will sit quietly and emphasize that they cannot talk to their neighbors. You could open the dialogue with them, by asking what is sound? Discuss how sound is the movement of air (sound travels in waves, whether through air, water or a solid) and describe how sound is multi-faceted or multi-dimensional.
Demonstrate this next part for them on a piece of paper or small white board and show them examples of other sound maps. Explain to them they are not creating an accurate or realistic drawing of what is making the sound, the bird or machine. Instead, they are making graphic marks on the page, a logo or symbol of the sound itself. Direct them to listen to the shape of the sound, is it full, or tiny? What is the rhythm of the sound? Does it have jagged edges, or one long thin note? Have them write in their journal these words that will help them to give a fuller description of the sound graphically: it’s direction, speed, shape, volume, rhythms and patterns, color, and placement in space. Direct them to think about the location of the sound in relationship to where they are sitting, is it in front of them or above them, and where each sound is in relationship to the other sound. Remind them that sounds may overlap one another and that they should show that on their paper. For those students who are more comfortable using words, ask them to try the symbol approach first and if this is not working then use words to describe the sounds. Since this is a lesson in support of intuitive and non-linear ways of learning, try to stay away from expecting them to know the taxonomy of the bird sounds at this time.
Once they are settled into their spot, let them know they should take out their journal and other art materials. They will spend the next 10-15minutes focusing on the sounds of the forest. Each time they hear something they create a graphic mark on their paper using the above directions.
Tell them that you will signal them when there are 5 minutes left in the exercise.
Have the students share their sound maps with the rest of the group. Talk about how it is different when using the sense of sound as opposed to the sense of sight. Help them to think about how they might know those sounds more completely by remembering the symbol they created. What were some things you heard? Were you surprised by the number of sounds you heard? Did your mind ever wander? Did you notice fewer sounds during those times? When you heard birds in the bushes, were they loud or quiet? How loud do you think we sound to them?
Make sure they aren’t sitting in a patch of stinging nettles or blackberries.
Pictures of Practice
Sound mapping, as described above, can be an incredible way to encourage students to quiet themselves, focus intently on an ecosystem, interpret their surroundings through a different sense, and communicate their experience with others. A shorter version of this activity can provide many of the same benefits in only 10-20 minutes, making it a great addition to an outdoor evening program or Solo Sit. It also can be used before or after Each One Teach One or Solo Walk, when students depart or arrive at staggered times.
This video shows one way to introduce a simplified sound mapping activity, and these tips will help you lead it more effectively: