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Say WHAT? Understanding Our Hearing and How We Can Protect It. Heidi Chase Kozminski Community Academy, Chicago Public Schools IIT Research Mentor: Ralph Muehleisen.

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say what understanding our hearing and how we can protect it

Say WHAT? Understanding Our Hearing and How We Can Protect It.

Heidi Chase

Kozminski Community Academy, Chicago Public Schools

IIT Research Mentor: Ralph Muehleisen

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. EEC-0502174. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

  • Subject: Elementary Science, Sound and Hearing
  • Target audience: Third Grade Students
  • Time requirement: 10 Lessons, approximately 50 minutes each


  • Students will identify differences in sound based on volume, pitch, and timbre.
  • Students will identify different parts of the ear and explain the functions of each.
  • Students will explain how sound enters through the ear and transfers to the brain.
  • Students will rate levels of sound based on both what they hear and the decibel system.
  • Students will identify safe levels of sound for humans to hear.
  • Students will identify the sound level that works best for learning in the classroom.
  • Inquiry/Problem Solving:
    • Students will follow and develop procedures to answer the questions: 1) How does a harmonica change pitch? 2) How can we best reduce the level of sound that enters our ears.
  • Design:
    • Students will create a model of the ear. Students will develop a hearing protection device.
  • Ethics:
    • Students will write about and discuss the value of having sound limits on personal music systems. Students will discuss and modify classroom volume based on learning abilities and sound.
illinois learning standards
Illinois Learning Standards

Science Learning Standards:

  • 11A - Students who meet the standard know and apply the concepts, principles, and processes of scientific inquiry.
  • 11B - Students who meet the standard know and apply the concepts, principles, and processes of technological design.
  • 12A - Students who meet the standard know and apply concepts that explain how living things function, adapt, and change.
  • 12C - Students who meet the standard know and apply concepts that describe properties of matter and energy and the interactions between them.
  • 13A - Students who meet the standard know and apply accepted practices of science.
  • 13B - Students who meet the standard know and apply concepts that describe the interaction between science, technology, and society.
illinois learning standards6
Illinois Learning Standards

English Language ArtsStandards:

  • 3A - Students who meet the standard can use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization and structure.
  • 3B - Students who meet the standard can compose well-organized and coherent writing for specific purposes and audiences.
  • 3C - Students who meet the standard can communicate ideas in writing to accomplish a variety of purposes.
  • 4A - Students who meet the standard can listen effectively in formal and informal situations.

Mathematics Standards:

  • 8B - Students who meet the standard can interpret and describe numerical relationships using tables, graphs, and symbols.
  • 10A - Students who meet the standard can organize, describe and make predictions from existing data.

Health Standards:

  • 22C - Students who meet the standard can explain how the environment can affect health.
  • 23A - Students who meet the standard can describe and explain the structure and functions of the human body systems and how they interrelate.
  • List of topics covered by “teacher notes”
    • Anatomy of the ear.
    • Sound waves and differences in sound information.
    • Noise induced hearing loss information.
    • Comparative chart of various levels of noise.
    • Instructions on how to make palm pipes.
    • Supplemental materials: worksheets, graphic organizers, charts and quizzes.
  • Lesson 1: Changes In Sound Part 1

This lesson introduces students to the study of sound. Students will make and discuss observations of sounds they hear. They will also take the unit pre-test.

  • Lesson 2: Changes In Sound Part 2

The second lesson focuses on explaining pitch and timbre to the students through demonstrations. Students will partake in teacher-run demos of pitch. They will use the True Audio software to see differences in sound waves based on timbre. Students will be able to experiment with this software using different instruments available in the classroom.

  • Lesson 3: Changes In Sound Part 3

This is an inquiry based lesson intended to both work with sound and give the students insight as to how scientists do their work. Students will explore the use of palm pipes and xylophones to see how these instruments change to create different pitches. Students will look for patterns and use the information to develop a procedure to answer the question, “How do harmonicas make different pitches?” To conclude this lesson, the process that students went through to test and change theories will be connected to scientific work.

  • Lesson 4: Ear Anatomy Part 1

This lesson’s purpose is to introduce students to the vocabulary of ear anatomy, allow them to design how they think an ear works, and work as members of a team. Students will draw a design of the outer and inner ear, explain their design, justify their choices, and evaluate members of the group based on participation in the activity.

  • Lesson 5: Ear Anatomy Part 2

Groups will present their design ideas for the inner ear. The teacher will go over the content of how the different parts of the ear work together to transfer sound to the brain. As the teacher explains this, the students will fill out a study guide labeling different parts of the ear.

  • Lesson 6: Volume and Hearing Loss Part 1

This lesson will include two demonstrations of sound waves and volume. Once students learn how volume “looks” they will hypothesize on how volume connects to ear anatomy to lead to hearing loss. Finally, students will be given a chart of various decibel levels and comparable sounds. Students will transfer this information into a bar graph and make a color coded key for dangerous levels of sound.

  • Lesson 7: Volume and Hearing Loss Part 2
    • The first part of this lesson focuses on ear protection. Students will use the chart and graph from the previous day to brainstorm ways to protect their ears from the dangerous sounds they interact with the most.
Lesson 7: Volume and Hearing Loss Part 2 Continued
    • The second part of this lesson is an ethical debate. The class will (with a pros/cons graphic organizer) share ideas that answer the question, “Now that we know that continued exposure to noise can be very damaging to our ears, do you think there should be rules or regulations on how loud these sounds are allowed to be?” Another topic to be posed is noise regulations based on annoyance. Since we cannot always completely control sound to stay in one area, should there be regulations to protect people who do not want to hear other people’s noise? Once ideas are shared, students will use their graphic organizer to help them write a 3-5 paragraph essay choosing one side of the debate.
  • Lesson 8: Classroom Noise
    • For this lesson students will use a sound level meter to learn the decibel level of the classroom when everyone is quiet- the decibel level of background noise. The problem will then be posed that to effectively learn in the classroom the teaching volume must be 15 decibels louder than that of the background noise. Students will calculate safe lengths of time to be exposed to each volume.
  • Lesson 8: Classroom Noise Continued
    • To demonstrate how volume can affect learning and thinking, students will take four mini math quizzes that are two minutes in length. At two minute intervals a stereo in the background will progressively increase in volume. The papers will be graded as a class and the results discussed.
    • Students will write a three paragraph essay stating what they think the best noise level would be in the classroom. When students are finished writing ideas will be shared.
  • Design project or experiment

The final design project will span over two days and have two separate goals. On the first day students will participate in an inquiry-based activity exploring different ways to mute sound. On the second day students will design a form of hearing protection that they would use in an environment they regularly encounter.

  • How will you integrate inquiry or problem solving?

On day one students will be posed with the question of “How can you most effectively mute the sound of various noise makers?” Students will be responsible for developing a procedure to test different methods, making a comparative chart of their collected data, and coming to a conclusion based on their tests.

  • How will you incorporate design?

On the second day of the design project students will design a product to protect their ears from a too-loud noise they regularly encounter.

  • How will you include ethics?

Students must justify their choices in design and develop a product that they would use for themselves. As a class they will be introduced to the ethics of design in this fashion.

  • Model of the inner and outer ear: this may be a visual aid or an actual model, depending on what is available.
  • Music or CD of everyday sounds- this is optional as background noise and prior knowledge is also as useful.
  • Paper supplies- for student created diagrams and for teacher created diagrams, charts, and assessments.
  • Decibel measuring tool- this is optional, it will enhance lessons.
  • Household items to use for final project- some ideas include halved rubber balls, earphones, memory foam, pillows, cloth, pots, pans, paper, etc.
  • True Audio software- (the free Level 1 software is adequate!)
  • Musical instruments- harmonicas, xylophones, recorders, palm pipes
  • Describe what concepts you plan to assess.
    • Anatomy and purpose of the different parts of the ear.
    • Students will know how sound is transferred and processed by the brain.
    • Students will classify sounds based on decibels.
    • Students will rate sound safety.
    • Students will discuss ethics surrounding the loudness of sound and means to prevent hearing loss.
    • Students will develop reasonable solutions to posed problems.
  • Describe how you plan to assess your students.
    • Test
    • Student created diagram
    • Chart
    • Chart
    • Multi-paragraph essay
    • Final project