Sounds Around Us a two-Way Science Learning Unit for Beaufort-Delta & Old Crow Elementary Students



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Hunting Seals: This story is an adaptation of a story told Danny C. Gordon of Aklavik.


Muskrat have a very good sense of hearing. In the spring when we’re ‘ratting’ the sounds travel easily. You can hear sounds made from another lake. You can hear people far away from the camp. It’s not like that in the summer when you’re at the camp. Then the sounds are not so great. During ratting time it’s just like people are right there close by especially when it is colder in the late evening and early morning. This is the time when you are ratting. You can call the muskrat and they can hear the sound even though it’s so far away. They will come from the other side of the lake and it’s hard to believe they can hear from that far away. You travel by boat or canoe sometimes during ratting and pull your boat from lake to lake. The muskrat don’t seem to be too bothered by the noise of the kicker (outboard motor). You can talk quietly and the muskrats aren’t too bothered by that either. If the boat hits the ice and the muskrats are on the ice they are able to pick that up and they are gone immediately. They can sense that through the ice. If you are hauling the boat into a lake and there is thin young ice and the boat touches that ice it makes a loud sound and the rats can hear that to. They’ll dive into the water. So you have to be careful knowing what sounds they can hear. The sounds through the ice are the main thing. You can’t hit the ice with the boat. I am amazed how sensitive their hearing is to the sounds through the ice and the calling. When you call the muskrat they can hear you and they come right up to you. It’s only for a certain time of the year that they will come and then it’s over. It’s like a switch, after that they won’t respond to the call. After that they don’t respond to the calls. By sucking in your lips and making a vibrating sound between your lips, that’s how you can make the sound. Some people make a caller using a stick. When they’re mating in the spring they will travel a long way just to get to the sound they are making. It’s like they want to come right up to the boat and climb right into the boat. Really they just get so excited during mating season. That amazes me. When you are paddling you are always calling, but if you travel with outboard motor you don’t take the time to call. I think I would encourage young people to take their time and try to call. It makes it so much more challenging and interesting.


Some materials are better conductors of sounds than others
What You Need


  • Various types of string.

  • Plastic and Styrofoam cups.


What You Do


  • Review the activities in the previous section comparing the way in which sound travels through plastic and metallic objects. Students will be able to easily identify that sound travels through denser objects such as metals better than through plastic.





  • Have students make ‘string telephones’ by connecting a 5 m length of string through the holes in the bottom of two cups. Ensure the holes are not too large and that the ends of the string are knotted so that they don’t pull through the holes in the cups. Otherwise tie the string to a paper clip or button so it doesn’t pull through the cups.




  • Have students talk to each other through the cups. They should begin to realize that they work ‘best’ when the sting is tight (which is when the material is its densest). They should also realize that when the string is ‘pinched’ the vibration stops and sound is unable to pass through.




  • Have students test to find out what type of string or what type of cup makes the best phone. Typically the densest materials make the best sound conductors.


What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students identify and reason why some materials are better conductors of sound than others?

  • Can students identify that dense materials transmit sounds better than less dense objects?


Some materials reflect sound; some materials absorb sound.
What You Need


  • Plastic and Styrofoam cups.

  • Rice.

  • Different types of materials (aluminum foil, cloth, paper toweling, etc.)

  • Scotch tape.


What You Do
Have students in pairs place 10 or so grains of rice in a cup. Place another cup upside down on the other cup and scotch tape them together. Students should shake the cups and note the volume of the sound.
Challenge students to design and test what materials and combination of materials are the best for stopping the sound from leaving the cup. Ensure students only try a material alone first and then move towards other combinations. By so doing they should be able to deduce what materials are best for absorbing and reflecting sound.
Relate the stories about hunting seals to this activity. Seal hunters were aware that snow was a good insulator of sound and reduced sound transmission as compared to walking directly on ice. As well, standing on furs while waiting seals reduces sound transmission.
What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can they identify that less dense materials such as loosely woven cloth and furs are the most sound-absorbent?

  • Can they identify materials are the most reflective?


Hunting Caribou and Listening to Advice Hunting: This is an adaptation of an interview with Danny C. Gordon of Aklavik.
It was very difficult to hunt caribou in winter, especially when it is cold because the sound travels to well. The caribou were very alert. In the summer it was easier because the sounds we made did not travel as well and they were not as alert. Also there were more sounds around, like birds and the caribou would be occupied with eating. You had to be successful hunting because there was not much food. The whole village might be depending on you to be successful, especially in the winter. At that time of year there were not many caribou around. There might not be many opportunities to be successful so you had to hunt well and be successful. People depended on you. My dad told me I had to be a successful hunter and said there were ways you could be successful and I should listen. We would usually travel by dog team along the coast and when we saw caribou or signs of caribou we would leave the dogs and walk on foot. We would wear caribou fur on the bottom of our kamiqs so that we would not make sound when we walked. As well, we would make sure that our legs did not rub because even this rubbing would make a sound that the caribou could here. You had to be very careful not to make sound. When snowmobiles came it changed so rapidly. The first time I hunted with snowmobile I went with Tommy Ross on the west channel of the delta. We came on a herd of caribou as we were traveling. We stopped and instead of running away they came right up near the caribou. We were hunting for our families and killed a few of them. We were still on the skidoo and were able to go run through the herd. When we stopped the skidoo, and got off the skidoo and began to walk they recognized us as human and ran away. It was probably the first time they had seen caribou. After a few months they became very alert and would run when they saw the snowmobile but because we could travel faster than them and for a long period of time, it was no longer as difficult to hunt. The snowmobile changed all that. It suddenly became much easier. In my early days you needed lots of advice to be successful. Now it is easier. Advice is still very important but now it is easier to be successful.

Hunting Seals and Listening to Advice Hunting Seals: This is an adaptation of an interview with Nathan Qamaniq.
When I started hunting I had difficulty in harpooning a seal on a young ice. The sound travels and the seals can see so much easier. I grew to know how to better harpoon a seal. I would receive accurate information from people with experience. There is no doubt in my mind that the information I was given was accurate information. Indeed knowledge is most accurate especially from the hunters who have a lot of experience, indeed, they are accurate. One believes their word completely because they have experienced it. Sometimes you will be shown by the word of mouth, and you are an active hunter, from the information that you had heard. Then when the times come you will remember what you were told. This is a normal behavior, and in all of the cases the information is accurate, very accurate. You actually experience the things that you have been told about. So the advice that you got before, becomes useful information. I liked hunting alone but was told it was better with someone even though I enjoyed hunting alone. I never thought of getting a help, but my thoughts would be focused on the prime conditions for hunting certain species, but by myself not with help. It is easier when you hunt with someone and one stands still at the breathing hole. Maybe they would stand on snow or even on a caribou hide but it is very hard when you are on young ice with no snow. When you position yourself in the breathing hole, you must first familiarize yourself as to which direction the tide is going, so you must make your strike towards the direction of the tide flow. You do not just plunge in your harpoon right into the breathing hole. This is particularly in the case of hunting on a thin ice. In places where the tide current movement is, the seal will always face the flow of the current, and in areas where there is hardly any current flow. The seal will face the direction of the man who is QIKAALUK. To walk around or cover some ground in order to find breathing holes that might have been missed, and to generally act as decoy so that the seal can be led to the manned breathing hole QIKAALUK. It was easier with someone and at the beginning when I did not know these things but I Iistened to advice.


There are a variety of ways we make effort to change pitch and volume of sounds. Sounds that we make can be combined to entertain.
What You Need


  • Rubber bands of different thicknesses

  • Empty glass bottles

  • Water

  • Spoons

  • Someone to teach children about throat-singing.



What You Do


  • Repeat the activities related to the tightness and thickness of rubber bands. Have one student stretch the rubber band between their fingers and have the other pluck it. Have students tighten the rubber bands and pluck again. Have students ‘pinch’ the rubber bands to shorten the length of a rubber band and pluck this section. Have students try this gain using different thicknesses of string. Students should become aware that high pitches are associated with thin, short, tight rubber bands and low pitches are associated with thick, long, loose rubber bands. Relate high pitches to an increase in the frequency of vibrations.




  • Have students relate this to the range of pitches we can make with our voice and the operation of our vocal cords. Students should realize that girls voices although typically higher because their cords are shorter and thinner can still make lower sounds by relaxing the tension of their vocal cords.




  • As well have bottles filled with varying amounts of water and note that the volume of the air in the bottle influences the pitch of the sound make by striking a bottle. In the same way the shape of our mouth and the volume that results affects the pitch made by our voice.

Have a local community member share stories about traditional singing and share techniques.


What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students identify what changes can be made to materials to make high and low pitches?

  • Can they relate these changes to changes in vibration frequency?

  • Can they relate their experience in singing and the various notes and volumes they make to their knowledge of what contributes to changes in pitch?


If we can concentrate or collect sound waves we can

amplify sound.
What You Need
Materials such as construction paper, scotch-tape, scissors, styrofoam cups.
What You Do


  • This activity is an extension of a previous activity that examined the structure of the ear and how the outer ear collects sound waves and funnels them into the ear canal.




  • Examine the structure of ears and how we hear. Diagrams of the ear are valuable in explaining how our ears operate. It may be appropriate at this stage for a health-professional to talk to the students about ours, safety with our ears and what causes damage to the ears. This may be covered later in the Upper Primary learning activities where students are likely to have more self-reliability in looking after their ears in order to protect their hearing.




  • It is valuable for students to understand that the outer ear collects sounds. The shape of the outer ear is designed to not only protect the inner ear but also collect sounds. Get students to listen to someone talking quietly by (1) cupping their hand to collect the sounds and (2) roll up a piece of paper and place it near their ear canal in order to collect sounds?




  • Students might investigate whether a larger (longer and/or wider) paper cone improves the quality of their hearing. Get them to test these two ideas:




  1. Does a longer cone improve the quality of the sound?

  2. Does a wider come improve the quality of the sound?




  • Develop this idea further by having students design ‘ears’ out of various types of materials to improve their hearing. Have them test their ideas and evaluate the strengths and limitations of their designs.


What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students link the quality of the sound to the structure of the design?

  • Can they evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their design?

  • Do students’ draw upon their knowledge of animals and other ‘designs’ to inform their products and explanations?


Sounds and the way sounds are communicated in our community have changed. We make use of technologies associated with sound.
What You Need
The assistance of an older community member

Any historical visual information available that pertains to the local community


What You Do
Have students consider the various ways we communicate or receive or share information with sound in the community. Examples might include:


  • Telephone

  • Television

  • Sirens

  • Intercoms

  • CB radio

  • Radio

  • Internet

  • Musical Instruments

  • Sonograms - Ultrasound

  • DVDs

  • Musical Instruments

  • Satellite Communication

  • Hearing Aids

  • Stethoscopes



  • Discuss how this influences our life in terms of our well-being (entertainment, health, safety, maintaining relationships). Have students further consider limitations we still have for communication in our community. Have students consider what the methods for communicating were for their parents or grandparents generation and how this affected their life, especially in terms of their well-being.




  • Have a community member talk about the changes they have experiences in their life in how we communicate and how this has influenced our community’s well-being. Share some accounts from elders about how the difficulties in communication had serious consequences on their lives.

Students might be asked to illustrate how communication of sound has changed and how they imagine it might change in the future.


What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students identify changes that have occurred in sound communication?

  • Can they see that this has influenced our life in positive ways?

  • Can they see any negative effects of this influence?


Changes to Communication: Interview Adaptation from Rachel Ujarasuk. Her story is relevant to many communities in the north.

At the time when we started to live in houses, there was good lighting and fuel to heat the house, and we were being served by others. We do not need to provide our own heat, nor do we have to work to get lighting in our dwelling. It is for this we are cared for in comfort. Then there came a time when we were provided with telephone. In the earlier years when we were introduced to telephone, we could not figure out how they worked, how did the sound travel? We used to be so astonished. But after we had gotten use to them, it is not so astonishing anymore. Then we were provided with these things that we watch - what do you call these? TV? Yes, these things. When we got all of these things in our dwellings, now we are even more living in comfort. In those days, we had to visit our neighbor to check to see if they were okay, but now it is only a matter of using the phone to talk to them even if they live right next door. If it was not for these conveniences we would have to go and visit them to see what state they were in. So we are given all of these conveniences which give us all the comfort. We now can hear if something has happened in another community. Then there are these radios that we listen. We are informed about things that we should not have known otherwise. In fact we tend to react, “so this is the way it is.” Then there are those that have gone out hunting, we are informed about their activities. This is amazing, in fact it is unbelievable. Even we can now hear what is going on elsewhere, long distance from us. “How did they here about it?” or something else, this was the case when we started to use them, “how is that possible?” These are the things that we use to say: “Man, how skillful the white people are, who able to come up with all of these gadgets”. These are the things that really amaze us. This was because we were Inuit who were not familiar with these things. When we saw them used for the first time, we used to be really amazed with them, particularly able to hear someone that is so far, far away. Or we can see pictures on this gadget, they are moving with sound when you watch them, you are astonished, “How is it possible?” these were the things that we used to ask. But now we use them for conveniences as we are now used to them. In fact, sometimes we can call long distance. In fact, we get call from long distance. That is the way we are now.


Our hearing can be damaged.
What You Need
Disposable cups made of different materials

Materials that reflect and absorb sound

Safety ear plugs

Safety ear muffs

Diagram of the ear

Health-professional

Portable stereo
What You Do


  • Start lesson by listening to music softly. In a previous section we examined the structure and function of ears. It is appropriate to review this to understand what is occurring to allow us to hear the music. Begin to increase the volume emphasizing the increase energy of the sound waves and their impact on the ear drum. Continue to increase the volume until the sound is unbearable. Draw students’ attention to how they intuitively cover their ears to prevent the sound waves from entering the ears.




  • Draw students to a reminder of the measurement of sound and how a decibel reading of over 100 for a sustained period can cause ear damage.




  • Ask students to consider what we do to protect our ears and eliminate sounds. Allow students the opportunity to trial the efficiency of various types of ear protectors. Examine the structure and composition of these devices.




  • Have students to design and test the effectiveness of ear protectors they make using the materials provided.




  • Have a health-professional talk about ear and hearing-related problems with an emphasis on what they can do to reduce possibility of such problems occurring.




  • Discuss locations in the community and activities which may be particularly hazardous to our hearing.


What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students describe why sound volume may affect hearing?

  • Can students design hearing protectors with purpose understanding the quality of materials in terms of sound absorption?

  • Can students explain ways in which they can protect our ears?

  • Can students identify settings in which hearing may be damaged?


We can communicate without sounds.

What You Need
A community member that can communicate by sign-language.
What You Do


  • Start the class by acting out as a charade a person, place or thing. Have students figure out the charade based on the information communicated. Have students write on a piece of paper a name, place or object that will be placed in a hat and be acted out without words by their classmates. As students perform the charades emphasize the difficulty in communicating without vocalizing words.




  • This activity should set the foundation for a presentation pertaining to signing or other ways we communicate without spoken words (sight, touch, smell, taste)

Ask the community member to talk to the students about:




  • Reasons for hearing loss.

  • The ‘signing’ language.

  • Community responsibility towards the hearing-impaired.




  • Discuss other forms of communication that are not sound-dependent (Braille, lights and shipping navigation, distress signals). As well discuss methods we use to improve hearing loss (hearing aids, implants).



What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students demonstrate an understanding of what may contribute to hearing impairment?

  • Can students appreciate the difficulties experienced with hearing loss?


Animals can hear and create sounds.
What You Need


  • Community member with knowledge of animals and their sense of hearing. This may include a biologist or conservation officer working for the territorial government.

  • Illustrations or audiovisual material of northern animals (include birds, bear, caribou, walrus, seal)

  • Access to other resource material.


What You Do


  • Begin by showing students illustrations or audiovisual material of different animals. Have students list the animals in their journals and describe in their own words how they think these animals here. Students will observe that land animals have ears but air-borne and aquatic animals do not. Ask students to consider why external ears might not be present in air- and water-dwelling organisms. Ask students to consider what mechanisms these animals have to detect sounds. Emphasis should be on the concept of adaptation – specialized features that allow and organism to live within its environment successfully.




  • Students might research one animal to determine how they sense sounds (e.g., bear, walrus, snake, cricket, flies, whales, birds, seals, caribou, etc). This information could be presented visually to the class. Students should also investigate methods that these animals communicate.




  • Invite the community member to talk about the sense of hearing in animals important to Inuit. Focus the discussion around methods that are used to improve Inuit success in hunting or protecting these organisms.


What You Look For
The following questions should assist you in formatively assessing student learning. As well they might guide the entries students make in their science journals.


  • Can students relate the anatomy of an animal and its ability to hear and communicate within the constraints of the environment in which it lives?

  • Can students identify the importance of the hunting stories in improving success in subsistence?


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