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How To Draw A Sound Map And What Are The Benefits To Children?

It never fails to amaze me that when we stand and stare we see so much more of The Nature. This too can be applied if we sit and listen and the use of “sound mapping” can help us reconnect with our natural soundscape.

As regular readers of the Badger Bushcraft Blog will be aware I advocate taking time to “stand and stare”. I was inspired to do this as a young man by often being in the outdoors and immersing myself whenever I could in The Nature. It never failed to amaze me what I saw and how close wildlife would come to me once I had been in a sit spot for a matter of mere minutes, be it a squirrel coming within several feet or a blackbird landing in the bushes above me.

In 1911 W. H. Davis wrote his seminal work “Leisure” and I was fortunate to have read some his works as a younger man, some of which have had left a haunting legacy into my later life and his poem “Leisure” always seems to so eloquently tap me on the shoulder and remind me “A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare."

With the positive effects of becoming closer to The Nature and our natural landscape by taking time to sit and watch it was with great interest that we introduced sound mapping into our syllabus for younger learners in some of our School Based Projects. Unsurprisingly many rural schools benefit from a host of natural sounds and abundant bird song along side their share of manmade noise pollution. Urban sound mapping is of incredible interest and it constantly astonishes me just how rich in wildlife some metropolitan areas can be.

For our sound mapping exercises we invite pupils to find a place to sit quietly and away from others and once comfortable, ask them to draw a picture of themselves in the centre of the map. From then on the mapping is down to the student. We encourage them to listen to all the sounds and noises that surround them and to either pictorially illustrate or write what those sounds are onto their sound maps and in the direction that the noise came from and, when applicable, the route the sound took.

When working with some of our younger students we have included sound mapping into our activities and have had some remarkably interesting results that have been skilfully graphically represented by exceptionally young pupils.

Our recent School Bespoke Bushcraft Day at Madginford Park Infant School provided some really beautiful and detailed examples of creative sound mapping some of which are featured below:-




Some of the benefits to young people taking part in a sound mapping session include:-

  • Active immersion into the environment
  • Expanding senses
  • Environmental and nature awareness
  • Listening to the language of the landscape
  • Reconnecting with nature
  • Visualising those things that are invisible
  • Evaluation of the natural acoustic environment
  • Quantifying the impact that mankind has on the natural soundscape
  • Comprehending levels of noise pollution when in different locations

Our ancient ancestors relied on their knowledge of the natural soundscape to survive, hunt and live in a world long before mankind had invented the many machines that have altered our acoustic landscape. It is not until one travels to an area that has such low levels of noise pollution that we notice what remains of our natural soundscape. This is of course no different to star gazing in areas that have exceptionally low levels of light pollution, indeed I will never forget the awe inspiring experience of sitting in the dessert and watching the stars as, possibly, our ancient ancestors might have seen them here in the United Kingdom a long time ago.

Sound mapping with young people is an exceptionally positive experience for both student and instructor alike and bolsters my confidence that we can help to enhance this and future generation’s experiences in the outdoors.



#1 Kathi Mestayer 2014-04-03 14:10
I love this idea. My husband got into the habit of being alone and quiet in nature as a boy in South Louisiana. He'd climb way up into the live-oak trees in his back yard (on the bayou) and sit for long periods with his monocular, just waiting to see or hear something interesting. He will still go out in the pouring rain, for hours, and just watch and listen. He's even heard a box turtle walking through the leaves about 30' away. I, on the other hand, am hard-of-hearing. I have a special setting on my hearing aids (omnidirectional mics) for being out in nature. It helps, but I still have difficulty, especially in locating sounds.

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