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Lesson Three: How do animals create sound to communicate?


Sounds can be made by tapping (percussion instruments), plucking (stringed instruments) or blowing air (wind and brass instruments) across an object or instrument. Each of these actions causes vibration. We hear sound when a moving object makes the air vibrate. The vibrations travel through the air in waves and are detected by our ears as sounds.

Learning Outcomes:

The students will show how sound is caused by vibrations. The student will identify two animals that use objects in their environments to help create a specific sound.

Curriculum Alignment:

National Science Education Standards

Content Standard A: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

  • Understanding about scientific inquiry.
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses.

Content Standard B: Physical Science

  • Position and motion of objects
  • Sound is produced by vibrating objects. The pitch of the sound can be varied by changing the rate of vibration.

Content Standard C: Life Science

  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Organisms and their environments

Content Standard E: Science and Technology

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understanding about science and technology
  • Abilities to distinguish between natural objects and objects made by humans.

NCSCOS Music Objectives

Goal 1: The learner will sing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music. (National Standard 1)

  • 1.01 Sing simple songs with increased pitch accuracy.
  • 1.02 Match pitch within a developmentally appropriate vocal range, using head tones.
  • 1.03 Sing simple songs with increased rhythmic accuracy.
  • 1.09 Show respect for the singing efforts of others.

Goal 8: The learner will understand relationships between music, the other arts, and content areas outside the arts. (National Standard 8)

  • 8.01 Identify similarities and differences in the meanings of common terms used in the other arts.
  • 8.02 Identify ways in which the principles and subject matter of other content areas taught in the school are related to those of music.


One 60 minute period


  • Tuning forks for the class,
  • Centers set up



Sing the following familiar songs: Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Happy Birthday to You. Alter the starting pitches of these songs. Sing one song in the normal voice range, one extremely high and one extremely low. Feel your throat as you are humming or singing a song. Discuss what is felt as we make sound. Discuss the word vibrations.


Show students a tuning fork and ask if they know how to utilize the percussion instrument. Explain that you strike the tuning fork against a surface to produce sound. Have students work in pairs and provide them with one tuning fork each. Encourage students to strike the tuning fork on their hand, on a rubber soled shoe and chair to make a sound. Allow students time to explore sounds. Visit each group and discuss what they have noticed about their tuning forks. Ask students to touch the tuning fork. Encourage students to make observations using the senses of sight, touch and hearing.


Discuss with students what caused the tuning forks to make a sound. Ask students what their throat and the tuning fork had in common. Students should recognize that both were vibrating when sound was created. Discuss what made them vibrate.


Establish that the vibrating mechanism inside of the throat is the larynx. Many people call it their voice box. The larynx houses the vocal chords. During speech, the vocal cords are stretched across the larynx. As air pushes between the cords, they vibrate and produce sound. Various muscles adjust the tension and space of the vocal cords which causes varying of pitch of the sounds produced. Extend and pluck a large then a small rubber band to simulate the varying vibration of the vocal chords. Have students strike their tuning forks again to remind them of its vibrations. Establish that the tuning fork vibrates because it is made out of metal. Explore the musical dynamics of the tuning fork by striking it against hard and soft surfaces. Many classroom examples include composition notebooks, carpet square, bongo, tambourine, tile floor, file cabinet, etc.. Discuss amplification. Strike the tuning fork against a hard surface and place it on the soundboard of a piano or guitar. Lead student discussion on what they heard. The piano and guitar amplify the sound the same as an electronic speaker. Divide students into groups and send each to a center to further investigate the vibrating tuning forks. They will record similarities with objects in centers and events that happened in others. Discuss how some animals make sounds similar to humans and use these sounds to communicate with other members of their species. The voice in humans is called the larynx. In birds it is called a syrinx. Explore the similarities and differences of the larynx and syrinx. View powerpoint of How we produce sound

Center One:

Metal coat hangers and yarn: students take a meter long piece of yarn and place it through a metal coat hanger. They place each end of the yarn around their ears like glasses. They swing the hanger and hit it against a wall. Answer: How is this similar to the tuning fork? What is this medium?

Center Two:

3 or 4 Coffee cans or large mouth cups or containers, rubber bands, assortment of wax paper, cellophane, aluminum foil and salt. Cover top of can with wax paper, secure with a rubber band. Pour salt on the wax paper. Strike tuning fork and bring close the salt. What happened? What is this medium?

Center Three:

Toilet tissue tubes, rubber bands and wax paper. Make a kazoo by securing the wax paper over one end of the tissue roll with a rubber band. Pucker the lips and blow/toot into the tube. Feel the wax paper. What were the similarities with the tuning fork? What is this medium?

Center Four:

Several small bowls of water. Strike tuning fork and record what happened when it was placed in the water. What is this medium? Run finger around rim of bowl to see if you can make a sound.

Center Five:

Students will view and examine clips of a Borneo frog and woodpecker that use hollow trees to alter the dynamics of the sound they are creating.


Create a Venn diagram for three centers.

BioMusic graphic


Centers can be adapted depending on size of class. Vocabulary:


  • Percussion instrument – a musical instrument that is sounded by striking, shaking, rubbing, or scraping. Instruments such as drums , maracas, tambourines and bells fall into this category
  • String instrument – a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings thru bowing, plucking or striking. The most common string instruments in the string family are guitar, violin, viola, cello, double bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele
  • Woodwind instrument – a musical instrument which produces sound when the player blows air against the mouthpiece causing air to vibrate within a resonator. Most of these instruments were originally made of wood, but some, such as the saxophone and most flutes, are now commonly made of other materials such as metals or plastics
  • Brass instrument - a metal musical instrument whose tone is produced by vibration of the lips as the player blows into a tubular resonator. Trumpets, tubas, trombones and french horns are members of the brass family
  • Vibration - the back and forth motion of an object; mechanical oscillations about an equilibrium point
  • Larynx - organ of voice in mammals; commonly known as the voice box; tubular chamber about 2 inches high, consisting of walls of cartilage bound by ligaments and membranes, and moved by muscles
  • Syrinx - the vocal organ of birds located at the base of a bird's trachea which produces sounds without the vocal cords of mammals. The sound is produced by vibrations caused by air flowing through the syrinx. Unlike the larynx of mammals, the syrinx is located where the trachea forks into the lungs, and because of this some songbirds can produce more than one sound at a time
  • Tuning forks - an acoustic resonator in the form of a two-pronged fork with the tines formed from a U-shaped bar of elastic metal
  • Amplification - a natural or artificial device intended to make a signal stronger