For this month’s Exploration Station we are listening. This particular station is extremely simple in concept: there are ten tubes with objects inside that will make a noise. Half of the tubes are covered in paper, the other half are left clear. Young children are encouraged to shake the containers and listen carefully to the noise that is produced. What words would they use to describe the sound? Is it a soft sound? A hard sound? Additionally, can they match the mystery tube that is covered in paper with the clear tube that makes the same sound?
This activity is not about learning the science of sound, but rather about refining observation skills. We generally think about observation in terms of sight, but learning to listen carefully is also an important component of taking note of the world around us. Young children can also practice the mathematical skill of matching, as they try to determine which two canisters make the same sound.
For the record, these are quarter size coin tubes with their lids glued shut. They separately contain sugar, water, a marble, sunflower seeds, and those magnetic colored circles some people use for Bingo. I wanted to represent several different types of sounds, some that were very farm from one another (water and the marble, for example) and some that were similar but still distinct (such as the Bingo markers and the sunflower seeds.) I had some of my coworkers test the similar sounds to ensure that they really were distinct enough to be differentiated.
You will note the strings leading away from the tubes. This is to keep the containers from wandering away from the Exploration Station table, which is a problem we have had before with some of our materials. Because the strings needed to be long enough for children to pick them up and shake them, they do get tangled easily, but I haven’t come up with a better solution so far.