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Grades K-2

How can you make sounds louder to your ears? In this lesson, the students will discover that they can hear better by helping catch and focus sounds. They will compare with paper cones and cupped hands the loudness and softness of sounds. The students will also examine the shape of their outer ears, and appreciate how the shape helps them hear better.
Head to Toe #111: Sounds
The Inside Story with Slim Goodbody #106: The Sensational Five

The students will discover ways to make sounds louder to their ears.
The students will relate the structure of the outer ear to its function of catching sounds.
The students will measure the distance they are from a sound before they can hear it.
The students will compare the distance they are from a sound, with and without the aid of a paper cone to focus the sound waves.

For the class:

Note: This activity is best performed outside so that the children can mark their distance from the sound source with chalk along a straight line on the ground. You can also do this in a hallway, marking distance with masking tape.

Make a quiet sound. Ask the children how well they could hear it. What might help them hear the sound better? Repeat the sound as the children try different positions and methods of improving their hearing, such as turning their heads. If they have not already done so, have the children cup their hands behind their ears. Does this help?
Tell the students to watch the video, looking for ways that the scientist focuses the sound waves to make them easier to hear.

CUE the video to the segment when the scientist says; "The part of your ear that you can see is called the outer ear." (about 4 minutes into the program)
Show the segment. FREEZE frame at each different part of the ear. Write the name on the board and have the children repeat the word. STOP the video after 2:11 minutes, when he says, "...and that hole goes here."

Discuss the video. What were some ways the scientist improved his hearing (he cupped his hands behind his ears, he turned toward the sound source, and he held a paper cone to his ear)?
Take the class to the experiment site. Have one student from each pair sit in the chair with eyes closed. Have the partner walk toward them along the straight line holding the ticking clock. The student in the chair raises his/her hand as soon as the sound is audible. The walking student should stop. The student in the chair gets up and writes his/her name on the ground where the partner is standing. Repeat this procedure for each student.
Discuss the results. What do the distances tell us about each student's hearing ability? They should understand that students who were able to hear the sound at a greater distance have more sensitive hearing.
Tell the students they are going to do an experiment to see if a paper cone will help them hear the sound better.

Repeat the hearing experiment, this time using the paper cone. Mark the results with a different color of chalk.
Have the class look at the 2 sets of data. How do the measured distances demonstrate that the cone improved hearing? Older students can use standardized measurements (such as meters or feet) to compare the differences in distance.

To learn about the structure of the inner ear, show the video "The Inside Story with Slim Goodbody: The Sensational Five." Start viewing about 6 minutes into the program, when Slim finishes singing about vibrations. Stop the video after 2:45 minutes, after he says, "...and these 3 bones could fit into a box no bigger than a sugar cube."
Emphasize that the bones and structures of the inner ear are delicate and extremely small. Lead a discussion about ear safety. Students should never put anything in their ears, because they could puncture the ear drum. They also should avoid exposure to loud noises.

1. Have students make their own paper cones in variety of sizes. Have them explore the relationship between the size of the cone and its effect on their hearing.
2. Study the ears of different animals. Discuss which animals might have better hearing, by examining the size and shape of their outer ears.
3. To learn how deaf children can dance to the vibrations of sounds, view the video segment about a deaf dance troupe in Science is Elementary: Let's Explore Sound. The segment starts about 10 minutes into the program and lasts about 2:30 minutes.


If any of your students are deaf or hard-of-hearing, America OnLine has "A place for deaf students to find each other." This area is in the Electronic Schoolhouse area, Student to Student.
Learn more about deafness online by logging onto:
Deaf World Web
Deaf World Web's goal is to "maintain information available on the deaf around the world and to provide free services to the individuals, researchers, and non-profit organizations worldwide-to eliminate the ignorance, oppression, fear, and approach of subtle eugenics." This site provides comprehensive information and links to other sites.

Master Teachers: Meg Hudson, Sarah L. Hudson, and Linda Barnett

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