STEM Saturday: Ears And Sound

Welcome to STEM Saturday! In this STEM Saturday article, we’re going to focus on ears and sound. STEM is a term often used in educational settings to cover a variety of different subjects and skills that are invaluable to young kids and students. 

STEM Saturday: Ears And Sound

STEM activities are not only fun but they can also help to teach your kids about different subjects in an approachable and easily understandable way.

Making education fun and hands-on is key to getting many kids engaged and this STEM (see also: A-Z STEM Saturday, W Is for Waves)activity is ideal for getting your kids involved.

Learning about the body is important for kids and they need to know how their senses work. On this STEM Saturday, (see also: A-Z STEM Saturday, I Is For Ichnology)we’ll introduce a fun activity that will put the theory into action.

Ears And Sound Activity

Now that we know the theory behind how ears and sound work, let’s start our activity! We’ll begin by listing the materials you’ll need before we jump into the step-by-step guide. The guide will be split into two parts of preparation and experimentation.

Materials Required

  • Heavy construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Music player with speakers or a headphones
  • Two paper plates (optional)
  • Decorative materials such as markers (optional)

You can use any kind of music player such as a radio, CD player, or cell phone. We don’t recommend using earbuds or in-ear headphones, however, as this won’t work.

Stage One – Preparation

You can prepare this step yourself, but many kids will have great fun making their own ears!

Step One

The first step is to create some ears. The proper name for the part of the ear that extends from the side of the head is pinna (plural pinnae), so we’ll stick with that word for this article!

Take your construction paper and roll them to make a cone that tapers out widely. One end of the cone should be small enough to fit in your outer ear but the other end should open wide like the bell of a trumpet.

Use some tape to secure your cone. You should make two of these that are as close to identical as you can make them.

Step Two

Next, make a second style of pinnae. Instead of being constructed like a cone, however, these pinnae should be floppy like the ears of an elephant.

You need two that are identical so we recommend placing two pieces of construction paper together and cutting them out at the same time. Make your best attempt at drawing elephant ears!

Step Three (Optional)

You can also create a pair of cupped ears from paper plates as well. 

You will need to cut a quarter out from the paper plate. This is easy to do as you simply cut to the center and cut out the quarter at a right angle. Imagine the paper plate is a clock and you’re cutting out the chunk between 12 and 3.

You should then tape together the two cut edges of the plate. This will give you another cupped pinna with a hole at the end. Make a second one of these.

Step Four (Optional)

If you’re making these with your kid, let them have fun decorating their ears! Marker pens, glitter, and other items won’t negatively affect the experiment.

Now the preparation is done, you can start the experiment!

Step Two – Experiment

STEM Saturday: Ears And Sound

Now comes the fun!

Step One

Play your chosen music player at a low volume. When using speakers, you should be set at a volume where you can barely hear that anything is playing.

If you’re using plugged-in headphones, however, turn the volume up so that you can again only hear a faint sound.

Step Two

Get your kid to stand a few inches away from the music player with their ear turned towards the speaker or headphones. Ask them what they can hear.

Step Three

Take the trumpet-style pinnae that you made in the first step of preparation. Ask your child to place the small opening in their ear and direct the cone toward the music player.

The other cone should be in their other ear and pointing away. Make sure they haven’t moved closer or further away from the music player!

Ask them again what they can hear. Does it sound louder or quieter?

If they respond that it is louder, turn the volume down until they can barely hear it again. Ask them to remove the cones and ask again if they can hear it.

Step Four

Return the music level to where it can be barely heard.

Get your kid to put the cones in their ears once more only this time, make sure that neither of them is pointed toward the speaker. This is most easily achieved by getting them to look at the player and direct the cones to the said.

Ask them once more what they can hear.

Step Five

Now we can move on to the flappy pinnae made in Step Two!

Place the pinnae behind the ears and get your child to use their hands to cup the pinnae. Does this help them hear? 

Ask them to move the pinnae around and try different angles. Does a particular angle work better than others?

Step Six (Optional)

Repeat the last step with the paper plate pinnae if you made them.

You can also mix and match different types of ears. Try a cone pinna with a flappy pinna! Try different angles!

You can also ask your kid to close their eyes and then move the player around so they don’t know where the music is coming from. See if they can guess the direction of the music.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we introduced a fun activity that will help your child experience how ears work. You can use this activity to explore ears and sound as part of a STEM (see also: STEM Saturday: Scented Hearts Experiment)education program.

Suzy Anderson
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