Investigate making sounds with different parts of trees
The arborist activities are designed to be repeated 3 or 4 times across the year, reflecting the different seasons and the progression of the children in your setting.
Early Learning Goal links
- Mathematics ELG: Numerical Patterns
- Understanding the World ELG: Past and Present
- Understanding the World ELG: People, Culture and Communities
- Understanding the World ELG: The Natural World
- Expressive Arts and Design ELG: Creating with Materials
STEM vocabulary to introduce
Tree, trunk, leaf, leaves, bark, branch, inside, outside, lumpy, bumpy, knobbly, rough, ridged, bent, straight, smooth, soft, silky, velvety, silky, shiny, glossy, long, short, wide, narrow, thick, thin, dark, light, big, small, next to, in front of, behind, under, on top of, beside, loud, quiet, high, low, tap, scrape
What to do
Show the children the arborist poster and tell the children that they are going to be arborists for this activity.
Tell the children that they will be arborists and will be observant noticing which parts of a tree make different sounds. They will need to be collaborative like arborists and make sure they keep each other safe during the activity.
Ask the children how they think they could make noise using a tree.
Send them off to see how many different sounds they can make using sticks, tree trunks and leaves. You could use our noisy trees provocation to help with ideas.
An important part of being an arborist is keeping collaborative and keeping your team safe. You might want to start the session by giving the children their safety instructions and demonstrating the following:
- Never try to pick up a stick that is bigger than yourself.
- Always walk, don’t run, when carrying sticks.
- Never hit anything or anybody with a stick.
- Keep all sticks away from everybody’s faces, eyes and body, including your own.
- Always tap the trees, sticks and branches gently, never try to hit hard.
Questions to ask to support and extend learning
- How did you make that noise?
- Can you describe the noise you are making?
- What happens if you use a bigger/smaller/thicker/thinner stick?
- Does it sound the same if you tap a wider trunk?
- Do the branches make the same sound as the trunk when you tap them?
- How can you use leaves to make a noise?
- Is the sound louder or quieter?
- Is that sound higher or lower?
- Can you play a tune?
Other things to try
If this is the first time you have done this activity, the children will probably want to investigate by banging on a tree trunk. You could ask the children to select their favourite sticks or other natural objects to share with the group. They could use the objects to sing and play along to a simple song or nursery rhyme.
The majority of vegetation will have died off, making it easier to find sticks and cones to investigate. There will be a lot of dead leaves on the ground, so you could ask the children to investigate what sort of noises they can make with these.
This is the time when new leaf buds and blossom will be growing, and birds may be nesting in them so avoid banging trees. Instead the children could investigate what sorts of noises they can make by gently scraping a stick across a trunk, or a pine cone down another stick.
You could ask the children to collect a handful of long, straight sticks to make a wind chime. Help them to tie some string around each one and hang them from a branch. When the wind blows, the sticks knock together in the breeze, or they could be tapped gently by the children so they can listen to the sounds.
Remember to refer to the children as arborists and praise them for using the attributes. You could say things like:
“You have been observant like arborists because you noticed which sticks made the highest pitched noise…”
You could use the adult led whittling activity to make sticks and beaters to investigate.
The science of noisy trees
We have put together some useful information about the science of noisy trees to accompany this activity. Don’t worry, this is for your information only and to help you answer any questions children may have. We don’t expect you to explain this to the children in your setting!
How do we hear sounds?
Sound is caused by vibrations of objects. When two objects collide, like banging two sticks together or tapping a tree, they make the air around them vibrate and form a sound wave. Sound waves can travel through solids, liquids and gases – but in this activity the waves travel through the air.
The human ear detects sound when sound waves enter the ear canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate. Three tiny bones in the ear transmit these vibrations to the cochlea. This produces electrical signals which pass through along nerves to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.
Why do different objects make different sounds?
The volume of a sound depends on how much the object causing the sound vibrates. If you bang a stick on a tree harder, the vibrations will be bigger and this will make a more energetic sound wave so we hear a loud sound. If you tap a tree with a stick gently the vibrations will be smaller and we hear a quieter sound.
The pitch of a sound depends on how quickly the object vibrates. Objects vibrating quickly create a high pitch sound. Objects vibrating slowly create a low pitch sound. The size and type of object, rather than how hard you bang it, affects the pitch of the sound you are making. Short, lightweight or tight objects make higher-pitched notes and long, heavy or loose objects make lower-pitched notes.
When banging, tapping or scraping a stick or tree, the smaller the size the higher the pitch, so a large tree or stick will have a lower pitch. If they have a lower moisture content, such as dead or dry sticks, they will have a higher pitch. A soggy stick or a live branch will have a lower pitch.
If a wood has a higher density it will have a higher pitch. Most hardwoods have a higher density than most softwoods. If you took two cubes of wood the same size, the dense hardwood cube would generally weigh more than the less dense softwood. The denser a wood is, the harder, stronger, and more durable it is. Hardwood comes from flowering trees such as oak, maple and walnut. Softwoods come from evergreen conifers such as pine or spruce.