In this lesson, students become actively involved in scientific inquiry by conducting an experiment about how ear shape affects hearing. Since this activity builds on concepts introduced in Questions about Hearing, we recommend that you do that lesson plan before proceeding with this activity, then continue with How Whales Hear.
- Model the effectiveness of different-shaped ears
- Discover how ear shape affects hearing"
- Use scientific inquiry to answer questions about hearing
Grade Level: 3-5
- Approximately 45 minutes
- Optional: Animal Hearing QuickTime Video
- Does Ear Shape Matter? PDF Document
- Tape player and any tape of sounds or music
- Construction paper (8" x 11" and 8" x 14")
Before the Lesson
- Make a copy of the handout for each student.
- Collect the materials needed for the experiment.
The outer ear in humans is shaped like a funnel (or cone). This shape is well designed for collecting sounds and directing them into the middle ear. Of course, animal's ears come in many shapes and sizes. In this activity, students discover that outer ear shape can affect how well animals hear. They learn that you can hear more easily when listening through large, cone-shaped ears. The cone collects sounds and directs them into the ear canal, making the sounds appear to be louder than normal.
1. Point to your outer ear. Ask students:
- What does this do?
Ask students to think about the shapes of the animal ears in the Animal Hearing video they watched in the previous lesson. (You may want to have them watch it again.) Ask:
- How might changing the shape of the outer ear affect how well an animal hears?
2. Distribute a copy of the Does Ear Shape Matter? (PDF) handout to each student, along with the materials they will need to complete the exercise. Assign students a partner to work with. Place a tape player at the far corner of the room. Play music very softly. Tell students that they will use scientific inquiry to find out whether the shape of an animal's ears affects how well the animal hears.
3. Review Part A of the handout with students. Then have them make their prediction, conduct the experiment, record their observations, and explain their findings.
4. Review Part B of the handout with students. Have them predict which ear (cone) shape is most effective (for example, wide, narrow, long, short, or a totally different shape). Encourage them to use their imagination. Make sure they write their predictions down before they do their experiments. Then have them conduct their experiments and complete the handout.
5. Discuss students' findings as a class and tack their best "ears" to a bulletin board. What conclusions about ear shape can they make?