Earth Science Week Classroom Activities

Using Soundscapes to Analyze Environments

Activity Source:

National Park Service. Developed by Lindsay Mossa, AGI.

If you were to make observations of your local environment, what types of data would you collect? Have you ever considered the sounds of the environment to be an important factor? Consider what information sounds can provide about the condition of an environment. Many ecologists study specific environments using their natural combination of sounds, called a soundscape. This innovative technique allows scientists to use more types of evidence to describe an environment and study how it may change over time.


• Computer with internet access
• Access to a safe outdoor space


  1. With your eyes closed, listen to the video at:

    a. Count how many different sounds you hear.
    b. What types of environments do you think are shown in the video?

  2. The diagram to the left shows Earth’s systems, which are also called spheres. List some examples of sounds you heard from the video that come from each sphere. If any sphere is not represented, think of other environments where this sphere might be heard.

  3. Open a window or go outdoors. What sounds do you notice?

  4. Make a data table to record your observations. Sit or lie still for 5–10 minutes and record the sounds you hear.

  5. If possible, repeat step 4 at a different time of day.


  1. Compare the sounds in your area to those in the video from step 1. Which environment shown in the video sounds most like your area? What are some differences in the sounds?

    a. Do you think the human-made sounds interfered with your ability to hear natural sounds?
    b. What effect do you think human-made sounds could have on animal populations?
    c. Human-made noise is sometimes referred to as noise pollution. Why do you think this is?

  2. Describe a sound that is made by the interaction of two or more of Earth’s spheres. What information could this sound give you about the environment?

  3. What information can you learn about an environment by listening to and studying its soundscape?

  4. Describe a scenario in which you would expect an environment’s soundscape to change.

    a. In this scenario, which of Earth’s spheres:

    • is responsible for the change in the environment?
    • would contribute more or less to the environment’s soundscape after the change?


Go to and learn more about Lewis and Clark National Historical Park by exploring soundscapes. If you were to make a soundscape StoryMap of your area, what sound clips would you include and why?


Exploring National Parks with Soundscapes:


SEP : Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information; Engaging in Argument from Evidence
DCI : ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and System; PS4.A: Wave Properties
CCC : Patterns; Energy and Matter; Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology


15 : Life on Land