1. Think about the sounds you hear every day.
When you are asked to describe where you live, what do you say? Do you describe the homes, shops, and businesses? Do you describe the people? Maybe you describe the landscape. All of these natural and human-made things help to define your sense of place, or what makes a certain place have its own distinctive character. When people describe places, sound is often forgotten. But sound is often a major part of what makes a place special—what gives it a "sense of place." Is there a sound that makes you think of your home? What is it? Why does it make you think of your home?
2. Explore how sounds define a sense of place.
Think about another place you are familiar with, such as a grocery store, a bus stop, or a neighborhood park. What are some of the distinctive sounds in those places? Would the grocery store sound like a grocery store without the sound of shopping carts clanging together in the cart corral and the beep of the checkout counters? Would a bus stop sound like a bus stop without the sound of the engine mixing with the whoosh of the doors opening? Would the park sound like a park without the sound of children playing? Does the one sound that makes you think of your home define your home’s sense of place?
3. Listen to the sounds around you.
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds that are surrounding you right now. They might be natural or made by humans. You might hear the hum of your computer, birds outside your window, or your family members laughing. All of these sounds build a soundscape. Think about how a landscape is made up of all of the different landforms, trees, houses, yards, and roads. A soundscape is made up of all of the different sounds that help to create a sense of place in your home. Walk around your home or apartment for a few minutes. What sounds do you hear that you don’t usually pay attention to? How different would your home feel if those sounds were no longer part of the soundscape? Would it still feel like home if you couldn’t hear traffic outside of your window? Would it seem like a different place if you couldn’t hear crickets in the evening at the end of the summer?
4. Figure out what types of sounds you hear.
Think about the sounds that define the sense of place of your home. Which sounds are natural? Which sounds are made by humans? Then, think about how humans and the environment interact in your community. Is there a sound that captures that? Write these sounds on Soundscape: Types of Sounds. Finally, take a walk in and around your home, concentrating on all of the sounds that you hear. Add to the list as you walk and hear new sounds. Then try to choose the one special sound that helps define your home’s sense of place.
5. If possible, record your soundscape.
Once you have a final list, use an audio or video recorder to capture those sounds. Share them with family members that live in other places and see if they help others develop a sense of place about your home. Add to your list and your audio recordings as your home changes so you can keep your soundscape current and share it with future generations.
6. If possible, record your neighborhood's soundscape.
Work with other kids in your neighborhood to record the soundscape of your neighborhood. First, talk about all of the sounds that you think make your neighborhood unique. Use the Soundscape: Types of Sounds worksheets to list them. Then collect these sounds with an audio or video recorder. Are any of the sounds, such as those that reflect change, changes that you don't like in your community? What can be done to reverse those changes? Are any of the sounds you collected endangered, or likely to disappear forever? How might you preserve them for others to hear?
What You’ll Need
Materials You Provide
The resources are also available at the top of the page.
A particular place has its own distinctive character, or sense of place. Sounds help to create a sense of place. These sounds may include natural sounds, human-made sounds, and the sounds of humans and the environment interacting.
|Term||Part of Speech||Definition||Encyclopedic Entry|
the geographic features of a region.
|Encyclopedic Entry: landscape|
sense of place
feeling or perception people associate with a particular area.
For Further Exploration
The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.
Christina Riska, National Geographic Society
Mark H. Bockenhauer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Geography, St. Norbert College
adapted from National Geographic Xpeditions activity “Soundscape: A Sense of Sound”
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